We have been having plentiful rain, which after so many dry years feels like luxury. And the plants do look luxurious, weeds included, of course. I have been enjoying the spectacular flowers of June. First came the Oriental poppies. I have the traditional flaming scarlet ones paired with Campanual glomerata ‘Joan Elliot,’ a deep, rich purple. Funny, inside the house (on the walls, say) this color combination would be too much, but outside it seems to feed a hunger I didn’t know I had. I want to get more poppies, but in the rose-pink range. They had an article on some terrific looking ones in the May 2002 issue of Horticulture. I think they’s really set off some of my peonies.
My peonies are just starting, and I am pleased to see how upright the two peonies from Reath’s that I planted last fall are looking. With all this rain the other peonies are leaning waaay over, even before blooming, but ‘Bev’ and ‘Rozella’ are standing straight and tall. I think I will be planting more peonies from Reath’s as I can afford them (and figure out where to put them). And you know not all peonies are fragrant, don’t you? If fragrance is important to you, check for it in the plant’s description.
Irises are just starting. I have both bearded and Siberian irises but I don’t have many varieties of either. The bearded irises bloom first. I have a light purple and a light yellow, which were both here when we moved in. The light purple smells like grape koolaid. I have a very slightly deeper purple from my sister-in-law Joanna, and a gold one from Mona Wysocki. The one from Mona gets quite tall and then often keels over, which makes me think that when I get more bearded iris, I will avoid the extremely tall ones. There are so many bearded iris it seems that you have to have some way of narrowing down your choices. I will also do some research and find out which ones are fragrant, and I also want to look into the reblooming ones. They bloom in fall as well as spring, but they need some babying (regular watering and fertilizer) in order to rebloom, which I don’t think they would get from me, so perhaps I shouldn’t bother with them. Also, some of them won’t rebloom in colder climates; I think because they need a long growing season in order to do so.
I also have two Siberian irises. One was here when we moved in, a purple that is probably what most people think of as the type, and a taller one, basically the same color, that Joanna gave me. I had been thinking of buying some more Siberian irises this spring, but I wound up planting some foxgloves that my sister Ro gave me last fall where I had originally planned to put the irises. Siberian irises are very easy plants here; they love our moisture retaining clay soil and are unphased by the cold. (However, I learned from Currier McEwen’s book The Siberian Iris that they are not actually from Siberia.) Today’s Siberian iris not only come in more colors, but they have flushes of bloom so they bloom for a longer period of time. According to my notes, I admired the photos of ‘White Swirl,’ ‘Strawberry Fair,’ ‘Raman,’ White Triangles,’ ‘Pink Haze,’ ‘Butter and Sugar,’ ‘Neat Trick,’ ‘Springs Brook,’ ‘Welcome Return,’ and ‘Limeheart.’ (‘Butter and Sugar’ was the first yellow, but I think there are better ones out there now.) To that list I added ‘Pride in Blue,’ ‘Harpswell Snow,’ and ‘Soft Blue,’ which I learned from The Adventurous Gardener: Where to Buy the Best Plants in New England by Ruah Donnelly. (Since many of the nurseries mentioned in her book sell by mail order, it is a good resource for many cold climate gardeners beyond New England.) And two more I want based on my pen pal Innes Kasanof’s description are ‘Ever Again’ and ‘Irish Mist.’ One thing Innes told me that I didn’t realize is that many of these newer hybrids are not as vigorous as the old-fashioned Siberian irises. They will take a little longer to make a blooming-size clump, but Innes says they are worth the wait! Eartheart Gardens (1709 Harpswell Neck Road, Harpswell, ME 04079 207-833-6327 Sharon Whitney, owner) sells the very latest Currier McEwen hybrids. Fieldstone Gardens claims to be authorized to sell all the three year and older hybrids from Eartheart, but I found more of the ones on my list at Roots & Rhizomes. However, I just noticed they got pretty mixed reviews at Plants by Mail, so maybe it’s just as well I didn’t order any this spring.
I just love the fragrance of my mock orange shrub. It was also here when we moved in, so I don’t know the varietal name, though I think it’s safe to say it’s an older variety. This articledescribes ‘Belle Etoile,’ which, going by the photograph, mine is not. Quite possibly mine is the non-hybrid Philadelphus coronarius. Whatever. I firmly believe that, just as every cold climate garden should have a lilac, it should also have a mock orange, sited so that the prevailing breezes will bring the scent to your nose. Heavenly!
I am also enjoying the fragrance of Lemon Lily (Hemerocallis lilioasphodelus) one of the earliest blooming daylilies. It was brought over in colonial days and you can still find it around old homesteads, though I got my piece from Joanna. In my experience it is not as vigorous as H. fulva, the common orange daylily that you so often seen growing by the roadside (and which some people mistakenly call tiger lilies). Talitha made a stunning arrangement of Siberian iris and lemon lily, and the fragrance of the daylily permeates the kitchen.
Yes, June, the month of bloom–and fragrance.