This is a celebration weekend as we remember and honor the men who have made a positive difference in our lives. Kids are out of school and vacation season is here again. Arts festivals are cropping up in public spaces. Many people are celebrating Juneteenth this weekend, when the last of the African American slaves were liberated in Texas, more than a year after the Emancipation Proclamation was signed. The third weekend of June means a great deal to many of us.
And the shifting from late spring to summer is unmistakable in our garden. The first of the Rose of Sharon trees bloomed this week. The sweet, heavy fragrance of Gardenia permeates, but the shrub has bloomed long enough now to be covered in a mix of pristine white flowers and muddy brown faded ones. The brown ones are a great metaphor for how many of us have felt this week under extreme heat and humidity.
The new Iris psuedata I ordered some weeks ago arrived last Saturday. I was able to keep them in containers of water for part of the week, and finally potted them up on Thursday. My entire ‘to do’ list is backed up between the weather and an injury. But the garden doesn’t care, and it continues to unfold in its own way.
I planted a shipment of new varieties of Caladiums in early May, directly into pots where I wanted them to grow . And they sat. We still had some really cool weather in early May, and Caladiums love the heat. It has been so long since I planted them that I’ve been worried that they weren’t going to sprout; that I’d spoiled them by planting too early in the season.
But this week they are finally beginning to sprout. They survived and are opening their first leaves. These are new varieties released this year by Classic Caladiums. They breed superior varieties of Caladiums and release a few new cultivars each year. It is always interesting to see what the new ones will do. I save the Caladiums year to year, and watching the leaves unfold brings happy memories of summers passed. I’m still trying to get those saved Caladiums outside and into their summer places, but that has been taking longer than I’d like.
Mid-June is an ‘in-between’ time here because foliage from spring bulbs hasn’t quite faded, and summer flowers are just beginning to bloom. I saw the first Canna lily blooms at the WBG this morning, and the first of our white Echinacea opened this week. The Salvia and other summer perennials are opening their first flowers of the season.
I’ve been planting Lantana these past two weeks, and the plants still look spindly and insignificant. They may have one or two blossoms. In another month, they will have grown in beautifully to fill their spaces with bright flowers. The Lantana camara ‘Chapel Hill Gold,’ that I prefer, eventually grow 2’-3’ wide and several feet tall. So, it is important to space them on 18”-24” centers when planting.
Another volunteer gardener took issue with my ‘puny’ planting of them last June, and ‘helpfully’ filled in between them with some gaudy annuals when I was away for a couple of weeks. I’ll leave it to your imagination what I had to say about that, but I spent the next several weeks trying to pry out all the tacky little Celosias and Zinnias. There were so many!
Skillful gardeners are careful with how many plants to plant in a given space. Crowding invites disease and stresses all of the plants as they compete for sunlight, water and nutrients. I finally found and removed them all as the Lantana finally took off, and by early September you could hardly even see the frame of the raised bed because the Lantana covered everything.
Lantana is a woody shrub in its native range, even though we often treat it like an herbaceous annual in our area. Lantana ‘Chapel Hill Gold’ is a selected seedling of L. ‘Miss Huff,’ which is reliably hardy in Zone 7b. Most times, Chapel Hill Gold will last through winter here, too. But I need to cut them back too hard, and too early at the WBG, for the late fall planting of pansies in that bed. Only about a quarter of the Lantana survive the winter.
I just planted Lantana ‘Yellow Variegated’ in a new lemon scented herbal arrangement. Lantana is a member of the Verbena family. It has a slightly minty fragrance. Everything else in the container smells of lemon: lemon Verbena, lemongrass, lemon balm, and a lemony scented geranium. I’ll enjoy watching the variegated Lantana grow this summer. Its leaves look like a combination of lemon and lime and its flowers are lemony yellow.
I saw the first hummingbird of the season at the WBG this morning, feeding between the Canna blooms and the Salvia. That is a sure sign that summer is upon us. With the Solstice coming on Tuesday, we can relax into the things we most enjoy, and the best experiences summer has to offer.
Happy Father’s Day! Happy Summer!
With appreciation to The Propagator, who hosts Six on Saturday each week.
You might enjoy my new series of posts, Plants I Love That Deer Ignore.
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