Saturday, June 4, 2011

Bloom Day--Part 1, June 4, 2011

June means the start of summer and finally an end to the frantic spring cleanup and mulching. Long gone are the spring bulbs and the beautiful blooming shrubs and trees. Spring perennials are also winding down with their blooms. But most importantly to me, June means the long procession of summer perennials. In the Bloom Day Series I will share with you my favorite perennials throughout the season with the hope you may find something that piques your interest. The hard part will be limiting my choices as I tend to love whatever is in bloom.

Before I get to current blooms, I would like to share some spring blooms. Melittis melissophyllum is absolutely one of my most favorite spring bloomers. Relatively unknown to North American gardens, this 12" mounding perennial has downy, honey-scented foliage. Small orchid-like flowers are clustered near the stem tips, white with a wine-red lip and very attractive to butterflies. In my garden, melittis is planted in full sun with plenty of moisture and flowers in late spring.

Have you ever wondered how common plant names are derived? Well, this one certainly makes me scratch my head, and I take no credit whatsoever with bestowing the name "bastard balm."

Melittis melissophyllum, Myosotis, Alamo Fire Lupine

Phlox divaricata 'Blue Moon' is another spring favorite. The wonderful fragrance of Blue Moon is only outdone by the beautifully intense blue-violet color. Phlox divaricata, woodland phlox, prefers semi-shade with moist fertile soil and reaches 12". I have not been fortunate enough to have mine self sow.

Phlox divaricata 'Blue Moon'
If you like Centaurea montana, mountain bluet, then perhaps you will also like Centaurea montana ‘Amethyst in Snow’. I have always loved centaurea and because I have so many, I do not deadhead. Instead, when they get to the point of looking raggedy, I simply cut to the ground. They put out fresh growth and will rebloom. Amethyst in Snow has the same growing characteristics as mountain bluet. Both are prolific spreaders, so remember to deadhead or shear back if you don't want it to reseed...and believe me, it will reseed.

Centaurea montana ‘Amethyst in Snow’
Sweet William, Dianthus barbatus, won my heart by the simple fact it grows into beautiful bouquets. This is a short-lived perennial that is perhaps best grown as a biennial. Sweet William grows best in fertile, moist, well-drained soil in full sun, but will bloom longer with some afternoon shade. Sweet William has reseeded for me each year and I love finding it in unexpected places. I have read prompt deadheading of spent flowers (shear back large plantings) promotes perennial tendencies. Seed may be planted directly in the garden in late spring for bloom the following year.

Folklore has it that this flower honored William, Duke of Cumberland, on his return from victory over the Scots at the Battle of Culloden in 1745. Unimpressed, the Scots retaliated by naming one of their worst weeds Stinking Billy.

Dianthus barbatus

I discovered Kalimeris incisa 'Blue Star' about 3 years ago and boy and I glad I did. A long-blooming perennial that doesn't ask for much in return except well-drained soil...maybe some oohs and ahhs wouldn't hurt either. ‘Blue Star’ is a clump-forming perennial the will grow to about 18". When the plant finally starts to slow down in flowering, shear back a little and watch for blooms once again.

Kalimeris incisa 'Blue Star'
Bloom Day 2

1 comment:

  1. I love the "Stinking Billy" vs "Sweet William" common name story.