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In Season, In Woodies!

abeliaAbelia – Although grown in gardens for decades, Abelias have recently undergone a revolution in new introductions. Shorter growth habits and very colorful leaves have made new appearances and there are many to choose from nowadays. Flowers are starting to open now (August) and plants will repeat-bloom until October.

Butterflies and other pollinators sometimes visit the flowers, and in mild winters the leaves will remain and blush with hues of rose or orange. Full sun in best but they will bloom (though later) in partial shade. Deer tend to leave them alone, and they can easily be trimmed in spring if you desire a more formal shape to their otherwise relaxed form.


Japanese Stewartia – Not many trees bloom this time of year, (August) but Stewartia is certainly one of the loveliest of the bunch. White flowers reminiscent of a single-flowered Camellia (to which they are related) appear on the branch tips, and fall foliage turns great shades of red, orange and amber.

Bark on older trees flakes off to reveal a patchwork of color as well. Our trees have flower buds and some open flowers right now (early August)… come and see if one wants to adopt you.



Franklin Tree – While only known to be native to a very localized part of Georgia, they grow well all the way up here, and we’re grateful for that. Another Camellia cousin, their similar white flowers are also budding and opening now (early August), and their leaves take on fantastic hues of scarlet, orange and maroon in the autumn.

More of an open, shrubby tree, they’re happy as an understory specimen in bright dappled shade, and show off best if you can site them where you can look down on them from a tall deck or second story so you can most easily appreciate the flowers at the ends of the branches.


Dogwoods – A trait often overlooked in Dogwoods is summer foliage interest. Sure, they certainly have plenty going for them already – spring flowers, fall foliage and berries and sometimes flaking bark – but why not also get summer color with the leaves?

We carry yellow-edged and white-edged forms of Chinese, American and hybrid forms. Dogwoods are happiest in a bright understory exposure – part sun and part shade – but the variegated types will take full sun without burning if protected from drought conditions.

Also underused in the world of Dogwoods are the shrubby “red-twig” types and two other natives – Pagoda and Silky Dogwoods. Birds adore dogwood berries and these plants are always in the top-ten list of plants for attracting birds due to the diversity of species they attract. Although the flowers are a bit less showy than the more commonly planted Dogwoods, they still have seasons of interest in their own right and are much deserving of more use.

Posted by: Miri Talabac, Behnke’s Woody Plant Buyer

Stephanie Fleming was raised at Behnke’s Nurseries in Beltsville. Her Mom, Sonja, was one of Albert & Rose Behnke’s four children. She was weeding from the moment she could walk and hiding as soon as she was old enough to run, so many weeds, so little time. Although she quickly learned how to pull out a perennial and get taken off of weed pulling duty.

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