June 15, 2017

A June Gardening To-Do List

June is the gardener's month. A task-month where one has strict deadlines to meet based on the length of the summer gardening season.

Before I start -  A NOTE - You may have noticed a 'fake link' and 'fake post announcement linking you to someone who has created a fake site using the name of this blog (it came to you as an email notification if you signed up for RSS feeds to this site. I don't know yet exactly what has happened, but  Google is working on it. Maybe being hacked is a good sign? Not sure yet. Hopefully they will be able to track who is infiltrating my blog URL, and toying with me, but I think that it is pretty clear that the site and the post is not from me. I'm so sorry, and I apologize for any confusion.

June Garden notes and Chores

We have a photo shoot here in a couple of weeks for a major magazine article that will be published next summer (a kind-of big one, which I cannot disclose just yet) but if you ever saw our place, you wouldn't even guess that we were getting ready for that! Oh the mess! (I know, I always say that - but really, this time the garden is exceptionally out of shape! I'm guessing that I am not alone as I've visited many gardens this spring and I know few, if any that looked 'perfect' with all of the rain, record cold weather paired with two record-breaking heat waves, it's amazing that anything looks good. Good photo angles will help.

Here are some of my to-do list items for June that can't wait any longer, rain or shine:

Emilia coccinea, a half hardy annual is an easy-to-grow yet rarely encountered border flower with brilliant scarlet tassel-like blooms, accounting for one of it's common names - Tassel Flower.

Planting out the last of the annuals

The last of the blooming annuals for this years' garden must be either directly sown, or plants set out by mid June. This year I've been able to grow many of the more unusual annuals which are not necessarily difficult, but which require a bit more care to get them established. There are just so many extra annuals and I can't seem to allow any to get tossed into the compost pile, so marigolds and extra Black-eyed Susans are all finding homes somewhere int he garden.

Salpiglossis seedlings have been pinched, fertilized with a cal-mag fertilizer (as for petunias and snapdragons) and are set into containers while young as they resent transplanting. This is a black flowered variety which should be in bloom by the end of the month.

I am growing some 'special' annuals - which is what I call those which are impossible to find in garden centers. Most have been set into the borders, but a few need a bit of extra care even after they have been planted. Take Emilia coccinea for example - an annual many of you probably don't know. It's one of the earlier sown annuals which I pinch back just as it starts blooming in early June, only because it will improve how it looks in July. 

The genus Emilia is rarely seen in most gardens, but it is hardly new to the horticultural scene, with seeds being shared amongst plant geeks and informed gardeners for years - it hails from a genus which contains at least 50 species, none of which have any horticultural value at all. A fact which is easy to understand even with this delightful species when seen not in bloom, but one the fire-colored blooms open, excitement ignites.

In a few weeks, this patch of Emilia will be in full bloom, and the bright floral display will dominate yet in a gentle way, given all of the green around it. Pointillism at its best, for such a palette is best consumed in small bits - a blossom any larger than this would overwhelm a natural space.

Given all that, Emilia is easy enough to grow from seed, as long as one either sows them direct in June, or if started early indoors (6-8 weeks before frost-free date), be sure that they are sown singly in  individual cell packs, so that one can easily slide them out of the container to minimize any root disturbance. I know, it has a hawkweed look to it, but in the border, if planted in volume, it's anything  but weedy. They prefer good, rich garden loam over dry or sandy soils. There is something 'dandelion -esque' about it's overall habit (yes, it can self sow, but usually in a pleasant way). I tend not to allow it to set seed, as it signals an end to the plant producing more flowers. In fact, in June, I cut the first flowering stems off to encourage side branches.

Emilia is all about vibrancy, and with that comes some concern about the color in ones palette, but trust me - this is a flower which rarely photographs well, if at all, but when seen in real life, one must have it. The color is difficult to describe, and photos seem to bring out the tomato color more than the salmon or the coral tones, but under close inspection, the petals are actually carmine red fading to orange at the tips. So they mix, and fool the eye. Keep old flower snipped off for longer bloom, and keep an eye out for color blends which are rarely offered - this is a species which can come in orange, pinkish red as well as a rare yellow form.

Dahlias have been set out ( nearly 60 this year). All set out in a new garden here, where our golf green used to be. Yes, we had a golf green even though no one golfed in my family. My dad built it back in the 1930's, but it had to go. We broke the special mower, and we needed the space.

Pansies are swapped out for summer plants - sad that it has to happen just as they start to look their best, but with this heat, they are just about done with their spring show and I don't want to hold back the summer annuals.

