copyright, Kellscraft Studio
(Return to Web Text-ures)                                             

Click Here to return to
My Garden
Content Page

Click Here to return to
the previous section



 “I am not only well content but highly pleased with the plants and fruits growing in these my own little gardens.”
                                                                            — Epicurus.

  THIS is the month when the least of us gardeners may proudly survey his flowery realm and say, “not so bad,” for June seldom disappoints us.

All danger from frost is past, the long rainy spells with cold nights and chilly, discouraging days are over, the devastating electric storms and cruel droughts have not yet come, and the gay throng of Foxgloves, Sweet Williams, Irises, Paeonies, Pinks, and old-fashioned Roses are seldom to be found in the category of blighted hopes.

Wherever the eye wanders is a lovely picture. Roses tumble over the walls, or riot up their trellises, Valerian spreads its lacy canopies above scarlet Poppies or soft-coloured Iris; a burnished Copper Brier displays itself in fine contrast to creamy Lupines and a tender mauve Iris, and blue and white frilled Iris Mme. Chereau looked never before so enchanting as with its background of yellow Rose Harisoni. Fine masses of clear colour are created by the slender Siberian Irises, gay pink and white and crimson Pyrethrums nod from the borders; against the wall a great Gloire de Dijon Rose presses its soft flushed cheek, and from every chink and cranny of walls and steps and stone edgings, delicious Pinks shake out their perfumed fringes.  

"A grand burst of paeonies usually celebrates the arrival of June."

In a corner of the garden the great rounded bushes of Baptisia australis are bristling with well-filled spikes of clouded blue, pea-shaped flowers. This plant, which grows four feet tall and as thick through, with the yellow Baptisia tinctoria, are splendid all-summer subjects, for they retain their fine rounded form until cut down by frost. The foliage of australis is somewhat metallic in colour, while that of tinctoria is very pale green, both valuable in various colour arrangements and blending well with their own blossoms. The Baptisias are easily raised from seed, but require several years to arrive at an effective size. Frequent division is not desirable, and they will grow as well in the deep, rich soil of the borders as in damp places, though the latter is their choice.

A grand burst of Paeonies usually celebrates the arrival of June. The old crimson Paeony and the lovely albifiora belong to May and are past, and the memory of their simple sweetness is almost effaced by the wonders of form and colour which follow in the train of June. Some are so double as to be nearly as round as balls; others, like great loose-petalled Water-lilies; still others that are called “anemone-flowered,” with a rounded tuft of petals in the centre and a circle of flat florets, and still others are quite single. And the colours range from pure white and cream through all the diaphanous pinks to rose and amaranth and dark, rich crimson.

To open a Paeony catalogue is to be plunged into bewilderment, for there are countless varieties, each sounding more desirable than the last. We have not many kinds here — only twelve, besides the May flowerers — and none of the fine single ones as yet. Our list is of the less expensive sorts, but all are beautiful: 

Festiva maxima — round, pure white, flecked crimson.
Mme. Calot — silvery pink.
Mons. Chas. Leveque — soft salmon-pink.
Duchesse de Nemours    white with creamy heart. Fragrant.
Candidissima — white with buff centre.
Albert Crousse — fresh salmon-pink. Very fragrant.
Claude Lorraine — flesh-pink — loose petals.
Marie Lemoine — white — fragrant.
Philomele    deep cream colour with pink collar.
Paul Joubert  — crimson with gold anthers.
Gloria Mundi — blush, centre pale yellow — sweet scented.
Mme. Forel — bright rose.
Louis van Houtte — dark purple-crimson.

Paeonies will grow under almost any conditions, as is shown by the fine plants we see in the tangled grass of deserted gardens, but they respond magnificently to a heavily manured soil, and in partial shade the blossoms will show a finer colour and last longer in perfection. Once planted, they should not be dug up and divided, but left in peace to grow into huge bushes that will in time produce dozens of splendid flowers. Paeonies are lovely grown in wide borders with the free-growing June Roses, with clumps of the great Dalmatian Iris, and bushes of Rue and Southernwood.

