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The Joys of June

Start of summer can bring beautiful blooms to your garden

Multi-colored ToreniaHigh June is high bloom in the Lowcountry.

After a recent walk through local gardens during All Saints Garden Tour in late May, gardeners are eager to replicate a little of the charm in their own private spaces.

While the learning process in the garden never takes a vacation, spring planting will be showing the effects of good planning. Perennials will be displaying good results and annuals will be at their peak before the inevitable attrition of the hottest months takes its toll.

Among the newest and hottest plants of the 2009 season are the Knockout roses seen throughout the island. Hands down, they are gorgeous in color, moderate in growth and said to be impervious to the usual humidityspawned diseases, including black spot and mildew. However, they are not out of bounds for visiting deer unless strenuously protected by everything in your arsenal. Also, they are not low maintenance. Such prolific blooms call for meticulous maintenance — specifically, “deadheading” — to keep them tidy and encourage rebloom. But, still, there will be roses in June. And that is a good thing.

One variety of Knockout roses is particularly charming due to its resemblance to an antique rose called Rosa chinensis “mutabilis,” named because its blooms open in one color and gradually change to pastel shades of pink and rose. Exquisite.

A relatively new foliage plant has appeared on the scene and demands attention because of its rich and elegant color appropriate for blending with other plants. Iresine herbstii — commonly called Beefsteak Plant, Bloodleaf, even Chicken Gizzard — is a relatively small, tropical, annual plant. It is vividly colorful and useful for many situations. The leaves in the wine and maroon color range are sometimes heavily veined for added accent and are quite striking. It is available from local nurseries and should be tried either in containers or in a border.

Of foliage plants, coleus returns ever more dramatic and colorful each year.

Although there may be garden elitists who scorn it, perhaps due to its ubiquity, it is far from ordinary. The new highly touted ‘Henna’ cultivar does not quite live up to its advance hype and photos, however. The color is not what the name promises, not quite so lively.

The real surprise of the spring season is what hybridizers have made of the once generally ignored torenia. Although it used to be inconspicuous but completely dependable, the hardy and self-seeding small plant of a pale blue or pink now has been married to a much more robust version of its former self. Progeny are larger, stronger, much more varied in color — such as yellow with maroon throat, navy blue with pale blue and rose with red, all with a small yellow blotch. Overall, it is very bright and appealing. If true to its parentage, it will stay with you throughout the summer and beyond.

New only in color range is my personal favorite, Angelonia, Serena series. Now available in lavender-pink and white, plus the original purple-blue, they make a charming trio together in the garden. A super-flowering, mid-size annual, it flourishes in part-shade or part sun and goes on and on. The same is true of scaevola, also available in the subtle lavender-pink shade, as well as white and “Bombay Blue.” It is very effective in deck containers and hanging baskets, as it springs outward and drapes nicely.

Happy are the gardeners now enjoying the results of returning perennials. Reliable are the wonderful and colorful cannas of many different varieties, including another favorite, the delicate “Panache,” which was once a single bulb but is now triplets. Coreopsis, particularly “Early Sunrise,” is a cheerful yellow accent, and stokesia fills in with blue notes. Hydrangeas, pentas and salvia “Victoria” are blooming along with coneflowers. If you have the nerve to pinch out the first central bud of the latter, you will be rewarded with two flowers instead of one and a stockier, more compact plant. This is true of many annuals and perennials.

May your June garden be all that you have planned for and dreamed of. It only comes round once a year!