July has always been a welcome month in my garden. Despite heat waves that briefly descend on us nearly every midsummer, these weeks bring a quiet period after stretches of planting and fertilizing, trimming and mulching. At last there's ample time for sitting in the shade and enjoying the burst of blooms all around.
The pace has been leisurely with more waiting than harvesting as summer crops begin to drift in. It takes just a few minutes to make the rounds checking on this year's new dwarf zucchinis and first tomatoes and cucumbers. And it doesn't take much effort to clip off faded blooms on dahlias and roses to keep them coming along.
It's always seemed a little odd to read or hear laments over the end of May and June's blossoms. July has plenty.
Flowers on Luma apiculata, a myrtle relative, popped open a few weeks ago and will go on for another month or so. This small, multi-trunked tree is highly recommended for Northern California gardeners not only for its delightful half-inch, puffy white flowers but also for its small, shiny evergreen foliage and flaky, cinnamon bark.
As expected, its evergreen leaves drop continuously, which is troublesome near a patio but beneficial when mulch covers the ground beneath.
With little summer water, height stays between 10 and 20 feet, width about 6 feet. Luma, native to the Chilean Mediterranean climate similar to ours, thrives in either sun or shade and in nearly any soil as long as it has good drainage.
A few local nurseries stock Luma — ask if you don't see it. It's also offered at plant sales at the San Francisco Botanical Garden at Strybing Arboretum. (Consult sfbotanicalgarden.org for sale dates and times.)
Delicate and bold
In all seasons, foliage hues and texture appeal to me nearly as much as floral color. The July garden has both, a wonderful bridge between exuberant spring blooms and fiery fall leaves.
Shrubby summer spireas are in their prime in midsummer. Spiraea japonica Limemound brightens partial shade with pale lime leaves and pink flower clusters. Sun-loving Anthony Waterer blooms in deep reddish pink, a telling background for paler hues of delicate, dangling trumpets on a wiry Clematis Hendryetta scrambling up a spiral trellis.