The orbicular blooms of Aralia ‘Sun King’ (below) are a bit unusual, appearing much like small satellites attached to thin wires for a homemade science project. Rarely are the flowers shown in perennial catalogs or references, mostly because the bright yellow foliage is the aralia’s foremost attribute, but also because the blooms are not showy from a distance (even from several paces).
Bees, small wasps, and tiny ants certainly appreciate the blooms (see video below), and on a cool, sunny September afternoon the mostly shaded plants are buzzing with activity. Two plants are beside each other in the shade of a large Seriyu maple, but one gets a bit of late afternoon sun so that tender new growth was injured in the heat of summer. In the sunnier spot the shrub-like perennial is slightly more compact, but the brightly colored leaves are more effective in the shade.
With cooler temperatures the remontant mophead hydrangeas (Hydrangea macrophylla ‘Penny Mac’, below) have begun to bud, and despite the extreme heat through the summer there was not a time when each of the shrubs did not have a bloom or two. The blue mopheads (‘Penny Mac’, ‘Endless Summer’, and ‘Mini Penny’) flower dependably in late spring and autumn, and sporadically in the summer while the white ‘Blushing Bride’ rarely reblooms.
The foliage of young hydrangeas is occasionally plagued by leaf spot in humid summers, but I rarely see any on shrubs that are partially shaded. The foliage on one mophead in nearly full sun is a more faded green, but only a few leaves near the ground have any spot at all. The hydrangeas that are shaded for a part of the day suffer less stress from heat, and so they are considerably larger than the one planted in sun.
The butterfly bushes continue to bloom into the late summer, and on sunny days a few butterflies will float between flowers. Years ago I planted the large growing ‘Black Knight’ (Buddleia davidii ‘Black Knight’), but the grade beyond my back property line was altered so that the garden was constantly wet, and the buddleia failed after a few years. In the past year I’ve planted more compact growing butterfly bushes ‘Miss Ruby’ (below) and ‘Blue Chip’. Both seem more floriferous, and the tighter growth will require much less severe pruning each spring.