Vitex, interesting summer bloomer, page down to read all about it.
Plant one now, we have beautiful vitex  plants.

butterfly fritilallia

Fritillaries on butterfly weed for nectar!


Triple Oaks Nursery & Herb Garden Newsletter

Summer Blooms

July 2011

in this issue
Blue Blooms are cool.
Crape Myrtle is fun
P G Hydrangea
 Hi All, 
How many of you are tired of hot, humid weather.  I love summer , but not humidity. Rode bikes around D C  July 4th, now that is humidity.  I guess some tropical plants like it, but the roses sure do not. Sprinkle them now with copper or sulfur to keep black spot fungus under control.

Keep planting and watering , it is cooling to go out and hold the hose and let the cold water run through your fingers as you soak the new plants every couple of nights or more depending on the weather.

Dead head plants and feed them that last dash of time release fertilizer.  You will see more blooms and healthier foliage.

Brides, call to set up an appointment and come see what we can do for your wedding flowers.

Gardeners, set up a time to come talk to me about color year round.  I will help you chose plants if you bring photos.

Think about some fragrance for your porch now. night blooming jessmine, jasmine ,Cleveland sage,roses , hardy gardenia, clethra, glossy abelia, citrus and more.

night blooming jessamine

Hooray , a good rain last night! 

Plant those last seeds today! 

Zinnia, basil, cucumbers, any quick to germinate seeds. 

vitex 2Blue is cool in the garden

Vitex is blooming!

I love blue flowers, so I think that vitex (Vitex agnus-castus) is one of the prettiest of all our 'late summer' blooming plants. It usually flowers in August with the crepe myrtle and butterfly bushes. This year it is early and was bloom for July 4th.  However, the way this tree blooms it goes on and on, as there are clusters of buds in many stages.  Ours is large and beautiful and such a good companion for a bright red crepe myrtle. This easy to grow shrub is such a good choice for awesome summer color.


When the spent blooms are cut off it may bloom again. There is faint lavender like fragrance in both leaves and flowers of vitex. The butterflies and hummingbirds love the blooms even more than I do. Vitex thrives in sunny conditions, with plenty of water, but at the same time, it grows well in drier environments and part shade conditions too. Most of ours are in sandy places of part shade. They are the most awesome plants in bloom now.  Vitex is known as tough and hardy and really easy to grow.   Vitex sheds all its leaves during the winter months, but has the interest of clusters of brown berries.


This colorful blue blooming plant was often referred to as 'chaste tree' by the Victorians and as monk's berry during the middle Ages. Legend said it suppressed libido, but it was also used to treat various hormone deficiencies. Who knows? (Plant folk tales are fun!)

Some scholars like Hippocrates are known to have recommended using the 'chaste tree' for treating conditions like injuries and inflammation, and several centuries later Dioscorides is known to have recommended the herb exclusively for treating inflammation of the womb and for encouraging milk flow shortly after birth.  The medicinal part of the plant is the berry that forms after the blooms fade. In Rome, vestal virgins carried twigs of chaste tree as a symbol of chastity.  The seeds were once called monk's pepper and were used among early monks as help against the evils of the fleshy desires.

For thousands of years it has been an important part of medical applications and even today studies are being done in Germany on the uses of this plant. However, I recommend that you plant one for its lush blue blooms that look so pretty in your garden.






The cool blue of hydrangea is also pretty in a summer and fall garden. Remember, as their name indicates a hydrangea needs lots of water to bloom and look beautiful.  They appreciate some compost in the soil, a good drink several times a week and a light mulch to keep them moist. Let a hose or soaker thoroughly wet the soil to the bottom of the roots. Overhead sprinkling will sometimes ruin the blooms and mar the leaves on most plants. Soaker hose or drip irrigation work well.


To change pink bloom to blue adds acid or aluminum sulfate to the soil. This may take a while to work, but it really works. It will not change color of white ones.

There are many kinds of hydrangea; some of the late blooming cone shaped white blooms dry the best. If you have sun or shade these plants do well and add constant bloom for a long period of time.



Butterfly Bush

Fragrant nectar place for butterflies to visit.


butterfly swallowtail 


Swallowtail drinks nectar from butterfly bush! 

Butterfly bushes (Buddleia) are very vibrant and also bloom from now until frost. The more you deadhead the spent blooms the more they will bloom.


