Wednesday, July 6, 2016

How was your June Garden?


How was your June garden? Mine at it's moments, but there is still lots of room for improvement. I'd like to see less of a lull after the tulips are finished and better companion plantings for the peonies and roses that come later in the month.

Whenever I'm stumped as to what to change or add, I turn to other gardens for inspiration. The gardens at the Toronto Botanical Gardens always inspire me. Let's take a look at what was blooming there in mid-June. 

Let's start off with a look at the alliums. I have lots of Allium 'Purple Sensation' dotted throughout my garden. It looks nice to have them interspersed among the other perennials, but it hadn't occurred to me to group alliums together until I saw this mass planting at the TBG. Gathered together like this, they make a billowy clouds of purple.

Alliums are odd flowers, if you ask me. They look soft and razor sharp all at the same time. I believe these particular alliums are Allium ' Christophii'.

Star of Persia, Allium 'Christophii' is a perennial bulb with umbels that are 10-12 inches in diameter. The star-shaped mauve flowers have a bit of a metallic sheen. Full sun and average, well-drained soil are perfect for these alliums. 'Christophii' may be left for years until fewer blooms indicate the bulbs have become crowded. Separate crowded bulbs after the foliage dies down. The flower dries also well. Note: handling or cutting the plant may cause some skin irritation. Wear garden gloves if you have sensitive skin. Height: 45-60 cm (18-24 inches), Spread: 15-22 cm (6-9 inches). USDA zones: 5-9.


As well as these closeups, I wish I had stepped back to take a picture of this great native plant. 

Gillenia a little larger than a Spirea and a bit more upright in its growth habit. The leaves are bright green and the stems are red, but the real reason to add this perennial to your June garden is the profusion of white flowers it produces.

Gillenia trifoliata: A tough, long-lived native plant with reddish stems, narrow leaves and white star-shaped flowers. Height: 60-120 cm, Spread: 60-75 cm. Full sun or light shade. Prefers rich, moist, well-drained soil. Good fall color. Zones: USDA 4-9

There are so many new and exciting cultivars of Baptisia to choose from these days! A June garden ought to have a least one Baptisia, don't you think?

Astrantia major 'Roma'. Read more about Astrantia in this blog post.

Peonies at the Toronto Botanical Garden

Looking at these single white peonies with their frilly petticoats, it is easy to see why all white gardens have become so popular. Sunlight plays off white petals so beautifully.

The peonies I have in my own garden have little in the way of companion plantings. I'd like to remedy that. Here are a few combinations I noted.

Peonies look great with a backdrop of deep blue Salvia.

Paeonia lactiflora 'Crinkled White'

Planted in front of any peony, Amsonia 'Blue Ice' looks terrific. This is a combination I've already experimented with in my own garden, but it seems to be taking a couple years for my Amsonia to really get established and flower.

Amsonia 'Blue Ice' has starry blue flower and leathery green foliage that becomes golden in the fall. Average moisture conditions and garden soil are fine. Height: 35-40 cm ( 14-16 inches), Spread: 45-60 cm (18-23 inches). USDA zones: 4-9.

Peonies and Catmint at the Toronto Botanical Garden.

Peonies and Catmint are another great June combination. 

I have say that I have become a big fan of Catmint. It blooms for an extended time, has great grey-green foliage, and if you cut it back hard, it can go on to have a great second act in late to mid-summer.

Last year I added quite a couple of the newer, more compact cultivars to my garden and I am really pleased with them. Catmint, Nepeta racemosa 'Walker's Low' is still an excellent choice, but I find that these newer varieties work really well at the front of a border. Here are a two:

Catmint 'Junior Walker' is a sterile dwarf form of 'Walker's Low'. The periwinkle blue flowers appear in June and last for weeks. Full sun and average garden soil. Cut back hard to encourage new flowers. Height: 35-40 cm (14-16 inches), Spread: 80-90 cm (31-35 inches). USDA zones: 5-9. 

Catmint 'Prussian Blue' has the same blue flowers on a plant that has a tidy habit. Again, cut back hard to encourage new flowers. Height: 35-45 cm (14-18 inches), Spread: 45-75 cm (18-29 inches). USDA zones: 5-9. 

Penstemon at the Toronto Botanical Gardens.

The delicate trumpet-shaped flowers of Penstemon start blooming toward the end of the month. They bloom for a number of weeks and look great with Veronica or Salvias.

