Six on Saturday:  Patience, It’s Summer!

Pollinators feed on Echinacea

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 first Rose of Sharon of the Season bloomed this week. Shrubs like this tree Hibiscus support an enormous variety of pollinators.

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.

Newly sprouted Caladiums

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. 

This newly planted lemon scented container garden grows at the Williamsburg Botanical Garden. The Lantana ‘Yellow Variegated’ is planted on the left.

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.

Visit Illuminations Each Day for a daily garden photo and a quotation.

Lantana and Salvia filled this bed at the Williamsburg Botanical Garden last September


  1. Lemon verbena has been difficult for us. It seems to survive, but never looks very appealing. I snip it slightly to get it to branch a bit more, but it sheds entire branches, and insists on developing awkward form.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Good points, Tony. I planted several plants at home last summer late in the season. I picked them up on sale and they were root bound, but I gave them a try. They never amounted to much but have come up again this spring. Now that the initial blooms have finished, I’m going to cut them back and see if I can coax them into something attractive, It may be grown more for use than for beauty. I hope you have a terrific weekend for Father’s Day 😉

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  2. I am sorry to say that I have some unpleasant news about the white lily of the Nile that I should have sent days ago. I hastily put them into a bucket of water to hydrate prior to putting them into the mail, and then neglected to send them during the warm weather. Consequently, some of them rotted. There were not many to begin with. I put the few that were in good condition into the mail today, with a few blue lily of the Nile, as well as some dinky dwarf lily of the Nile. The blue ones are in the biggest bundle. The white ones are in a smaller bundle. The dwarf ones are just a handful of shabby rhizomes in another bag. I did not groom the dwarf ones. I suppose that I should have asked before sending them. You can simply arrange them in small groups, cover them with a thin layer of soil and let them grow through. The larger blue lily of the Nile are relatively compact, so may stay a bit lower than the white sort. If you like, I can send some large blue lily of the Nile next week. They get a bit larger than the white sort, although all three are very compatible, and difficult to discern from each other if grown together. I did not want to take the time to process the larger blue sort because I wanted to get the white ones in the mail today.

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    • Thanks very much, Tony, for sending all of these rhizomes. I’ll watch for them to arrive next week and get them in the ground. I know just what you mean about not getting things off during such warm weather, so no worries. I just appreciate your kindness in sending these that you can spare. I’ll get them planted right away when they arrive. Thanks for explaining what is in each bundle, too. Let me get these planted before you send any more, if you don’t mind. I’m still trying to figure out where to plant several things I already have on hand.

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      • It is no problem to delay sending more. Since lily of the Nile grows so vigorously, you might be satisfied with the few that I sent. My colleague tells me that, without bloom, the blue sort are indistinguishable from the white sort. They are both a ‘mid range’ sort, with foliage that is neither overly compact, nor overly big and floppy.

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      • Your package arrived in perfect condition late this afternoon. Thank you for sending the bulbs🍀. I am happily surprised at how many you sent. We have rain tonight and I look forward to planting them tomorrow😎. Thank you! I am so excited to watch these grow!

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      • Many? There were only a few, and the white ones were particularly minimal. I can send more blue lily of the Nile in the future if you like. I may eventually procure a purple lily of the Nile, but only if I can find one with the same floral structure as the blue and white sorts. I get the impression that they are not as impressive as they sound, which is likely why they are still rare. Most purple lily of the Nile are different species with pendulous flowers that look weird, . . . and weirdly dark. Brent got me a variegated white lily of the Nile. Variegated blue lily of the Nile became available in about 1985, but had never seen a white sort.

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      • I can see that there is a lot for me to learn about Lily of the Nile! I’m looking forward to watching these grow. Thanks so much for opening up the door to learning about a new flowering plant, Tony 😉

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      • There is really not much to learn, since the best lily of the Nile are the simplest. I just included the dinky ones because they happened to be laying around. Purple lily of the Nile is . . . interesting, but no better than the others, and I suspect that it is genetically a bit weaker. Variegated types are a bit less vigorous, and are really only appealing where variegation is desirable. (Some people grow them merely because they are uncommon, but common green sorts are more appealing for more situations.) I have grown lily of the Nile since I was a little kid, and found that the same blue sort that I started with back so long ago is still the best, and the white sort that I got in the early 1990s is still the best white sort. I never wanted to add another cultivar to the mixt to complicate the situation.

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  3. I am guilty of planting things too close – sometimes I am thinking of it as weed control, but sometimes I overdo it. I am being careful with the new natives I planted for this year and my eyes see so much naked dirt! Things will fill in – I need to be patient! I love the idea of having a scented planter all lemony! I love walking throuhh my garden and getting whiffs of mint, dill, coriander, oregano, thyme. A feast for the senses!

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    • You know, nature plants things very closely and then the plants just have to ‘fight it out.’ There is something to be said for that, but I get frustrated when self-sown and spreading plants crowd out other things I’m trying to grow. Things fill in- eventually- but it certainly can be frustrating to have things look less than idea while they do. I know some gardeners plant annuals between the perennials while they wait for them to really take off. Yes, fragrance is so important in the garden! The lemony container is in an area frequented by children and visitors with disabilities. I like having things that appeal to as many of the senses as we can. Thanks for your note, and have a great week!

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      • It is true, Nature does things her way. I use it to my advantage, but my new natives, I have no experience with them, so I am giving them more space. Them we will see if they thrive before we challenge them with too much competition!

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