Pinks belong to June and are, of all her belongings, the very sweetest; indeed, they seem to me the sweetest flowers of any month. Once I set out to know all the Pinks, wild and tame, but soon found that my garden was not suited to all: the little alpines, Dianthus neglect us, alpinus, glacialis, and some others that I sought to please, dwindled and pined in a sadly homesick manner. I gathered together all the catalogues, foreign and domestic, that listed the seeds, or plants of Pinks, and collected all the Pink literature-which is little enough, considering the charm of the subject — and after much experimenting and petitioning, have a delicious company settled in nooks and corners about the garden, though many that I wanted badly could not see their way to stay.

The first I had was, of course, Dianthus plumarius, the Grass or Scotch Pink, that everybody knows and loves. It has many fine hybrids, some so fine as to cost twenty-five cents the packet, but the cheaper ones are as sweet, and they are among the friendliest things of the whole summer, spreading quickly into great soft-coloured mats, starred with sweet, fringed blossoms, double or single. The old pure-white fringed Pink, D. finibriatus, and its double sort make charming border edgings, and another good white one for this purpose is Mrs. Sinkins, very fat and double. Still others are 11cr Majesty and Albion (white), Delicata (pink), Gloriosa (rose), and Excelsior (pink with carmine centre). The Mule Pinks, too, are splendid, with Napolian III, valiant red, as the finest; Furst Bismark, lovely rose-colour, a charming second; and Alice, a fluffy double white, not far behind. These, of course, bear no seed and must be increased by cuttings or division.

Of the wild Pinks, the first we had was the Cheddar Pink, Dianthus caesius, the seeds of which were sent us from the Cheddar Cliffs in England, where we had seen them accomplishing veritable explosions of rosy bloom upon the ledges of the fierce gray cliffs. All this first lot I lost, for while they did their part in germinating to a seed, I was so stupid as not to know how to make them feel at home and put them in the fat borders, where the winter damp put an end to these cliff-dwellers in short order. But one does not make so cruel a mistake twice, and now there are plenty of Cheddars tucked about in sunny nooks between the stones of walls and steps where they are quite hardy and at peace. The Maiden Pink, D. deltoides, a tiny thing of dry British pastures, is one of the easiest to grow and exhibits a vigour one does not expect from so small a thing. Its blunt leaves are small and dark, and it grows into such thick mats as to form something very like a turf, which may be used upon dry banks where grass is cared for with difficulty. But it belongs to the garden, too, and fringes my wall tops and stone edgings charmingly. The flowers are so pink as to be quite jewel-like in their brightness, and there is a white sort which foams over the edgings and into the path with quite distracting results. The Sand Pink, D. arenarius, is quite different in character, forming strong tufts of bluish-green foliage, from which rise slender stems, carrying deeply cut white blossoms, very sweetly scented; it likes a light sandy soil and rejoices in a comfortable cranny, if one is to be had. D. petraeus is a small, sweet, fringy, rose-coloured alpine from the Balkans, disliking wet feet in winter, but otherwise of easy culture. D. Seguieri forms nice, upstanding little bushes more than a foot high with light-green leaves and gay purple-spotted, rose-coloured blossoms. D. super-bus is a pretty thing blooming freely the first year from seed. Its tall stems, over two feet in height, carry several lilac-pink fringed blossoms, which, if not allowed to seed, continue all summer. This Pink will grow in the ordinary soil of the borders, not requiring a cranny. D. atrorubens is not one of the fragrant Pinks, but its small, rich red blossoms clustered in a flat head like a small Sweet William make up in glow what they lack in other qualities. It remains in bloom for a long time.

The song of my Pinks is almost at an end, for there remains only D. sylvestris, the Wood Pink, which does not like the woods at all, but full sunshine, and which has the reputation of being what Mr. Reginald Farrer would call a “miff” and may prove so here. It is a new acquaintance and still occupies a gravelly bed in the nursery, but its tufts of narrow bluish foliage are in such a flattering condition of health that my hopes are high for a grand display before long. Mr. Correvon describes it thus, “the pink flowers large, elegant, bluish spotted at the base of the petals, with blue-lilac anthers; petals more or less toothed. The plant is stout and strong, and extremely floriferous, blooming from June to September in rock work in full sun."1

Of course all the Pinks marry and intermarry, and bring forth many a soft-coloured, sweet-breathed surprise for me, and I should miss them more than any of the garden’s children. They are plants for sunny nooks and corners, friendly things to be tended by loving hands and enjoyed by those who care for what is sweet and simple. As old Parkinson knew, they are “of a most fragrant scent, comforting the spirits and senses afar on.”

