June 1, 2016

June Envy

Even if you are not a gardener, or even an outdoorsy-person, I think that it's safe to say that June is the month that of the other months hate.  Even I am a bit envious, but mostly because Joe's birthday is in June, and mine is stuck in early January. No outdoor pool parties for me! 

We had lost most of our Japanese selections of Primula sieboldii over the past few years, so a breeding program needed to be started.  Not much of a 'program', really, more like "save the seed, and sow it in flats every winter.". Now, we are starting to get many interesting forms once again. Later blooming than early spring Primroses, Primula sieboldii blooms around June 1, and acts more like a woodland plant, let's say Phlox, than it does potted or polyanthus primroses, which you may be more familiar with. This is one which is hard to find at most nurseries. Look for it at specialist nurseries.

June is also about baby bunnies (see our drama below), late primroses (like these pretty amazing Primula sieboldii crosses we are making), and just about every other garden flower as long as they are a biennial or perennial. Sure there are later blooms to come, but really?  The Iris selections alone, not to mention peonies, roses, delphiniums, you name it, June brings it all with abundance and fragrance. If only we could spread all of this goodness around the rest of the summer!

I have been busy staking and tiring cut flower sweet peas (almost every day after work for an hour of mosquito swiping and muddy knees), and I've been getting the garden ready for - oh, a few hundred dahlias. Not to mention more exhibition chrysanthemums, and alpine troughs. We painted the decks this weekend, so that consumed more time than I had planned. I suppose everyone is a little behind with their chores.

Snow in June. Some of Joe's crosses of Primula sieboldii -white selections.

I should warn you - this  is a rather random post - there is just so much happening around here in the garden, and when you factor it the fertility-level of our water (every living thing having babies around here (thank God we are all guys!) we are almost crazy with babies!

Since Joe took a few days of vacation, I am left tending surprise newborn canaries (3 little things), wild bunnies (that the dogs found), Indian Runner Ducklings (that still needs a heat lamp during our cool nights, and yet a dip in a pink kiddie pool during the day), and of course our still un-named puppy (who is waiting for her shots to be finished so that she can take a plane ride to Amsterdam with Joe - yeah, another vacation.)

. I barely have time to focus on more pressing matters - like more chrysanthemum cuttings, those dahlias that still need to be planted, some veggies like tomatoes that are long over due for transplanting, and then all of the general-everyday garden work which has totally gone unheeded.  This includes mulching, grass cutting, weeding, tree trimming, hedge trimming and container planting. Oh, did I mention sweet peas? Yeah. I am running out of time - it was bound to happen.

Bamboo poles. I need to order more. Remind me.

Calla lilies bloom in a large container on the gravel path outside of the greenhouse. These are tender here, and since this is such a large selection (7-8 feet tall!), it takes some muscle to move the pot from the greenhouse, outside. It's always worth it, thought. These stems are tall and stronger than the leaves which are still weak from being under glass.

Last year I added a couple of Rhododendron X 'Narcissiflora' selections to the garden. They have bloomed late this year due to our colder spring, but their delay did save the blooms from frost. Soooooooo fragrant!

I should just do a single post on some of these Californian plants -maybe that will come soon, but I just had to share this Monkey Flower, or Mimulus bifidus, that I bought from Annies Annuals last year. You don't need to live in the West to grow this well, it survives perfectly in a clay pot for me.
This must be my year for unusual annuals! Another Californian native, Limnanthes douglasii is a difficult-to-raise annual for us in the Eastern US but it can be mastered. Sow in the autumn, keep in a cool greenhouse and be ridiculously careful when transplanting to minimize root damage. These are gracing a tough garden on the deck this spring.

We had a couple of hot days, so the bonsai needed a good soaking. This Metasequoia is one of three which we winter over in the greenhouse. It goes completely dormant in the winter, but every spring, it pops into the amazing, green miniature of - well, talk about Meta-Metasequoia!

Every year I am more and more impressed with the value that Baptisia brings to the garden. Sure, they are slow to establish, but by the third year, one can see why these plants are becoming more and more popular with those who know their secret.

Some Baptisia have interesting colors. This B. varicolored 'Twilight' is still a new plant in our border (three years now) but it  is just starting to look impressive. Patience pays off with this long-lived plant.

With Baptisia, the flowers are considered a bonus, as the foliage is nice enough on its own. They can look like small shrubs.

These baby Eastern Cottontail bunnies were discovered when Doodles saw them through a temporary fence that we have put up, while the long fence for the dog-section of the garden is being extended. They are all safe and sound, but we had some drama....

After Doodles informed us with her very 'Lassie-like' barking, that 'Hey, you guys - there are bunnies over here and you had better do something about it!", her mother (right) Lydia, took over. (That's the nameless puppy, on the left - Doodles daughter). Granny Lydia is very mommy-ish, and decided to take the matter into her own hands (or mouth).

Liddy 'relocated' the bunnies by not by killing them, but by carefully carrying them away - into the house to a bedroom, where she felt that she could take better care of them. No worries thought - Eastern Cottontail moms visit their nest twice a day, once at sunrise, and once again at dusk to feed their babies, so all bunnies were placed back into their nest, and we saw their mommy feeding them at dusk. Our very trailer-park-worthy temporary fence such hold anxious terriers at bay.

