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Potentilla flowersEase of care, the long flowering period, and versatility combine to make the Potentilla fruiticosa varieties, nice shrubs to include in the summer garden. In my own garden, I use Potentillas for seasonal color. I like the fact that they provide garden color for the better part of five months.

Flowers: the showy buttercup-like flowers provide a colorful summer display from as early as June and they will often continue flowering until October. Although the plants are never really loaded with flowers, they never the less provide a nice continual flower display all summer long. Flowers range in shades from white, to light and dark yellow, orange to red.

The flowers are not only attractive in the garden, the branches can be cut and used for indoor summer flower arranging.

Foliage: leaves are generally rather small, divided, and have a fine-to-medium texture, making an excellent background for the summer flowers. Leaf color varies in color, by varieties, from light to medium green, to almost gray-green. Since this is a deciduous shrub, the leaves fall-off in the autumn, after turning a golden yellow.

Uses in the landscape: Actually Potentillas are quite versatile shrubs. The lower growing varieties are suitable as ground cover plants, while the taller growing varieties are nice for borders, foundation plants, and can be used effectively in individual or group plantings.

Whenever possible they should be planted with and evergreen background so the flowers show-off at their best. And, with an evergreen background their bare branches are not as noticeable during the winter dormant season.

Location: in my own garden, i plant them in full sun. When you see them planted along freeways or in commercial plantings, they are almost always planted in full sun. Although they prefer a bright sunny spot in the garden, I find that they also flower well in areas that only receive part sun and shade.

Care: One of the outstanding characteristics of this plant is that it is just about maintenance free. Potentillas are seldom bothered by insects, require limited if any pruning, and are not really fussy about planting soils. In fact, poor soil or the occasional lack of water doesn't seem to measurably affect the plant.

Planting: since most Potentillas are grown in containers, they can be added to the garden, even during the warmest summer weather.

Although they are not really fussy about planting soil, they will never the less grow best if planted in a well-drained, sandy loam type soil.

Pruning: If pruning is ever required, the best time to prune is in early spring, just before the new growth starts. Here in the Northwest that is usually in March, April or earliest May.

Fertilizing: If needed, the best time to feed Potentillas is in late February or early June. Use a quality Rose type fertilizer' to feed them. Of course, read and follow application directions on the label. If you use a dry, granular type of fertilizer be certain to water-it-in thoroughly immediately after application.

Transplanting: If you have an established plant that needs to be moved, the best time for transplanting would be during the winter dormant season, from November to march.

VARIETIES - Here are just four of the most popular varieties and probably the ones that are most readily available:

Mount Everest - prolific flowering with snow-white flowers. Grows about 3 feet tall and 4 feet wide. (Snowflake and Abbotswood are other white varieties.)

Sutter's Gold - This one only grows about a foot high, but may spread two or three feet in width. An excellent ground cover variety. Flowers are a bright yellow. (Klondike; Gold-star; and Goldfinger are other nice golden yellow varieties.)

Tangerine - Bright orange flowers on a bushy plant that grows approximately 2 1/2 feet high. (Sunset is another fine orange flowering variety.)

Red Ace - Open flowers are red, with the underside of the flower petals being yellow. Entire flower color may turn yellow in extreme heat. Plant grows 2 1/2 feet tall with 3 to 4 feet spread.

Katherine Dykes (pale yellow); Hollandia Gold (golden-yellow); and Jackman's (bright yellow) are just a few of the other ones, most often grown here.

In addition to the shrub type Potentillas there are several perennial varieties that certainly merit a place in the northwest garden.

If you're looking for a shrub that flowers most of the summer, you should take a good look at the various varieties of Potentilla fruiticosa.


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