This brings us to friend Sweet William, who, while not a Pink, is yet a Dianthus and so belongs here. The old garden books speak both of Sweet Williams and Sweet Johns, the latter being distinguished by very narrow leaves, and I am sure there were Johns growing in the tangled grass about this farmhouse when we came to live here, for the very narrow leaves of the Sweet Williams I found puzzled me. But I did not then know about Johns, and as the flowers were of that wishy-washy, anaemic, red colour which has given magenta a bad name, I did not try to save any in the “cleaning up.” Sweet Williams are old and valued friends and most helpful in the June scheme of things. The lovely salmon-pink variety is a real acquisition, and the fluffy, double white ones are pretty, too. I do not care for the two-coloured sorts, but the fine blackish crimson one, that John Rea describes as a “deep, rich murrey velvet colour” and considered “the finest of the Williams,” is very splendid and useful for grouping with flowers of a raw red shade.

Sweet Williams seem to have a natural affinity for Foxgloves, as any one will agree who has seen them inciting each other to greater achievements of discordant colour in old gardens where they have been allowed to seed promiscuously. But this affinity may be taken advantage of to bring about a very happy union if white Foxgloves and salmon Sweet Williams are brought together, and I like to add to this group clumps of striped grass or Gardener’s Garters. Sweet Williams are best treated as biennials, as the old plants lose their stocky form and deteriorate generally, and it is best to buy fresh seed and not depend upon the gypsy seedlings, for these usually hark back to their magenta forebears.

In old works on gardening Thrift (Armeria) is always included under the head of Pinks, and the tidy, tufted growth and rosy blossoms of both certainly suggest kinship. The Sea, or Cushion Pink, Armeria maritima, in its variety Laucheana, is a gay little thing with dense tufts of dark foliage studded with brilliant pink blossoms. There is a white variety, and both were largely used in the old days for “impaling” or edging the quaint “knottes” which held within bounds the sweet tangle of old-fashioned Roses, Lavender, and Rockets of Elizabethan gardens. It is as good for this purpose now as then, and may also be used in little groups along the borders or between the stones. A. Cephalotes (syn. latifolia) is a pretty little plant, too, but taller, sending up its wiry stems a foot high and bearing its globes of rosy bloom with a jaunty air. A. caespitosa is a charming alpine species which sends up tall stems from its tuft of green bearing pink flower heads. It requires a poor rather sandy soil and a sunny nook between two stones.

Foxgloves are widely known and grown and loved, and the June garden would lack much without their graceful spires. The creamy white ones are the prettiest, and it is best in any case to buy the seeds in separate colours, for the magenta sorts are not suitable for many associations. Here we grow them with bushes of Southernwood and Rue, with gray Stachys lanata and the gleaming Snow Queen Iris. The white ones are never amiss and the tall spires of “beauty long drawn out” rise from every part of the garden. Of course the biennial character of these plants makes it necessary to raise them every year from seed, but they usually seed themselves so freely that we are saved this piece of work. We entertain here two other Foxgloves — Digitalis ambigua (syn. grandiflora), and D. orientalis.2 Both are yellow-flowered — the former growing about two feet tall and producing its belled flower spikes off and on all summer and autumn, and the latter, taller with smaller flowers.  

June Magic
"Wherever the eye wanders is a lovely picture — the gay throng
of Foxgloves, Sweet Williams, Irises, Paeonies, Pinks, and Old-Fashioned Roses."

