What bush will bloom from spring to fall freeze? I have a small bed I'd like to fill with something that will give me good color all season long.
I'm not aware of any shrub that will do that. Woody shrubs have a limited bloom season, anywhere from a couple weeks to a couple months.
The closest thing to "nonstop bloom" is either a shrub potentilla or a modern hybrid shrub rose.
Potentillas bloom for a month or two in early to midsummer. Modern roses are often called "everblooming," but the reality is that they have recurrent bloom. They bloom, rest for several weeks and then bloom again.
Encouraging recurrent bloom requires deadheading the rose by removing any old, spent blooms. Doing this will usually give you at least two bloom periods and sometimes three, depending on the weather.
When deadheading, don't wait for the very last bloom to fade. I deadhead my roses when that flush of flowers is 80 percent or 90 percent done.
There will still be flowers and even flower buds forming, but waiting too long results in a late second bloom, and there's no way to squeeze a third in before frost hits.
When I deadhead, I'm not all that fussy about the pruning. You'll hear a lot of recommendations to prune above a five leaflet leaf. Actually, studies have shown there really isn't a lot of difference where you prune.
I use hedge shears, cutting off spent blooms and rounding the plant off since it's common for one part of the plant to grow faster than another.I'm just looking to bring the plant back into symmetry. In two to four weeks, the plant will start blooming again.
Another possibility is a mixed perennial garden. No perennials bloom spring to frost, but with careful selection, you can cover most, if not all, of the growing season.
You won't have the bed filled with flowers this way, but you'll have spots of color throughout the season.
Finally, if you absolutely must have spring to frost color, your best bet is to plant annual flowers. They bloom pretty much all summer.
Combining all three of these possibilities — shrubs, perennials and annuals — is the best plan for color along with foliage and texture.
How far down do potentilla, blue mist spirea and Russian sage need to be trimmed?
These plants all bloom on new growth. I think it's best to cut them back to about 6 inches from the ground early every spring.
I have a friend who prunes her Blue Mist spirea to 4 inches every year and has done so for the past 10–15 years. She has absolutely the most beautiful plants around.
Cutting them back that far makes some people uneasy. It's OK to cut them back to a foot or two, but the farther back you cut, the fuller and more compact the plant will be.