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Abelia in bloomOne of the most over-looked summer flowering shrubs is the showy Abelia family. Prolific flowers, colorful foliage, and a nice growth habit, combine to make Abelia's attractive year-round landscape shrubs.

What's so nice about the Abelia's in summer, is their pink or white trumpet-like flowers, which begin appearing in earliest summer and continue until the first fall frost. In addition to the showy flowers, all the new growth is pinkish-bronze, maturing to medium green and making an attractive background for the single blooms.

Varieties of this plant are semi-evergreen, which means they will lose some of their leaves during the winter. However, the plant maintains a generous amount of foliage throughout the year,

The two varieties of Abelia most often grown here are 'Edward Goucher' and 'Grandiflora'. Both are prolific flowering, from early June to October, or until the first fall frost occurs.

EDWARD GOUCHER - by far the most popular of the two varieties because of its lower growing habit, sturdiness, hardiness, more colorful flowers and attractive new foliage. Flowers are a deep pink. Plants may grow up to 3 or 4 feet, but can easily be kept lower by seasonal pruning. This variety is an excellent choice for foundation plantings, low border plantings; and use in large rockeries.

GRANDIFLORA - is the taller of the two. It may reach a height of 8 feet or more. Trumpet-like or tubular shaped flowers are whitish. Because of its height, this variety is most often used in borders, as a background shrub in perennial borders or as a medium sized hedge or screening plant. The cut branches are often used in flower arrangements.

FRANCIS MASON - This variety is an introduction from New Zealand. It grows about 3 to 4 feet high and wide. Flowers are soft pink. The outstanding characteristic of this plant is its variegated green and rich yellow foliage. May be a little difficult to find locally.

PROSTRATA - this is a lower growing form of 'Grandiflora'. The new growth is tinged bronze-red and the flowers are white. Its growing height is about 2 to 3 feet high and up to four feet wide. Not as readily available as the others.

PRUNING - is best done during the winter dormant season months of November to February. However, should leggy growth develop during the growing season, it should be pinch or pruned back to improve the appearance of the plant and help maintain a nice shape.

On established plants it is a good idea to occasionally remove some of the old growth. This encourages flowering wood to develop. It is not a critical procedure, but does keep the plant in better condition and generally results in more flowers.

USES - because of their long flowering season and attractive foliage, Abelias have almost unlimited uses in the landscape. They are nice when used individually, but are more spectacular in groupings. The best display is achieved when the plants are offset, rather then placed in straight rows.

PLANTING REQUIREMENTS - this is one plant that does especially well in full sun. Another requirement is good drainage. I think it is a good idea to mix peat moss, processed manure or generous amounts of compost with your existing soil, at planting time.

FERTILIZING - because they are often planted with other evergreens, Abelias are usually fed with a Rhododendron-type fertilizer. The best time to feed is in late February or early June.

PROPAGATION - stem cuttings of hardened tip growth is generally used. The best time to take these cuttings is in mid-August or during the winter months of November to February.

The watering needs and general garden care of the Abelias is similar to most northwest shrubs. In other words, they have no special requirements. In addition, this attractive plant is not really susceptible to most insect or disease problems, so it is a fairly easy plant to grow.

So if you're looking for a plant that does well in full sun, and flowers all summer, take a good look at the showy Abelias.


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