Swapping Out Spring Container Plantings for Summer 

A task that always seems to come just when the spring containers are looking their best, reminds me of my first summer job at a well-known private Fletcher Steel garden - one in which the owner had requested a few formal bedding schemes which required dense, Victorian-style planting which were often seasonal. In that case, 'Imperial Blue Pansies, fresh from the cold frame where we first sowed and transplanted them in the previous autumn, where set out in early spring - edged in blue festuca grass, they were a lovely sight through most of spring. A large spiral edged in silver, but the sad reality was that on Memorial Day (late May) the pansies - which were then just in glorious peak-bloom - would be yanked out and tossed into the compost pile, only to replaced with wax begonias in a certain shade of pink.

I always remembered how difficult it was not only to pull and dispose of all of those pansies which were so well cared for (by me, as I had to snip off every faded bloom and seed pod most every day), but to also replace them with horrid wax begonias. It all had something to do with the color palette of the red foliage on the begonias, I thought, but now, I realize that the timing was probably right. My pansies, which last week looked better than they have in any year, just began to get tired this week with the arrival of our first heat wave. Still in full bloom, they are ever-so beginning to tip over from the weight of their awesomeness. 

Once swapped out, the summer container planting schemes are planted and watered. As you can see, I prefer the odd textures and more unique color palettes, finding the rusty brown, chocolate and leather colors more challenging to work with. I just have to make them work. No green foliage allowed. That would be boring and ordinary.

I like to plant containers of unusual annuals, and this year I'm focusing on salpiglossis and more varieties of Phlox drummondii. Each have been carefully sown and coddled, grown cool ( as in the case of Phlox drummondii) or warm (as in the case of Salpiglossis), pinched, and properly fed with a low nitrogen (no fish emulsion) high phosphorus and magnesium enriched diet. 

Phlox drummondii typically struggles in cell packs. But it you raise them yourself, and transplant them just at the roots touch the sides of the container, you can trick them into believing that they were direct sown. A good trick, as these resent transplanting and any root disturbance.

Red Currants are nearly full size now, and should be turning red in a few weeks. This is when I cover shrubs with bird mesh so that we too can enjoy the harvest.

In the vegetable garden - the chores seem endless

June is busy in the vegetable garden. Squashes, melon and cucumbers are sown, tomatoes, peppers and eggplants are transplanted into the garden, beans are sown and that includes dry beans and string beans, as well as the long Asian yard-long beans. Oh - and cow peas are sown. Okra is carefully transplanted (into pots this year), and weeding everything seems like a daily task.

Many fruits are nearly ready to harvest. We're on the cusp of the Cherry season, and the local farms are starting to sell strawberries. Around here, it's all about currants, gooseberries and raspberries. The only task here is to worry about our feathered friends who also enjoy them. All currants and blueberries will be covered with bird netting to protect the fruit.

Purple Kohlrabi is still young, but beginning to form heads. Fall crops are usually more productive, but I always like to take a chance that a cool and wet spring might reward us with an early season crop. This year we nailed it with perfect weather.

In the veg garden...

Weeds are endless, which I really cannot complain about as the wet weather has been a gift, and wo cares about the weeds if we don't have to water anything. The Cole crops are all maturing so nicely, clearly they enjoy the cool and wet weather. The early cabbage is heading up, as are spring harvest of kohlrabi (both purple and white). The wet weather has held off cabbage butterflies, as I haven't seen a single one for some reason, maybe there is a late hatching?

Once I spot the first cabbage butterfly, remay fabric must be stretched over the entire crop of cabbage which will protect most from egg laying female butterflies. I don't mind holes from larvae on the kohlrabi, and since I rarely find larvae in the meaty part of kohlrabi, they remain uncovered. I try to cover these crops as late as I can believing that the brighter sunlight ensures a better crop, although I have never really seen a difference in quality from covered crops from those receiving direct sun.

White kohlrabi is slightly slower in bulking up but this variety 'Kossack' is a late maturing variety that forms larger bulbs.

Maybe it's because I am Lithuanian, but cabbage plays an important role in my diet, and our kitchen is always in need of fresh, sweet and crispy garden-grown heads of cabbage. Few compare with this variety though - "Caraflex' a cone-shaped early forming head makes this tender variety my number one choice. Self seeded dill is allowed to grow wherever it emerges.

Radicchio 'Indigo' seedlings  were set out in a row between the carrots. These were a gift from Tovah Martin, and I couldn't refuse a few more endive varieties, especially this lovely speckled one.

Lettuce is a forgiving crop, but my experiment in growing the hard-to-find Celtuce (Celery and Lettuce = Celtuce) is coming along nicely. Not related to celery at all, this is all lettuce, except one eats the thick stem. I've never grown it before, but since each head is 2 feet in diameter, I imagine that I could begin harvesting it soon.

