Monday, June 15, 2015

June Blooms Galore! Agastache, Geraniums, Blue Wild Indigo, 'Zagreb' Coreopsis, Johnny Jump-Up, Lantana, Mexican Hats and more!

Agastache rugosa 'Honey Bee Blue', an expert told me not to get my hopes up about this Agastache behaving as a perennial here in Middle Tennessee, but it came through our unusually cold winter and very wet spring without any complaints.

Welcome to June in the Garden of Aaron!

As I prepared this post, I took a look back at some previous June posts to see how things have changed in the garden over the past few years:

- There was the June 2012 post that I made in the midst of an awful drought and heat wave that stressed almost every plant in my garden (except for the crape myrtles, the French marigolds. I will say that it's interesting to see that the coneflowers were attracting lots of little skipper butterflies by late June 2012. So far, despite seeing lots and lots of bees, I've seen very few butterflies in the garden. Perhaps more will arrive in the next week or two?

- In June 2013, Gaura lindheimeri, love-in-a-mist and Penstemon digitalis 'Husker's Red' were rocking the house. Zinnias and sunflowers were just getting ready to burst.

- Later in June 2013, I posted photos of additional flowers - zinnias, coral honeysuckle, Monarda didyma 'Jacob Cline', cranesbill geranium, Agastache 'Golden Jubilee', Salvia 'May Night', Hypericum frondosum 'Sunburst', crape myrtles, Stachys officinalis, French marigolds (again), Alchemilla mollis, Bush's poppy mallow, lambs ear, gardenia, love-in-a-mist (again), Malva sylvestris 'Zebrina', Veronica spicata 'Giles van Hees' and purple coneflowers (again)

So before I dive into the June flowers (and some foliage) from this year, I thought it might be useful to give a quick recap on which of these plants I'm still growing in my garden and which have fallen by the wayside.

I've nothing against growing flash-in-the-pan shooting stars that have a moment of glory one year and are gone the next, but lots of gardeners (myself included) also prize durable and dependable favorites that will come back and even grow stronger and more beautiful from one year to the next. So, which of the June bloomers are still around in the 2015 edition of Garden of Aaron?

- Lagerstroemia indica, crape myrtle - Oh yeah. Bigger, better, stronger. Just starting to bloom now (no photos below), but should be glorious in a couple of weeks. No damage at all on my big, mature crapes over the last couple of winters with lows near zero, ice storms, etc. My secret? I don't murder them.

- Tagetes patula, French marigold - Yes, still persists in my garden as a self-sowing annual. I intentionally pluck and scatter the seed pods to help it spread. Despite sowing many seeds, I don't get many seedlings, but enough to help the plant persist in my garden. As long as it gets decent rainfall, it typically blooms for months. Last year, it was spectacular throughout the entire summer. This year, it is just getting started.

 - Echinacea purpurea, purple coneflowers - Yes, they continue to thrive and spread here. I love the fact that they attract bees, butterflies and birds. I had some issues last year with either a disease or a pest (aster yellows?) distorting some of the flowers, but I pulled the affected plants and so far I haven't seen any issues yet this year (knock on drywall). I've included a couple of photos below.

- Gaura lindheimeri, gaura has basically died out in my garden. It's a pity, because it was very drought tolerant and bloomed for a long time, attracting bees (and aphids, ladybugs and green lacewings). I think the soil was too heavy and/or the winters too cold and wet. I may try again with the all-white variety, which seems to have survived last winter just fine at my neighbor's property, even as she also lost her pink gauras.

- Penstemon digitalis 'Husker's Red', I feel a bit guilty, but I have to admit that I shovel-pruned this plant. I was not digging the short bloom period, and while it was semi-evergreen, I thought the foliage didn't look all that good in the winter. I have some regrets about this, but I've added some new penstemons to the garden (Penstemon x mexicali 'Red Rocks', which I'm liking much more and which has a much longer bloom season)

- Nigella damascena, love-in-a-mist, I'm actively trying to get rid of this. Yes, the flowers are beautiful. Yes, the seedpods are mysterious and exciting. BUT, it self-sows everywhere. The seeds germinate in summer or autumn. The feathery seedlings survived our cold winters without any issues and then it shoots up and blooms dramatically in the summer. The seedlings easy to pull, but when there are hundreds or thousands of them, it gets tedious. 

