We’ve had a few chilly nights recently which are just wonderful and make it possible to sleep with the windows open. I can’t remember the last time we had a real spring like the one we are experiencing this year, with lots of soft rain. This beneficial rain is wonderful for all spring plant growth and such a pleasure to behold.
I am so in awe of Mother Nature’s miracle; the symbiotic relationship between plants and all of God’s creatures.
As I looked out the window of my old home a few years ago, I could see the buds opening on my 30 foot long stand of peonies, which had been planted by the original owner in the early 1900s. 1900. This view reminded me of one of the symbiotic relationships, the friendly partnership between ants and peonies.
I am often asked, “Maureen, should I be worried about ants on my peonies?” The answer is: “Not a problem, lots of ants on peonies just demonstrate that you have healthy plants with big buds producing more nectar, which in turn attracts ants.”
Make sure the peonies get plenty of water and after flowering, apply a light application of composted manure and check the soil pH which should be between 6.5 and 7.0. It’s hard to ruin a good peony border, but you can go wrong with the fertilizing process, so go easy on the aged organic manure.
After flowering, prune peonies only in November, after the first frosts. Now, at the beginning of June, I have pinched the side buds on my large peony stand, this ensures large flowers on the rest of the plant.
About ants; if you see them “let them live”, because often their presence indicates that we have aphids around and that ants are feeding on aphids; very useful creatures.
Another useful creature in pest wars is the lowly toad. I suggest putting toad houses in and around your border. You can buy toad houses at the garden center if you want. Or you can do like me, which is to use an old cracked clay pot and make sure the crack is two to three inches wide for the door so the toad can get in. Also put a small saucer as soil under the pot with some stones, which you keep moist, so that your friendly insect eater has his ideal home environment.
Mulch your gardens this month when the ground has warmed to 55 degrees. When mulching, pay attention to mulching around trees. Apply the mulch at least six inches from the base of the trunk, anything closer can promote rot and disease in the tree itself. Any tree mulched too deeply near the trunk invites mice and other rodents to nest and gnaw on the trunk.
Your garden can be mulched to a depth of between two and three inches. I prefer a fine dark brown hardwood mulch, but please do not use dyed red mulchkeep the garden natural, not looking like a Disney theme park.
June is the month when the roses start to bloom. I prefer the David Austin roses, I find these roses to be the most problem free roses and offer so many rewards as repeat bloomers with wonderful scents.
Some of my favorites are:
- ‘A Shropshire Lad’, a soft peachy pink
- ‘Abraham Darby’, with flowers showing a mixture of apricot and yellow
- ‘Fair Bianca’, a pure white
- “Heritage”, a light and soft pink
And my favorite ‘Evelyn’, which has giant saucer-shaped apricot blossoms and the scent is unmistakable with a luscious fruity tone, reminding me of fresh peaches and apricots.
Feed your roses with composted manure, keeping the manure and mulch about six inches from the base of the rose, then adding a few inches of manure once a month until mid-August, at which time , stop feeding the roses to gently move into a slow dormancy.
Japanese beetles are very attracted to roses, therefore any Japanese beetle trap should be placed away from your borders on the perimeter of the property.
A tip for keeping cut roses fresh: cut roses early in the morning and cut just above a cluster of five leaves and place the stems in a container of lukewarm water. Inside the house, re-cut the stems to an angled cut of an inch and a half, under running warm water, then place the cut roses in a vase filled with warm water.
Do not remove thorns from cut roses. I have found that removing thorns reduces their indoor life by up to three days.
These need plenty of water (in fields where they were found growing near water and classed as a wetland plant before being introduced to our gardens) also apply aged manure around hydrangeas , space them at least four feet apart good ventilation, which will help prevent mildew and plant them in full sun. If you have a blue Hydrangea macrophylla and want a more vibrant shade of blue, add peat moss to the manure, peat is acidic and will produce a nice shade of blue.
Regular pruning in spring and summer is the main factor in helping this arrogant vine to flower; By that I mean prune several times during the season. Prune every two weeks at least six inches from each stem.
If you have this problem with clematis, you will notice it early on as the shoots wilt and die. This disease is impossible to cure, since it is transmitted through the soil, therefore it is not possible to plant another clematis of this species in this area of the garden.
However, you can plant the Viticella clematis selection; they are vigorous free-flowering flowers and are not susceptible to wilt. Some good choices in this variety are Blue Belle, Etoile Violette, both of which are purple, and Huldine, which is white,
If you have room for a pot, you have room for a number; put together in different shapes and sizes, they can create your own miniature garden.
Apart from ordinary pots, the most unexpected objects make interesting containers. A friend, who cut trees last winter, left the stumps and dug them up to make containers, one large and two small stumps together, an interesting combo.
At the same time look in your basement, shed or barn to see if you have an old wheelbarrow, even if it is missing a wheel it will present an unusual angle as a planter.
Or you may come across a large chipped ceramic pot (I actually have an old two foot tall ceramic vinegar container filled with a hole where the vinegar spigot was inserted, great for drainage) , which will look great on my new blue-painted bench next to my red milk shed.
Don’t forget to add biological control of the larvae until July, in order to reduce the infestation of moles; remember no larvae, less food for moles.
Keep an eye out for powdery mildew, especially after a rain when the humidity returns. In a sprayer, mix two tablespoons of baking soda, one tablespoon of vegetable or horticultural oil in a gallon of water and spray the mildew.
Hydrangeas and summer phloxes are particularly susceptible to this problem. I recommend Phlox Miss Lingard or Phlox David, the whites of the species, which are the most resistant to downy mildew. Monarda, commonly called Bee Balm, is also affected by late blight; the one I found the most resistant is “Cambridge Scarlet”.
Be careful when introducing Monarda to the garden; this plant, like purple loosestrife and evening primrose, is extremely invasive and can take over your entire border.
Still with invasive plants, if you plant mint, plant it only in containers, otherwise the mint will spread into your borders.
I hope you find these tips helpful during this busy time of year in the garden. Stretch, hydrate, and enjoy the budding promise of your garden and I’ll see you next month.
If you would like more gardening tips contact my son Ian on LandscapesbByIan.com. I’m sure you will enjoy talking with him as he is full of knowledge since as the saying goes “The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree”.
About the Author: Maureen Haseley-Jones is a member of a family of renowned horticultural artisans, whose landscape heritage dates back to the 17th century. She is one of the founders, with her son Ian, of, The English Lady Landscape and Home Company. Maureen and Ian are landscapers and gardening experts, who believe that everyone deserves to live in an eco-friendly environment and enjoy the pleasure it brings. Maureen learned her design skills from her mother and grandmother, and honed her skills in horticulture and construction while working in the family nursery and landscaping business in the UK. His formal training in horticulture was undertaken at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew in Surrey.