In a corner of the garden with some bushes of Southernwood and white Moss Roses grows an old-fashioned plant called Fraxinella (Dictamnus), sometimes called Burning Bush from the fact, claimed to have been discovered by the daughter of Linnaeus, that after nightfall an inflammable vapour comes from the blossoms; but though we have many times experimented, singed fingers have been our only reward — and this through holding the matches too long. However, the Fraxinella, when well established, is a very beautiful plant growing into stout clumps with beautiful dark foliage lasting in fine condition the summer through and bearing spikes of white or purplish fringy flowers with a strange odour which the children declare is both “horrid and nice.” The plants should not be dug up and divided, but left to themselves will outlast whole generations of mere humans.

In another part of the garden is a lovely picture where the shell-like bloom of a climbing Rose, Newport Fairy, creates just the right background for a group composed of fleecy Spiroea Aruncus, tall purple Campanula latifolia var. macrantha, and Lyme Grass. The Spiraea is a fine plant of this season, but requires a deep, rich, retentive soil to be at its best, for it is a moisture lover. The herbaceous Spiraeas have not done very well in my garden, it is too dry, but for damp situations there are many good sorts. Aruncus, however, has been an exception with one other, S. Filipendula fl. pl., the double-flowered Dropwort, growing about two feet tall, with feathery foliage and heads of white flowers. Both are in a north border in heavy, deep soil.

The Campanulas are a large family of varying merit and blossom, in the different varieties, in May, June, July, and August. C. glonierata, the Clustered Hairbell, is a good May sort about a foot high with rich purple or white flowers. The best June Bellflowers besides latifolia macrantha, which grows about three feet tall, and also has a white variety, are the well-known Canterbury Bell, C. Medium, the tall C. lactiflora, and the lovely Peach-leaved Bellflower, C. persicifolia. This is a beautiful plant and quite the flower of the Campanulas to my thinking — sending up from a tuft of narrow, shining leaves stems two or three feet tall, well hung with glistening white or lavender-blue bells. Humosa is a light-blue double sort, and Moerheimii a very fine double-flowered white. These are charming planted in little thickets with the late yellow Columbine, A. chrysantha, or with bright coral-coloured Heucheras, such as Pluie de Feu, or Rosamund. The plants require yearly division, and our stock may also be increased by means of the offsets that are freely produced.

A fine new sort is lactiflora alba magnifica. C. lactifiora blooms toward the end of the month and into July, and has spikes of bells the colour of skimmed milk. There is a white sort, too, and both are useful plants but such formidable seeders that they become a pest if allowed a free hand, and so we are careful to cut off the flower stalks as soon as the blossoming is past.

Of course all the June pictures have Roses as one element in their composition, for they are everywhere —  toppling over the high stone walls, smothering the low ones, creating fairy halls of the pergolas and arbours; and besides the climbers there are those which grow in lovely long-limbed abandon as bushes, mingling freely and democratically with the perennials. In front of a post, which has the felicity of supporting a peach-pink American Pillar Rose, grows a mass of feathery Clematis recta and several plants of the sky-blue Italian Alkanet, Anchusa italica. The Anchusa is a lovely thing, and no plant, not excepting the Delphinium itself, decks itself in a more truly azure colour. Its height varies considerably with me according to soil and situation and its own sweet will; it may be anywhere from two to four feet tall. Better than the type is the Dropmore variety, and better still, it is said, is that called Opal, but to this I cannot testify. Anchusas have a longer consecutive period of bloom than the Delphiniums, for if the great central stalk is cut down after flowering, laterals spring up, which carry it into August. These plants seem not to mind the drought at all, which should gain for them our especial interest, and they are easily raised from seed. As it is practically a biennial one has to take its propagation into account, and while raising it from seed is simple enough, much quicker and more satisfactory is the method given by Mr. W. P. Wright in his invaluable book on hardy perennials. “When spring comes there is a brown stump which looks to be entirely devoid of life. It may be broken away almost like bark from a tree and it will probably be found that there is a green sprout below, which may be left to grow. As regards the bark-like parts, they may be cut into pieces with a sharp knife, and will prove to be fleshy and quick. The portions may be covered with moist, gritty soil in a pot or box and put in a warm frame or greenhouse. Shoots will start from them, which may be removed with a ‘heel’ of the older growth and inserted in small pots. They will root and form plants in due course. Pieces of the horse-radish-like taproots may also be inserted, as they are likely to root and make plants.” Anchusas should be transplanted when quite small if possible, as the deep-burrowing taproot is difficult to get out intact.

