Gardening Articles: Flowers :: Perennials
Guide to June Gardening
by John R. Dunmire
June has always enjoyed good press. "What is so rare as a day in June?" wrote the poet James Russell Lowell. "Then, if ever, come perfect days." The nineteenth-century British poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge called it the "leafy month of June." Much later, our American musical lyricist Oscar Hammerstein proclaimed that "June is bustin' out all over," adding many favorable comments about the season. It is the month when gardens reach their peak, and the dog days, with their dust, cicada hum, and ubiquitous daisies, are yet to come.
Of course, Lowell and Hammerstein were writing from a New England perspective, but their views, with minor adjustments, define the classic June across the nation. The month may present different images in various parts of the country, but to most gardeners, it conveys feelings of richness, abundance, and completion. Some important exceptions where June's bounty busts out earlier are the Deep South, the Rocky Mountains, the deserts, and California.
(Note: We list USDA Hardiness Zones for plants to indicate general northern and southern limits of successful plant growth. Remember that even though most plants can grow in many different zones, they often perform differently, blooming later or earlier or needing extra care.)
June Gardening in the North (Zones 3 to 7; 3 to 8 in the Pacific Northwest)
Enjoy the month. Don't work too hard, and take time to enjoy the flowers, your own and those of others. Perhaps it could get better than this. Scan your own garden carefully for underperforming plants, and visit public gardens and nurseries to identify good replacements.
In these regions, perennials reach their peak in June. Peonies, irises, daylilies, and delphiniums peak as phlox come into bud and astilbes begin to light up shady garden spots.
Peonies. Opulent double peonies (zones 2 to 8) are the classic June flowers, but single peonies have a simpler, more innocent look without sacrificing size or color, and they generally do not need staking. Scan catalogs for them; suppliers offer some varieties by color and others as named varieties. If you can't find plants in containers now, remind yourself to order some peony tubers next fall.
Irises (zones 3 to 8) and daylilies (zones 4 to 8) carry on the June show. Repeat-bloom (remontant) irises and daylilies are available and will prolong June into fall. Specialists' catalogs can get you up to speed on desirable varieties, and you can order now for delivery later in the summer. In some areas, growers will dig plants that you select so you can immediately replant them in your garden.
Delphiniums (zones 5 to 7) also come in this month. For bloom again in areas where autumn is mild, feed the plants after bloom, cut back spent stalks to 1 foot, and then remove stalks entirely when new growth is 6 inches or so tall. Unless you like leaning delphiniums, be sure to stake them before they grow tall.