Those Indian Runner Ducks that hatched 2 weeks ago are not much bigger It was cold Sunday so our friend Jess brought some hats that she had made for them. 

Seeing all of those images of cacti in bloom at the Chelsea Flower Show last week, reminded me of when I first saw the very same displays about ten years ago. I never realized how easy they are to grow - and how floriferous the genus which flower well are to grow, like Lobivia, Rebutia and Mammilaria. With hundreds of selections, most only are a few dollars each, they make super-easy house plants and if exposed to cold, dry winters, you can get blooms like this.

I spent 2 hours last week ordering a hundred more plants here! Mesa Gardens has many varieties.

Another image of those Nemesia which I started form seed in September. They fill two large pans on the deck, and just never seem to stop blooming. As I mentioned before, I added Cal-Mag (calcium magnesium blend) to their fertilizer, which made a significant difference in their health. Now - wait until you see my petunia and snapdragon selections this year! Tweaking nutrients really works. 

As my brother reminds me "Matt, don't you grow any vegetables?" The answer is yes. Here are some heirloom Flashy Trout Back Lettuce and dwarf 'Rosain' bib lettuce growing in a large, cedar container.


  1. ha-ha - my husband says the same thing: "where are my fruits and veg!?"

    loved this post - your baptisia and your bunnies, and your hatted duckies you do have your hands full! (and oh god - those nemesia :) gorgeous!)

    1. Thanks! The Nemesia just won't stop, but I think now they are starting to fade a bit more after that last flush of bloom. I still can't get over how well they did as typically they are very challenging to grow here in New England - especially from seed.

  2. The bald bunny is super weird. It is not likely to live long; mammals have hair for good reasons. The Chelsea cactus display was exceptionally good this year. It made me revisit your old posts, actually, and I've been cruising cacti vendors' sites myself today.

    1. We named the bunny Alopecia, but she died last night, as we expected. Poor thing.

  3. Thank you for the beautiful photos :) I think I also need some Baptisias, they look so good!

  4. I'm jealous! We've had a too wet spring followed by awful floods last week and well, if it didn't rot from submersion it's rotting by wet feet. Enjoy your June!

    1. I know MIsti - the flooding this year seems like it is worse than other years.

  5. June envy is right... Where I live and garden, in Denver, June is hail season. After watching everything get big and beautiful in May, the hail comes in the fist two weeks of June and smashes it to pulp. It's really quite depressing. :/ So far, I've only had hail once last week, and damage was minima, but it was the small pea sized stuff. The quarter sized hail that knocks off the lily buds and makes smoothies out of anything lacy or delicate has spared me so far. Relief - but it never lasts.

    1. When I stayed at Panayoti's house a couple of years ago when I spoke at the Denver Botanic Gardens, I heard so many hail horror stories from the many gardeners that I met. We get some hail here in New England too, but rarely that large. About 5 years ago though, some quarter-sized hail shredded many of the leaves near our house, but we were on the edge of that storm - still, we have enough damage.

  6. Oh.. you have posted all these beautiful flower pictures and all I keep looking is the duck with the hat. Oh my god, the duck with the hat.

    1. I know, right? The duck with the hat!

  7. Anonymous7:53 AM

    dear matt,
    i know--the overwhelming feeling of being overwhelmed by too many things that have to be done NOW--makes me jump out of my skin.
    you show beautiful baptisias. i discovered 'Solar Flare' and thought it was fascinating, but 'Twilight' is similar and complementary.

    all best,

  8. Love the calla lily and that two-tone Baptisia!

    1. Thanks Nic! Yeah, the Calla lily is kind of special, so I dedicate space for it in the greenhouse each winter.

  9. Anonymous6:03 AM

    Incredibly Beautiful Photos...Flowers, Duck, & Bunnies...ALL Make Me Smile... Thank YOU!!! ... :)
    ♡ Kathy ♡

  10. Anonymous11:52 AM

    Hoping this year feels a little less frenetic for you - just re-read your post of 25 May last year. You are right about garden photography, it hides a multitude of 'sins' (aka normality) with clever angles. Put it this way, out of roughly 1250 members of the Rainy Side Gardeners Facebook Group (a Pacific North-West group)only a very few seem to regularly post photographs encompassing grand sweeps of garden! You are not alone ... in my mind Facebook should be 'Fakebook' because it presents such a selected unreality.
    A fundamental difference though is that you work ten times harder at keeping plants that I hack several feet off every year, such as camellias, to keep them within reasonable bounds. You achieve by dint of hard work, and by comparison we in the Pacific North-West seem complete slackers!
    Fundamentally, it is the process that counts. Your fabulous Primula sieboldii seedlings are an example. They wouldn't be as special if you hadn't nurtured them yourself. The fact that you give enough time to write your blog is a tribute to your time management. Hoping you have got those garden chairs set out and fire pit going this year.

  11. Dear Matt,
    your blog is really great.
    I love all the pictures, especially your little duck with the hat :)
    I am raising some chicken at my backyard and I got a species (here in Brazil known as Polish Chicken) that seems to have hair in the head. You can google it and find some nice pics. :)
    I'll keep following your posts and pictures!



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