It’s been a curious year so far, in the garden. The cold April held back many spring flowers. As the late May heat wave arrived, we saw early Azaleas and the last of the Narcissi in flower at the same lupins and roses! Weird.
June is normally an ‘enjoy’ month and probably the best for colour in the garden. Roses, mid-season perennials and shrubs should all be in blossom, but this year, given the cold and damp start, planting can still be carried out. It’s a common misnomer that it’s too late to plant. Unlike bare-rooted plants, any item that has been container-grown can actually be planted at any time of the year, provided you have the time for watering (or the heavens do it for us).
Gaps in the border can be filled with later-flowering perennials such as Echinacea and the deliciously-scented Primula florindae – a bit like a candelabra primrose, with beautifully fragrant yellow flowers. It needs a damp soil though – and partial shade.
June is traditionally the month for roses – especially the once-flowering varieties. Despite the fact that these only flower once in the season, they tend to be really prolific. R. ‘Fantin Latour´ is a glorious giant with soft pink blooms and delicious perfume.
The lemon scent of the bi-coloured R. mundii is outstanding – and in a vase with the flowers of Alchemilla mollis truly wonderful. A couple of years ago, I had a R. mundii specimen at the shop that was looking really pathetic. I thought ‘you’ve got two choices here – I leave you in your pot and maybe, just maybe you’ll pull through – or (more likely) you’ll snuff it’. Being what I considered ‘un-sellable’, I decided to give it a chance, took it home and popped it into a new border I’d not long prepared. Now, two years later, it has more than 50 buds, stands 3ft tall and is happy as Larry. Plants really do want to live!
Then there’s the big ramblers – Kiftsgate, Bobbie James, The Garland, Wedding Day. Grown up into an old fruit tree, these giants are real show-stoppers, with their clusters of hundreds of small, but beautifully scented flowers. A few years ago, we planted three ‘Bobbie James’ along a stark 30ft wall near Quettehou, a few miles south of Cherbourg. Those who know the location actually make a point of walking past in June to see the glory that they have become. So June is an excellent month for seeing roses that you might want to plant in the autumn.
June is also the time to clip Box. Traditionally it’s Derby Day when you should be out there snipping. Trimmed now, Box should hold its shape for the rest of the year. And Box is so versatile. It can be used for hedging, low edging and topiary. It gives immediate structure to a garden, looks good all year round and even looks gorgeous when the snow settles on it in winter. A couple of balls either side of a front door make a dramatic welcoming statement – far more impressive (this is a personal view) than a couple of pots of geraniums or winter pansies!
To do in June
- Reduce the height on mower blades – but if there’s another drought coming, keep them slightly higher than usual to prevent the lawn from looking like scorched earth
- Edge-up between lawn and planting borders. The effect of a well-kept edge is to make the whole garden look neater. Long armed edging shears are one of the most useful tools for a gardener
- Dead-head roses as the flowers fade, to encourage more flowering and feed them after the first flush is over. Roses are very greedy feeders and if well nourished, diseases such as blackspot and mildew will be dramatically reduced.
- Watch out for aphids – especially lupin aphid, which will decimate the seasons’ growth. Treat with a proprietary spray (anti pucerons) or in an emergency, diluted washing-up liquid
- Prune shrubs such as Deutzia and the early Spiraeas, once the flowering is over
- Earth up potatoes for a bigger crop