Cucumber seedlings are pre-started in 4 inch pots, and then carefully set into the ground.

Early June is the time to sow Winter Squash, and Cucumbers

This past weekend we rototilled and planted 12 varieties of winter storage squashes at my friend Mike's house in nearby Woodstock, CT. I needed more land where I could raise melons and storage squashed for a book I am pitching soon. Of course, it had to be the hottest day of the year, so we only were able to get half of the garden tilled and planted before practically collapsing, and with Joe heading to Amsterdam for 2 weeks, I may never get time (or energy) to get down there to plant the melons, so as usual, we risk running out of time for the window for planting long-season warm weather crops is short. I may try planting the melons in large felt pots again here at the home garden, but I'm not going to stress about it. Surely, someone will want 20 or so melon seedlings.

Daphne zips down the stairs early in the morning on her daily round to hunt for chipmunks. This climbing hydrangea is so fragrant that the entire deck smells like nutmeg.

While at my friend Mike's house in Woodstock CT, I was able to enjoy some old world roses and antique peonies. Mike grows many varieties that either are old, hard-to-find or only available in France. I always enjoy seeing his collection. This rose is a fragrant, old Damask rose 'Celsiana'.

My parents (and grandparents) grew this old peony 'Festiva Maxima', it reminds me of my childhood, as we had a peony garden which encircled the goldfish pond. It was there nearly 100 years, but was destroyed by the tractors when the greenhouse was built. I am thinking of tracking down the same, old varieties.

This is 'Asa Gray', an old peony which is very hard to find. It is speckled, and Mike imported it from France. He's already told me that I cannot have a division of it. How did he know?

Our peonies look like this right now!

My favorite rose at Mikes was this large bush of Rosa alba semiplena. It is believed to be the 'Rose of York'. This shrub was about 12 feet in diameter and buzzing with bees.

Speaking of buzzing with bees, this buddleia alternifolia 'argentea' blew me away. It is now on my very short 'must get' list.

I liked how the blossoms form all along the stem, and the silvery foliage. It attracted many butterflies while I was there, although you can't see any in this shot, we were entertained by how the Yellow Swallowtails fought with the few Monarchs.

Joe gave one of our Troy Bilt rototillers a workout - but it was hot (95 deg) and we either over-heated the motor or accidentally mixed oil and gas when we had to tip it over to untangle some weed, and couldn't get the pull cord to release. (our fault). This tiller has started on the first pull for 4 years now, which always impresses me, as we don't really take care of them that well. It was abused in this meadow - but it chewed through about 800 square feet of full-grown weeds. Pretty impressive.

Sinningia selovii, a tuberous semi-hardy garden sinningia

In the flower beds, not only the annuals are set out, but some perennials and bulbs (or tubers) are also set out. I received a nice gift of some Sinningia species, most of which I am keeping in pots so that I can. winter them over in the greenhouse. This one, which will bloom soon is Sinningia selovii. The pots are sunk into the border, so that the plants look as if they have been planted in the garden.

Lastly, the tender tropicals have been all set out into the garden. Banana's, alocasia, colocasia and the brugmansia have all been removed from their tubs and set into deep holes now that the nights and warmer. By July 4th, they will sulk a but after that, they will take off with the hot and humid weather. always impressing us with their vigor and tropical beauty in the garden.


  1. What gorgeous peonies! And such a stunning buddleia! There's always too much to do and not enough time to do it this time of year. I can't stand to get rid of healthy looking annuals either. I replanted my pansies in some spare room along the walkway in my shade garden, where they will hopefully keep going for awhile. Good luck on all your book and magazine endeavors - very exciting!

    1. Thanks Indie! The way I see it - the faster the old annuals come out, the quicker new ones can be enjoyed. I get bored easily anyway~

  2. Beautiful photos! I grow on a tiny patio, and envy your space!

  3. Anonymous6:44 PM

    dear matt,
    a certain something was missing: the fake Growing with Plants was a hilarious but crass parody of you!
    your planters with the deep colors are always intense and riveting. i kind of like 'Vancouver Centennial' pélargoniums with nasturtiums to keep my eyeballs alive; maybe you could breed a nasturtium with leather colored leaves--no green--as a challenge?
    all best,
    ~ 02568

    1. I know, right? I was at the Botanic Garden when someone pointed it out - laughing as they showed me the link on their smart phone. It was funny, but scary at the same time. I really don't know what they were thinking about - maybe they felt that they would get advertising money or page-hits? Anyway, it made me feel a bit like a Kardashian!


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