These sky-blue flowers are lovely grown near the blushing Stanwells’ Perpetual Brier Rose, and we have it charmingly situated in front of a trellis occupied jointly by the white Rose Trier and a pinky-mauve Clematis of the Viticella type. Bees love the Alkanets as they do its relatives, Borage and our native Buglos, and there is always a pleasant drone and hum in its neighbourhood. I do not know if it is a scientific fact that bees best love blue flowers, but they seem to, giving them preference even over white ones which are said to be the most fragrant.

Of course the pride of the late June garden is her Deiphiniums, and perhaps I may bring wrath upon myself when I say that I cannot but feel that these beautiful flowers are in grave danger of being done to death by the hybridists. A long way have they travelled since Hood sang, “Light as a loop of Larkspur,” and what with doubling and crowding are in a fair way to be called stout, though somehow their celestial colour makes the unflattering epithet seem unfit and keeps one in mind of their slim youth. Every season many new varieties are put forth to dazzle the world and they make superb blocks of colour in the garden, but I cling to those which are less perfect from a florist’s viewpoint. The true Belladonna is an exquisite, graceful plant, and many of its offspring reproduce this fine quality of the parent — and there is another sort, which we used to get as formosum coelestinum, now doubtless looked upon as a back number but which has the same willowy grace and celestial colour.

Persimmon, Lizzie van Veen, and Capri are lovely sky-blue sorts. King of Deiphiniums is a strong dark blue with a plum-coloured flush. Lizzie is a good bright blue slightly flushed; Queen Wilhelmina, large, light-blue flowers with a white eye; and Somerset, light blue and lavender with a dark eye. There are white sorts of recent introduction, but these never seem to me true Larkspurs, so strongly does the word seem to stand for blue.

A package of mixed Delphinium seed purchased from a reliable house will produce lovely results, the plants blooming the first season if sown early. In our hot climate Deiphiniums should be given a rich, well-manured soil, and copious watering in June will insure better flower spikes and a longer stay. If the spent flower stalks are cut to the ground another blossoming may be enjoyed in the late summer and fall. Yearly division is not necessary: every third year is often enough, when they may be taken up and divided in April, just after growth has started. Beautiful pictures may be made by planting Deiphiniums against the trellises of gay climbing Roses.

There is a strong coloured group of flowers belonging to June and early July which, while they seem far removed from the azure Deiphiniums and Anchusas, the soft coloured Foxgloves and Spiraeas, nevertheless play an important part in our colour arrangements. Gaillardias are bright and useful, blooming from spring until frost if not allowed to seed too freely, and no plant in the garden, unless it be the ethereal Gypsophila, so sturdily defies the drought. Red and yellow is their colour scheme and they exhibit many variations upon it. There are many named varieties listed in foreign catalogues which sound attractive. Gaillardias look best planted in fair-sized colonies, and Baptisia tinctoria, or the striped Grass, known as Gardener’s Garters, is a good background for them. 

 “The Coreopsis like another sun
Risen at Noonday,” 

is a conspicuous object in the mid-June garden. I believe it is the yellowest thing of the whole summer, but it is a sharp colour and needs a softening haze of Gypsophila to make it happy. Scarlet Lychnis is another plant with a difficult colour to which the Gypsophila is helpful. It is a strong-growing plant with good, lasting foliage suited to the back of the border.

A number of bright-coloured Lilies bloom in June. The Herring Lilies, L. croceum, are particularly bold and splendid in the neighbourhood of the Belladonna Deiphiniums; and those of the elegans type, red, apricot, or yellow are pretty grown among the tufts of frail white Heuchera toward the front of the borders.


1 It proved to be no "miff,” but a lovely. hardy little plant. quite happy in its gravelly bed and remained in bloom a long time.

2 These are both perennials.

Click the icon to go to the next chapter of My Garden.