- Zinnia elegans, I still have a few zinnias growing in my garden, but I have not sowed any seeds recently, and they have sort of petered out. I think the last two cold winters in a row have prevented some self-sowing. I have mixed feelings on zinnias. In dry years (like 2012), they look awful without supplemental water, which I'm reluctant to provide (since I want to have a relatively self-sufficient garden). In wet years (2013 and 2014), they get powdery mildew and still look awful. (I tried a supposedly mildew-resistant zinnia species - Z. haageana (last photo in this blog post) - and was not impressed with the flowers or the disease resistance. It did not self-sow.) Still, maybe I'll sow some zinnia seeds next spring. I miss the butterflies they attract.

- Cranesbill geraniums, still grow them, still love them, they get better each year, I have one photo below

Geranium sanguineum, bloody cranesbill geranium, beautiful flowers, gorgeous foliage, trouble-free and attracts small pollinators (as you may be able to decipher from the blurry visitor in the flower on the left).

- Agastache 'Golden Jubilee', still thriving, self-sowing politely (well, perhaps a bit more than 'politely', but I wouldn't call it 'aggressive' or 'rampant' by any means)

Agastache 'Golden Jubilee' just coming into bloom in early June 2015

- Monarda didyma 'Jacob Cline', shovel-pruned it. It was spreading too fast, too far. And I didn't like the flowers. And I never saw it attract any pollinators. I think it might have gotten some mildew too. So there.

Salvia 'May Night', it's still hanging on, even giving a bit of rebloom this year. Hasn't really thrived, but has not croaked either. We tolerate each other.

- Stachys byzantina, lamb's ear, still have it, still love it, one of my 'Helene von Stein' cultivars even flowered this year (although it's not supposed to).

Stachys byzantina, lamb's ear, this 'Helene von Stein' cultivar is not supposed to flower. Apparently this one didn't get the memo.

Lamb's ear flowers are supposed to be attractive to bees, but I haven't seen any pollinators on these two flower stalks. Guess they didn't get the memo either. (One commenter on a previous post said that lamb's ear flower stalks reminded her of Medusa. That seems a bit harsh to me...)

- Stachys officinalis, betony, doing just fine, still have it, it's never really "wowed" me, but it's nice.

- Alchemilla mollis, lady's mantle, also doing fine, the clumps have gotten a little bigger, despite its reputation as a rampant self-sower, I've never seen a seedling.

- Gardenia jasminoides 'Jubilation', long gone, I think it was just too cold and windy for gardenia in my garden. (Gardenias have a reputation for being 'difficult' plants, so I may have killed it with gardening incompetence, but I'm going to blame the cold and wind.)

- Callirhoe bushii, Bush's poppy mallow, the rabbits did their best to kill this one, nibbling it down to the ground repeatedly, but it's come back every time and this year has some protection from other perennials that have grown up around it. It's a tough survivor that has won my respect and admiration. 

- Malva sylvestris 'Zebrina', this one the rabbits successfully killed. It's a shame, because the flowers were beautiful.

- Veronica 'Giles van Hees', this one sometimes melts out a bit in the summer, but it always seems to recover and come back just a little stronger and wider. It's growing on me...slowly.

- Lonicera sempervirens, coral honeysuckle, I had two vines growing on my front porch railings, they got very bushy and wild, one of them started suckering and/or layering, so I removed it. I kept the other one for now, but it had a bad case of aphids this year and even though ladybugs and other predators eventually showed up, a lot of the leaves and flowers still seem damaged. It's limping along. In years past, the coral honeysuckle vines attract hummingbirds, but I've barely seen any hummers this year (even though I have other flowers like Salvia greggii, autumn sage, that are supposed to attract them).

- Hypericum frondosum 'Sunburst', I had a landscaper install about a dozen of these shrubs on my front hillside. They seem to be a little short-lived. A couple have kicked the bucket and one of the others has some dieback. I don't find the plant all that attractive most of the year, but it's marvelous in bloom - covered with yellow puffball flowers that the bees go crazy over. Still, when I remove the ones that have died this autumn, I think I'll try to diversify the planting by replacing them with something else.

