The forsythia is fading into its humdrum dress of summer. The very last of the tulips are on their very last legs. Flats of annuals are leaving nurseries by the trunk load, promising to peak for the Fourth of July barbecue. But the interim, the period between late spring and high summer, sees too few flowers. You can fix this. Maybe not for this year, but now is the time to fix it for next year.
Bearded iris are the king of the early summer garden. The dwarf varieties bloom in May, the regular size in June. Strictly speaking, this isn’t the best time to plant them, but this is the time they’re in the stores. What can you do. You get them when you can.
There is only one trick to planting iris. Place the rhizomes horizontally (with the roots down, of course) so that the top is showing at soil level. Planted too deep, they don’t flower. In fact, they’ll probably rot before they even have a chance not to flower.
If you have a friend with iris, you can arrange to plant them at the right time, but there is still work to do now. Prepare the bed by digging deep and adding lots of compost or bagged manure. It’s also a good idea to dig in some bone meal, getting it as deep as your spade allows. Mulch the area with a bag of ground bark so it isn’t covered with weeds when the time eventually comes to plant.
Now wangle an invitation to your friend’s Fourth of July barbecue. Once there, mention that his iris need dividing and offer to help. Just cut the fan of leaves down to half their height and dig them out. He won’t have room to replant all the excess, so you can help him out by taking them home. It’s a long weekend, and there is plenty of time to plant them. And the right time.
Dianthus is another June bloomer that belongs in every garden. Commonly called garden pinks, their sweet clove scent is instantly recognizable.
There are many varieties, but my particular favorite is Tiny Rubies. It’s a ground hugger that disappears under a mass of bright rose-red blooms in early June. A pot or two planted now will sport a few blossoms this season, but given full sun and good soil, they’ll spread into a spectacular show next year.
National Rose Month is June, which should give the more perceptive among you a hint about their bloom period. Back in Grandma’s day, roses were a part of every garden, mainly because they were easy to grow. Then hybridizes got busy and made them so finicky that they became a plant only for the dedicated specialist.
Now the pendulum has swung back. New landscape roses are bred to be carefree. Give them half a day’s sun, almost no pruning, little or no spraying. In other words, they’re like any other flowering shrub. That is, if there were flowering shrubs that would reach full size in one season, cover themselves with flowers in June, and repeat bloom throughout the summer. But there aren’t.
‘Carefree Wonder’ was an All America Rose Selection winner several years ago. I planted one out front and have ignored it ever since. Except that I keep going out just to stare. It’s a breathtaking six foot mound of pink. Nearby is ‘Maideland Red’, also a spectacular bloomer, but shorter and spreading out eight feet.
In back I have a David Austin rose called Heritage, each shell pink blossom looking like a painting. If you’ve shied away from roses, you’ve got to try some of the modern breeds.
That will get you from the last tulip to the first full flush of petunias. And it will give you something to do this season to take your mind off the temporary floral deficit.