Isn’t June just lovely? The froth of the summer garden is beginning to simmer like boiling milk in a pan. I’ve been gardening and preparing this moment for months, and now, with long light filled days, this is one of those special spots of the year, the warm air heavy with scent, we can literally make hay whilst the sun shines.
I find it difficult to really enjoy the present and perhaps, as a gardener, that is our nature. Each effort is made to gently nurture for both the here and now, with an eye on the future. I find ease in that place, reflecting on what came before (what I didn’t manage to do or missed), grateful for the plants or seasons in front of me together with planning, reminding myself what to do for the future garden of my mind. It keeps me returning every day, I get so much energy from simply being here.
I find June a tricky time to get the planting just right. Spring, with bulbs, perennials and blossoming trees is always so welcoming after the long winter while the abundant summer harvest is again fairly easy to work towards; this month straddles the two ‘seasons’. In my classes and planning, I talk of five flowering seasons, with June being in the Early Summer. This one takes a some effort to think about, plan for, and why gardens (and cut flower lists) are often a little light right now. So I’ve been building up the June display for several years now.
Some of the most lovely perennial and shrubs flower in June, returning reliably year after year with little effort once established. Think Roses, Poenies, Irises (I adore Irises) and Lillies alike. However, these can always do with some supporting acts as they tend to stand quite alone in a border; with the hangover of spring withering beneath their dresses and the summer party swishing on a rising tide. There aren’t many plants that readily bloom in June so I fall on a cast of biennials, foxgloves, honesty, sweet william’s and sweet rocket.
Biennial's are those that grow from seed the first year, creating leaf then flowering the next. In fact, our biennials are even better the third year. Often highly scented, creating movement and height, these plants help blur the edges, with naturalistic drifts of planting and gently self sowing. Easily germinated now in trays or pots outside in a sheltered spot and by September, you can plant out, so that they can spread their roots before bursting into flower late next spring. By adding these plants to your garden, the edges to the seasons are softened and one gently rolls on to the next achieving that oft desired tapestry of colour and texture.
By midsummer, flowers know that the longest day starts the flowering season proper, plants concentrating on setting seed for next generation. The pendulum of the year swinging back with nights slowly drawing in, so our main task is to encourage great flowering, prolonging the performance.
Plants want to live, their raison d’être to bloom, attracting pollinators, ensuring that their legacy in the next generation lives on. We don’t really need to do much more once planted - every week get out with the hoe, feed the plants late in the evening, tie in growth and always be deadheading. But most of all, take every opportunity to lay amongst those flowers and take some in for the table. And repeat.
Originally Published in Cambridge Edition June 2022
Cutting calendula, snapdragons and cornflowers.
Edible flowers and herbs for lunch.
Cephalaria is one of the best perennials this month for attracting pollinators in the long border.
Cutting foxtail lilies
Lillies in the evening sun.