So I think that's a recap of where things stand with many of the plants featured in previous June blooms posts. Now here's what's blooming (or otherwise eye-catching) this year:

Baptisia australis, blue wild indigo (year 3 in the garden), seed pods

Coreopsis verticillata 'Zagreb' (year 2 in the garden)

Close up on 'Zagreb' with a small pollinator visiting one of the flowers.

Achillea millefolium 'Paprika, yarrow (year 1 in the garden), the rabbits did a number on it for a couple of months, but they seemed to have moved on, which has allowed the yarrow to resprout, spread out and put up flower stalks.

I'm 99% sure this is Agastache foeniculum, anise hyssop, I sowed some in spring of 2014 and got zero germination last year. This year, I've seen some pop up here and there, so I guess it needed a cold treatment to germinate? If you look closely in this photo, you can see a small pollinator has landed about 2/3 of the way up the flower.

Sisyrinchium angustifolium 'Lucerne', blue-eyed grass, this may not look flashy, but I think it could be one of my best additions to the garden this year. It looks like a grass (and of course it has 'grass' in its common name), but it's actually a member of the lily family, and it has bloomed non-stop since I planted it about two months ago. (The blooms do stay closed on cloudy days.) I wouldn't call it a pollinator magnet, but I have seen pollinators (especially small pollinators) visiting the flowers.

Here's another perspective on blue-eyed grass. It's native to Tennessee and throughout the Southeast, Mid-Atlantic, Midwest and New England. Charming!

Here's a purple coneflower (Echinacea purpurea) and a small spider hanging out on one of the flower petals.

Echinacea purpurea, purple coneflower, at many different stages of bud and bloom

This Fothergilla (center) is being engulfed by a patch of Melissa officinalis (lemon balm, left). I think the Fothergilla is getting a little stressed out by the competition, so I plan to cut the lemon balm way back and/or pull some out, but I'd like to wait until it blooms first. It's just starting to come into bloom with tiny white flowers, but when this photo was taken (about a week ago) it had not yet started flowering. The flowers are supposed to be very attractive to bees. We shall see...

Viola tricolor, Johnny jump-up, heartsease, apparently these are prolific self-sowers in some gardens, but mine have sort of petered out after a few years. This is the only remaining patch. Perhaps I accidentally mistook some of the other seedlings for weeds and dispatched them mercilessly? It's possible. It's a charming, cheerful little perennial. I may try to sow it again in the garden someday.

Lantana camara 'Miss Huff', I'm trying lantana for the first time this year. Most sources say it's only hardy to zone 7, so I'm probably on the borderline, but 'Miss Huff' is supposed to be one of the more cold-tolerant varieties, so I'll keep my fingers crossed. I'm growing it both because it's floriferous and cheerful, as well as for its reported ability to attract butterflies, but I have not seen any butterflies (or any other pollinators for that matter) visiting it yet. Perhaps as the plants get bigger, they'll become more noticeable to the pollinating crowd?

I've got a lot of Mexican hats (Ratibida columnifera) growing in the garden this year. It's a perennial that also self-sows quite a bit. So far, the seedlings don't seem rampant, but it's spread around quite a bit. I feel a little trepidation about what happens next year... It's growing here next to some Gaillardia x grandiflora.

Not one perfect rose, but instead of one perfect Cosmos bipinnatus! Cosmos are annual flowers that volunteer from year to year, but never (for me) in overwhelming numbers. I often end up pulling some that volunteer in the 'wrong' place, but I let most of them grow wherever they sprout.

The flowers are not terribly showy on this species Viburnum dentatum (arrowwood viburnum). I'm growing two cultivars ('Chicago Lustre' and 'Pearl Bleu') in partial shade, and they both seem happier than this plant, but I can't tell if that's because the others are cultivars or because V. dentatum would really prefer partial shade in Middle Tennessee. Honestly, I suspect a bit of both.

So that's what is going on right now here. 

What are some of the standout bloomers in your June garden?

And how do this year's June bloomers in your garden differ from years past (i.e., which plants have joined the dearly departed and which ones have joined the show)?