If you plant this in full sun you will have the most blooms, but they will grow in part shade too. Remember they do not want to sit in muddy, clay, poorly drained soil. The blooms have an intoxicating scent that lures butterflies, hummingbirds and people to their vicinity. I love to pick a bouquet for my kitchen table. They can be found in white, deep pink, wine, and many shades of purple. 

Most get 5 -6 feet tall, but can be cut in half. They continue to produce blooms all the time with just a little fertilizer.

butterfly monarch



So if you do not have these summer bloomers plant some now. There is always room for a few more plants in your garden.


Email [email protected] to ask your garden questions. You may set up an appointment to bring in garden photos and get suggestions on plants for year round color in your garden.











crape myrtle
crape myrtle

Crape Myrtle are lighting  up the landscape

(Every garden looks prettier with a colorful crape myrtle)


       As we ride our bicycles around Franklin Township Ted and I notice that there are beautiful crape) myrtle (Lagerstroemia Indic ) blooming everywhere.  They are so awesome that everyone is noticing them and often ask what they are or if they are lilacs.  I love the rosy red ones best, but they come in many beautiful shades.

              They are deciduous trees in winter because they lose their leaves, but the interesting bark of a mature crape myrtle is so eye-catching that they are striking during this leafless period. They are also among the longest blooming of all flowering trees with flowering periods lasting from 60-120 days.  Blooms can be white or many shades of red, pink, purple, lavender and rose. The fruits that follow are brown or black and when mature they dry and split  releasing disk shaped seeds.  Cutting dead blooms off early in the season often encourages more late bloom This is certainly one of the advantages as is their bloom time in late summer and fall, a time when there are few flowering trees or shrubs. They do look nice near blue vitex or butterfly bushes which are also in bloom now. But best of all they require   a minimum of maintenance

                  The U.S. National Arboretum is credited with the  series of   hybrids known as the 'Indian Tribe' group. These are noted for mildew resistance and improved hardiness and are named for Native American tribes.  It is often good to choose plants in summer while they are blooming so you can pick just the shade of color that you are looking for.

       Crape Myrtle Dynamite is one of most incredible red crape myrtle with bright red blooms in giant clusters all over. It displays smooth tan bark, dark green foliage that turns a beautiful fiery orange fall color, plus it is disease resistance.  Another good burgundy one is Burgundy cotton.

 Lagerstroemia 'Centennial Spirit is a still a very popular hot pink/ red color

And hardy Lavender Crape Myrtle is a good one for those who like the more pastel hues.  All are also easy to grow. Lagerstroemia 'Sioux' is a dark pink with many good features.

       Sioux Crape Myrtle is a very hardy, early blooming pink plant that is often seen in our area. It has a great profusion of blooms. Lagerstroemia fau 'Townhouse' is a very good white variety that has outstanding fall color and is extremely disease resistant. Tuscarora Crape Myrtle tends to be one of the coral/red watermelon reds and is shrub like and full, it also is noted for good fall color and great resistance to mildew and other diseases.   

       The common name of this plant is crape myrtle. I read somewhere that it is called this because the flowers have crinkly petals that resemble the material called crepe (which according to Webster is a "light crinkled fabric woven of any of various fibers") but many references tell us that you're supposed to spell it crape when it's in front of myrtle.   The Texas Agricultural Experiment Station Site says,  "The common American name, crape myrtle, also referred to or spelled as 'crapemyrtle', 'crape-myrtle', 'crepe-myrtle' or 'crapemyrtle', is likely derived from the resemblance of its often ruffled flower petals to crepe paper, as well as the similarity of its leaves to those found in the true myrtle (Myrtus communis)."

       Crape myrtle does best in moist soil, where it will grow exceedingly fast, but it tolerates dry conditions once established.   Pruning is usually only to remove overly dense branches and crossing limbs or to remove winterkills however the plant does bloom on new growth so a late pruning would diminish bloom time. Cutting off old flower heads in summer can promote a second and third round of flowering. Over fertilizing with high nitrogen creates abundant foliage at the expense of blooms.   It is best to feed early with a fertilizer such as 10-10-10 or time release 14-14-14  that is not  too high in nitrogen to insure good bloom.  If lawn fertilizer gets on these or other flowering shrubs the high nitrogen often causes the plant to produce large leaves but no blooms.

