This is the best month to experience mature perennial specimens in bloom at your favorite garden center. The spring season is too early for most perennials to show off, but June brings the encouraging warmth essential to heat lovers like gaillardia, coreopsis, and echinacea. Not only do perennials burst into bloom in warm temps, they also like to be planted during warm days.
Increasingly gardeners are planting exclusively with perennials, their yearly investment in annuals becoming smaller and smaller. Although I like the seasonal color touches that my pockets of annuals give the garden, perennials provide the landscape with a permanent, distinctive, but ever-changing character. Perennials come in a great variety of sizes and colors, so that a towering lilac bush is as much a source of perennial color as a robust coneflower or a hardy gaillardia. That's why, in my mind, shrubs are super-sized perennials! Here we go with this year's list of summer's impressive perennial plantings:
Favorite #1 - Itoh Peony. This cross between a tree and traditional English peony is spectacular. The large, semi-double to double size flowers measure up to six inches across and are held on strong stems above a compact mound of dark ferny foliage 30 inches tall and wide. As the blossoms mature, the dark lavender pink petals slowly fade to a soft pink, revealing clusters of yellow stamens in their centers. The flowers are fragrant, but this peony variety is chosen for its sheer quantity of blooms. A single plant can have up to 50 flowers open at once, outshining all other perennials in its class.
Favorite #2 - Siskiyou Gaura. This is a new color for this outstanding native perennial. Airy masses of deep pink flowers are born on long thin stems that are brought to life by the slightest breeze. Its naturally deep taproot guarantees that it will take in stride summer's heat and drought. Keep it trimmed to encourage repeated blooming. It is ideal for well-drained rock gardens, in clay pots, or in more traditional gardens with good drainage. This improved form has a compact habit and red tinged leaves for a touch of fun in the garden.
Favorite #3 –Russian Spires Sage. This upright selection does not flop over like common varieties. It is a shrubby cold-hardy perennial suited to gardens incorporating a Mediterranean style. Spikes of lavender blue flowers add a sense of lightness to the garden, and are a delightful alternative to lavender in cottage gardens. Its casual character is equally suited for wild gardens amidst rocky outcroppings or landscape boulders, and along fence lines or as street plantings. It is an outstanding choice to plant with wildflower accents along the edges of dry streambeds.
Favorite #4 - Blue Hills Meadow Sage. All summer long this spectacular perennial, one of the numerous sages, has true blue flowers on its spikes. Once established this little plant thinks it is a native. Drought hardy and only 18 inches high, it is ideal for rock gardens, containers, and naturalized areas. Its vibrant blue flowers are excellent in combination with yellow-blooming plants and the ideal companion plant to Sunshine Blue Caryopteris, a known butterfly magnet.
Favorite #5 - Butterfly Blue Pincushion Flower. This tidy plant is valued for mass beddings or in mixed perennial borders for late season color. Its beautiful Dutch blue flowers also make it an excellent choice for container gardens. The blooms have intricate centers resembling a pincushion atop tall dancing stems that add constant drama to hot windy locations. Every landscape should have at least one of these charmers.
Visit your favorite garden center at two-week intervals and you will be pleasantly surprised at the ever-changing selection as different perennials come into bloom. Keep in mind that most perennials need to be at least two years old before they bloom fully, so plant 'em and be patient. Put them in your garden this season and you will enjoy them for years to come.
Garden Class – June 15 is the first of a series of free summer classes for gardener. Held in the comfort of Watters greenhouse, classes begin every Saturday at 9:30 in the morning that begins with, "Bountiful Vegetable Gardens sure to Produce". June 22 students learn how to create, "Containers that Bloom like Crazy". Check out the entire summer schedule at www.wattersgardencenter.com/category/classes.
Garden Party - Once again Frontier Rotary is hosting its fundraising food and wine event at Watters' gardens! This is your invitation to join us for live music, gourmet food, and at least 18 hand-selected wines to sample and enjoy. Tickets are $45, donations that go directly to the local Math & Reading Clinic for kids struggling to master those skills. Last year on this one night of generous fun we helped raise over $20,000 for this most worthy cause! Tickets are available at Watters Garden Center. Join us on June 23rd for a memorable evening of some "helpful fun in the garden"!
Until next week, I'll see you in the garden center.