We have had a few cool nights recently, which are just wonderful and allow one to sleep with the windows open. I cannot remember the last time we had a real spring such as we are experiencing this year, with plenty of gentle rain. This beneficial rain is wonderful for all the spring plant growth and such a pleasure to see.
I am so in awe of the miracle of Mother Nature; the symbiotic relationship between plants and all of God’s creatures.
As I looked out of my window from my old home a few years ago, I could see the buds opening on my 30-foot-long stand of Peonies, which had been planted by the original homeowner in the early 1900s. That sight brought to mind one of the symbiotic relationships, the friendly partnership between ants and peonies.
I am often asked, “Maureen, should I worry about ants on my peonies?” The answer is, “That’s not a problem, lots of ants on the peonies just demonstrate that you have healthy plants with big buds producing more nectar, which therefore, in turn, attract the ants.”
Make sure Peonies get plenty of water and after blooming, apply a light application of composted manure and check the soils PH which should be between 6.5 and 7.0. It is hard to ruin a good peony border but you can err in the fertilizing process, so go easy on the organic aged manure.
Following the bloom, do not cut the peonies down until November, after the first frost. Now, in early June, I pinched off the side buds on my large stand of peonies, this ensures big blooms on the rest of the plant.
On the subject of ants; if you see them “let them live,” because often their presence indicates that we have aphids around and ants feed off aphids; very useful creatures.
Another useful creature in wars against pests is the lowly toad. I suggest putting some toad houses in and around your border. You may purchase toad houses from the garden center if you so desire. Or you can do as I do which is to use an old clay pot that is cracked and make sure that the crack is two to three inches wide for the door so the toad can enter. Also put a small saucer as a floor under the pot with some rocks, which you keep damp, so that your friendly bad bug eater has his or her ideal home environment.
Mulch your gardens this month when the ground has warmed up to 55 degrees. When mulching, take care mulching around trees. Apply the mulch at least six inches from the base of the trunk, any closer can promote rot and disease in the tree itself. Any trees that are mulched too deeply near the trunk invite mice and other rodents to come in order to nest and gnaw on the trunk.
Your garden can be mulched to a depth of between two and three inches. I prefer fine dark brown hardwood mulch but please do not use dyed red mulch, keep the garden natural, not looking like a Disney theme park.
June is the month when Roses begin to bloom. I prefer David Austin roses, I find these roses are the most -trouble free Roses and offer so much reward being repeat bloomers with wonderful fragrances.
Some of my favorites are:
- ‘A Shropshire Lad,’ a soft peachy pink
- ‘Abraham Darby,’ with blooms showing a blend of apricot and yellow
- ‘Fair Bianca,’ a pure white
- ‘Heritage,’ a soft clear pink
And my favorite ‘Evelyn’, which has giant apricot flowers in a saucer shape and the fragrance is second to none with a luscious fruity tone, reminding me of fresh peaches and apricots.
Feed your roses with composted manure, keeping the manure and mulch about six inches away from the base of the rose, then adding a few more inches of manure once a month until mid-August, at that time stop feeding for the roses to gently move into a slow dormancy.
Japanese beetles are very attracted to roses therefore, any Japanese beetle traps should be placed far away from your borders on the perimeter of the property.
A tip for keeping cut roses fresh: cut the roses in the early morning and cut just above a five-leaf cluster and place stems in a container of lukewarm water. Inside the house, recut the stems to produce a one-and-a-half inch angular cut, under warm running water, then place cut roses in a vase filled with warm water.
Do not remove the thorns on cut roses. I have found that removing the thorns, reduces their indoor life by as much as three days.
These need plenty of water, (in the fields where they were found growing close to water and classified as a wetland plant before they were introduced into our gardens), also apply aged manure around the Hydrangeas, have them spaced at least four feet apart for good ventilation, which will help to prevent mildew and plant them in full sun. If you have blue Hydrangea macrophylla and want a more vibrant shade of blue, add some peat moss on top of the manure, the peat is acidic and will produce a lovely shade of blue.
Regular pruning through spring and summer is the main factor to help this arrogant vine to flower; by that I mean prune several times during the season. Prune every two weeks at least six inches on each stem.
If you have this problem with clematis, you will notice it early because the shoots wilt and die. This disease is impossible to cure, as it is soil borne, so it is not possible to plant another clematis of that species in that area of the garden.
However, you can plant the Viticella clematis selection; these are vigorous, free flowering blooms and are not susceptible to wilt. Some good choices in this variety are Blue Belle, Etoile Violette, both are purple and Huldine, which is white,
If you have room for one pot, you have room for a number; placed close together in different shapes and sizes, they can create your own miniature garden.
Apart from regular pots, the most unexpected objects make interesting containers. A friend, who cut down trees this past winter, left the stumps and hollowed them out to make containers, one large and two smaller stumps together, an interesting combo.
At the same time look in your basement, shed or barn to see if you have an old wheelbarrow, even if it has a wheel missing it will present an unusual angle as a planter.
Or you may come across a large, chipped ceramic jar (I, in fact, have an old two foot tall ceramic vinegar container, replete with a hole where the vinegar tap was inserted, ideal for drainage), which will look great on my newly-painted blue bench next to my red milk shed.
Do not forget to add organic grub control through July, so that you keep down the mole infestation; remember no grubs, less food for the moles.
Keep an eye open for powdery mildew, especially after a rain when humidity returns. In a sprayer, mix two tablespoons of baking soda, one tablespoon of vegetable or horticultural oil in a gallon of water and spray the mildew.
Hydrangeas and Summer phlox are particularly prone to be affected by this problem. I recommend Phlox Miss Lingard or Phlox David, white ones of the species, which are the most mildew resistant. Monarda, commonly known as Bee Balm, is also affected by the mildew; the one I have found to be the most resistant is “Cambridge Scarlet”.
Do be careful when introducing Monarda into the garden; this plant, like Purple Loosestrife and Evening Primrose, is extremely invasive and can take over your entire border.
Still with invasive plants, if you plant mint, plant it only in containers, otherwise mint will spread throughout your borders.
I hope these tips are useful to you in this busy time of year in the garden. Stretch, hydrate and enjoy the burgeoning promise of your garden and I’ll see you next month.
If you would like some more gardening advice, contact my son Ian at LandscapesbByIan.com. I am sure you would enjoy speaking with him as he is full of knowledge since, as the saying goes, “The apple does not fall far from the tree.”
About the author: Maureen Haseley-Jones is a member of a family of renowned horticultural artisans, whose landscaping heritage dates back to the 17th century. She is one of the founders, together with her son Ian, of, The English Lady Landscape and Home Company. Maureen and Ian are landscape designers and garden experts, who believe that everyone deserves to live in an eco-conscious environment and enjoy the pleasure that it brings. Maureen learned her design skills from both her mother and grandmother, and honed her horticultural and construction skills while working in the family nursery and landscape business in the U.K. Her formal horticultural training was undertaken at the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew in Surrey.