        When planting this or  any new plant always  dig  the hole 2 times the width and 1 and 1/2 times the height of the container or root ball.   Set root ball at ground level and  prepare  a soil mix of equal parts soil and soil amendment or compost.   Backfill with amended soil so the  top of the plant is not any deeper than the ground. Make a basin to hold water and soak in.  Mulch to retain moisture but do not let the mulch touch the bark of the plant Soak completely  once a week and be sure that the water goes all the way to the  bottom of the new root ball.

              One crape is a magnificent specimen in the middle of a lawn  but many crapes, especially of  different color  and different heights can be quite effective also.  A cluster of them planted as a copse can provide a flowering canopy in summer. If you do not have a crape myrtle in your yard, plant one now. Gardens need the color they offer this  time of the year . 

Email Lorraine, [email protected] with garden questions.  for calendar of classes.




Old Fashioned Hydrangea


hydreangea white


Old Fashioned Bloomer at its Peak  now Until Frost



Hydrangea bloom from now until frost!  A lot of plants reach a mature beauty and look vibrant in the strong light of late summer days when we lament the thoughts of frost  and they are one of them. One old-fashioned tree or shrub with huge puffs of white blooms is the P G hydrangea.  Sometimes it is in shrub form, but more often it is a shaped like a small weeping tree. This last to bloom of the entire hydrangea family it is properly called Hydrangea paniculata. One of its best cultivars is called P. G. for Paniculata grandiflora. But now I think I like the green hued on called Limelight. A glorious tree, with blooms at times touching the ground it is a wonderful specimen tree for a lawn or focal point in a garden.  They start to show blooms in late July with a greenish buds that turn snowy white in august and then a pale mauve in fall.      Some gardeners get confused with botanical names. But when they look at the name and realize that it actually describes the plant and tells them   what it looks like, they become more interested in scientific names. For instance, if your looked up paniculata you would find it comes from panicle which is defined as: 'a cluster of flowers on a plant consisting of a number of individual stalks (racemes) each of which has a series of single flowers along its length Or a loose branching pyramid-shaped cluster of flowers '.  

         Pee Gee or PG Hydrangea is another nickname given this plant.  It is well loved by generations of gardeners because in August and September it produces huge conical trusses of   flowers that are frequently from 6 to 18 inches long.  These often begin light green and turn rich creamy white and then fade gradually to shades of pink and then brown after frost. The foliage is a dark green that shows off the flowers nicely. When given the space P G   hydrangea makes a broad shrub to 12ft high and 10-15ft wide. Some gardeners prune it to keep it smaller. This is   best done while in bloom or just after bloom as it flowers on new growth.   If it is pruned in spring it must be very early before any new growth begins or blooms will be cut off.   

         Its blooms make a  splash of white when very few shrubs are in flower. It does look striking near red crepe myrtle and blue vitex for a real colorful summer display.   The plants do need moderate watering, especially during dry spells, but once established they are not a problem.     They have only a moderate tolerance to salt and really do much better in our somewhat acid southern New Jersey soil than in alkali soils. Like most hydrangea they do well in sun or   shade. Our plants do remarkably in shade and never cease to be covered with blooms. I rarely give it any supplemental water except when we have a long hot spell and then I soak it long   letting the hose slowly run for hours to be sure the roots stay deep and do not surface looking for easy moisture.


They bloom on current year's growth and should be pruned back hard each seasoning to develop a strong, woody framework to support the huge, heavy flowers.  We cut almost every single bloom, beginning to pick in late August and then continuing until late fall when all the blooms have been picked to dry and use in wreaths. Although all hydrangeas are valued as a good dried flower, these air dry best.  The colorful blue, pink and purple hydrangea of summer often dry best if placed carefully in silica, but PG picked late in the season can be simply hung and it will dry as is. The later they are picked   the more hardened off the blooms will be and the less moisture they will have in them.  We use them in wreaths, garlands and bouquets all throughout the year, Ones that are left long into fall and turn beige can be touched with gold or silver spray at holiday time and hot glued on wreaths or swags if you like a elegant gilded look.  They work well into Williamsburg, Victorian or contemporary designs.

They can be planted mo fall but it is important to water well so that the root balls secure and the tree will not tip over in winds. Sometimes it is a good idea to stake these if they are a bit top heavy.  I think they are extremely easy to grow. Other than a handful of 10-10-10 each spring and a hose once or twice a month in summer we do nothing but enjoy the display of blooms on this long blooming plant. 

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