As Rare As A Day In June

by Jan Cashman

One of Jerry’s favorite poems is As Rare As a Day in June by Lowell. The poem is about plants and animals coming to life in June. June is a favorite month for gardeners because everything is blooming. Gardens have been planted and are up and growing. Lots of the work is done and the enjoyment begins. Let’s look at our favorite plants that bloom in June:

Lilacs started blooming in May, but the late lilacs and the Japanese tree lilacs flower in June. Dwarf Korean and Miss Kim lilacs bloom in early June with wonderfully fragrant flowers. Hybrids of later blooming lilacs (Syringa villosa), such as Donald Wyman, an extremely hardy and vigorous deep purple lilac, bloom in mid-June. Then, even later, the huge, fragrant white blooms of Japanese tree lilacs open.

In early June, German bearded iris flower in shades of blues, whites, pinks, and purples. Planted from corms in late summer, few perennials are as reliable and thrive as easily as iris. Our bedding plant grower, Nancy, is partial to the variegated leafed irises, whose bicolor leaves make them an interesting perennial in the landscape even after they have bloomed.

The white flowers on shrubs of viburnums such as Snowball, and the trailing, showy Bridalwreath spirea arrive in June. Roses are on the top of everyone’s list for colorful, fragrant June blossoms. The bright yellows of old-fashioned Harrison’s and Persian yellow shrub roses will stop you in your tracks along with the closely related Austrian copper. These three roses bloom only once a year, in June, but when they’re blooming, they’re spectacular in their glory. Other hardy shrub roses will bloom in June and then intermittently all season; some even flower continuously. A few of our best hardy shrub roses include the rambling dark pink William Baffin, the low-growing, but vigorous, red Adelaide Hoodless, and the small Winnipeg Parks that looks a lot like a hybrid tea rose. Morden Centennial is one of the best pink shrub roses.

Perennials blooming in June include the bold, in-your-face, oranges of Oriental poppies, lilies (I have a dwarf lily that pokes its pure yellow head up in my perennial bed amid the blues of the catmint, salvia, and hardy geraniums), and popular blue salvias (popular for good reasons-their true-blue color, reliability, and deer resistance). Hardy geraniums are my personal favorite June-blooming perennial because of their aromatic foliage, variety of sizes and colors, and ease of growth. Nothing like the annual flower we call geranium, these perennial geraniums are in the same genus as the native “sticky geranium” or “cranesbill” you will see in the wild.

Many of us think that our best perennial is the peony. Hardy and long-lived in Northern climates, its fragrance and huge red, pink or white blossoms, makes these garden staples everyone’s favorite.

In June, strawberries are the first fruit to ripen in the garden. Nothing tastes better than home-grown, ripe strawberries. This year we carried some different varieties of strawberries: Cyclone, a Junebearing variety (in other words, all the fruit ripens at once in late June) listed as a vigorous, productive variety that is good for our high elevations. Tristar is a day neutral (repeat fruiting every six weeks into fall) variety of strawberry that has done well here.

When you’re hiking in June, you’ll see wildflowers starting to bloom: the dry sides of the hills are alive with large, bright yellow, arrow-leaved balsamroot with its hairy stems and leaves. The yellow of the balsamroot flower contrasts with the blue flowers of wild larkspur and lupine.

“And what is so rare as a day in June?…The flush of life may well be seen thrilling back over hills and valleys….Everything is happy now, Everything is upward striving” says Lowell. June is the month of graduations, weddings, and Father’s Day. But, more than these, June is the month of flowers and growth.