 Penstemon 'Husker Red' has foliage that is beet-red in spring and fall and somewhat greener in the summer. Butterflies love the flowers, which are such a pale pink they are almost white. Full sun. Normal, sandy or clay soils are all suitable. Average to moist growing conditions. Height 75-90 cm, Spread: 30-45 cm. USDA Zones: 3-9.

Phlomis tuberosa 'Amazone' at the Toronto Botanical Gardens.

Super tall, this perennial always stands out in any June garden.

Phlomis tuberosa 'Amazone' is a recent introduction to North America, so the bad news is that this particular cultivar may be a little hard to track down and find. When not in flower this plant makes a large mound of coarse green leaves. Flower shoot skyward on these incredible reddish colored stems. Once finished flowering the spent flowers continue to add architectural interest well into winter. Normal or sandy soil that is on the dry side is best for this plant. Full sun. Height: 90-120 cm (35-47 inches), Spread: 45-60 cm (18-23 inches). USDA Zones: 2-9.

June seems to have passed in the blink of on eye! 

Already a new month has begun with a fresh set of challenges. Yesterday afternoon I startled baby bunny who ducked back back into the undergrowth. Then I noticed one of the first of the Japanese Beetles on a newly opened white rose. 

Monarda 'Purple Rooster' in my herb garden.

Thank goodness there is usually a balance of forces at work in the garden! As I walked to the back of the yard, I noticed that the Monarda in my herb garden has the prettiest grape colored flowers. I think I may just have a new favourite!


  1. Inspiring ideas!
    That's the best part about a garden--it's NEVER done. Yay-more plants!

  2. A number of great garden plants. I love adding new plants or changing small parts in the garden.

  3. Alliums grouped together - what a great idea! It reminds me of Ceanothus, a plant that doesn't grow in my zone. This gives a similar effect. I love lacy, fringy, feathery blossoms.

  4. June is a very in between month for my garden still.
    We've got lots of spring color from the previous owners. And I've added some mid to late summer blooming plants and shrubs (it's also when the veggie garden is the most interesting). We have lots of colorful fall foliage in our many trees. We even have some winter interest in our coral bark Japanese maple and a couple red osier dogwoods.
    But June...? A few lavender and a couple asters are about it. And some day lillies in the later half.
    I'm intrigued by a couple of your mentions above... the penstemon, salvia and baptisia... and I'm always looking for natives like the gallenia.

  5. Lovely to see all the flowering shrubs, if I ever get to Toronto the Botanical gardens are a ''must see''. I would love to be able to grow peonies next to our salvias, but here in Canberra (Australia) I think they are difficult to grow.

  6. Hello Jennifer girl !
    Yes ... June can be a very tricky month .. I am still experimenting with plants and where I position them .. I too am a fan of catmint .. especially Walker Junior .. I have a few of them and they are stellar performers with bees loving them up completely!
    Blue Cloud is a wee bit too floppy where I have them so I have to rethink those spots.
    Alliums are also a favourite of mine .. Schubertii was just cut back at the end of June but wow .. totally show stopper in my mind. I too am going to group more together as well, I just ordered a new one to me called Miami .. looks like another wow type as well. I also love my pink Bowman's Root .. so much I have two now.
    I just can't stop collecting ... this heat and drought is beginning to get on my nerves though ... can't wait for a break in it eh ? July's garden is going to be a little bedraggled from it all.

  7. As usual your photos are amazing. Here the garden is at its best in late June early July. I think we had a better season this year, perhaps because the last winter was not as cold

  8. Jennifer, so many great ideas to fill in the gaps. I love alliums, I just don't have much luck with them returning every year. The bulbs are expensive, but I may try again.

  9. So many great ideas here, Jennifer! I do have some of these plants like alliums and amsonia, but I could certainly use a few more to fill in the gaps during that late spring lull. I agree on the nepeta and salvia--great accents with a long-blooming time, if only I can remember to cut them back. The Phlomis is new to me, though; hope this is more available next year.

  10. This is a very timely post as I've been thinking of my adding more plants to have a continuous bloom times in my garden from spring to fall. There are lulls during the growing season that need to be filled. I planted alliums after our Fling in Toronto but they didn't do well. I need to try again because I adore them!

  11. Oh such a selection and such inspiration. Love this post and love the photos. My garden here has a few gaps to say the least so will have my eye open for a some of these. As for your question on baptisia...EVERY garden should have at least one ...absolutely. Thank you for yours to me. xo This was a good year for them I must say. Big hug.

  12. I love Jenifer that you always write about plants and indicate their zones. So I've chosen Amsonia 'Blue Ice' for the next year, it's very pretty with others plants.


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