Color when you need it most. These woody workhorses look great during the time of year when you want to be lounging, not laboring, in your garden.
Photo/Illustration: Susan A. Roth
It’s time to admit it: The middle of summer is everyone’s least favorite time to be in the garden—well, maybe not to actually be in the garden but definitely to work in the garden. By this time of year, the squirrels have started to eat your tomatoes, the ground is hard, the mosquitoes are out, and, quite honestly, if you don’t have your garden looking good by now, all the sweat-burned eyes in the world aren’t going to improve the situation much until things cool off and the rain returns.
Despite all of this, summer is the perfect time to enjoy the garden—when all the planning from last year; all the dark winter evenings spent drooling over plant catalogs; and all the spring hauling, ripping, and digging really pays off. This is when we dream of sweeping gracefully around the garden, martini in hand and envious friends in tow, soaking up the accolades for a show that most honest gardeners (if there is such a group) would admit is only partially their intentional doing. Life is truly good in the summer garden.
But to achieve summer-garden nirvana takes true inspiration and a detailed plan. And this is where the workhorses of the dog days truly earn their keep. Of course, I am talking about those seemingly indestructible, bombproof shrubs. The following shrubs give it their all during the warmer months, providing fantastic flowers and, in some cases, interesting foliage or fruit, as well.