June perennial beds

Continuing the June flower extravaganza, today we visit the perennial beds on the south and west sides of the house. Starting at the fenceline, flowers here are shaded from hot afternoon sun by the neighbor’s trees and are growing in a mixture of compost and clay in a bed made of concrete retainer blocks.

I’m appreciating our native piggyback plant (Tolmiea menziesii). Each year it gives an abundance of these spidery brown flowers with their long “legs”. Dependably drought tolerant as long as it is in the shade.

The impossible-to-photograph flowers of Vancouveria. I wish I could adequately capture how cool these are. On the left is Vancouveria planipetala, with its shiny leaves and tiny, tiny little white flowers. It is finally starting to spread a little and I am looking forward to dividing and transplanting it to a few other choice spots at the front of the border. On the right, the more robust Vancouveria chrysantha. Both of these are in the barberry family, like the mahonias, and also do well with summer drought. They remind me a lot of epimedium, another barberry relative that does well in our garden.

Summer brings an end to our native broadleaf bluebell (Mertensia subcordata) flowers.

New this year, Mitella ovalis, a native from the Oregon coast. Here, I’ve laid one of the flower spikes on top of the leaves so you can see both. Related to Heuchera, it has a similar overall form, but is much smaller in scale.

Sadly, the Whipplea modesta is not doing well. I toured the yard this morning and the one pictured below is almost completely dead and one of the other three is pale and sickly. Interestingly, the third one in the apple orchard is doing fine. Initially, I thought it had something to do with our pH10 well water. But, now I am wondering if it’s the soil. Both of the sick ones are growing in compost while the one in the orchard is growing in unamended clay.

Switching to non-native plants,  Podophyllum pleianthemum (Chinese mayapple) is another barberry relative. The flowers are these odd, dangling and distorted crinkly bells in an unusual hue of red and smell vaguely cheesy. Hoping it sets fruit this year so I can try my hand at starting new ones from seed.

After trying for many years, I finally have my first candelabra primula (Primula prolifera) blooming from seed. It’s a fun candy pink with a bright yellow eye. On the right, a different double-flowered buttercup (Ranunculus acris ‘Flore Pleno’) than was featured back in April (Ranunculus ficaria ‘Flore Pleno’). This is one of the few plants that reminds me of my father, who grew it along with peonies, gloriosa daisies, petunias, and hens and chicks (the sempervivum kind) on his central rural Wisconsin farm.

Paeonia veitchii has a finer leaf texture than Paeonia lactiflora. Supposedly does well in shade compared to other peonies, this one only gets morning sun. No scent that I can detect.

Moving into the largest perennial bed in the center of the yard, this area receives more sun, but is still somewhat protected in late afternoon. Plants here are growing in a mixture of potting soil and compost piled on top of clay and then covered in mulch.

Poppies (Papaver somniferum) are kicking into high gear. My favorite is the deep red, but we also have deep purple, lavender, and a reddish pink. The gross pale salmony pink ones get yanked and composted. A bee favorite, the flowers are frantic with buzzing in the morning. By 10:00 am, all the pollen is gone.

Preferred red poppy
A bee collecting pollen from reddish-pink poppy with black blotches
Honey bee collecting pollen
Pollen removed from a lavender poppy by honey bees
No more pollen

Yellow sundrops (Oenothera fruticosa ‘Fireworks’).

Meum athamanticum, which looks like carrot, but with a much softer, finer-textured leaf. One of its more unusual common names in the UK is baldmoney, apparently named after the Norse god Baldr, son of Odin and Frigg (and Thor’s brother). I was interested to read that it is edible – the roots are similar to lovage and angelica, while the foliage has a scent of new mown hay (celery to my nose), and the seeds supposedly taste like a combination of dill, fennel, and curry. The plant is also used to flavor a German schnapps, Bärwurz (bearwort). One of those plants I feel a little cautious about trying. I didn’t find many recipes online, the most interesting being a sweet cured herring with juniper and spignel (another common name for M. athamanticum).

Rhazya orientalis does well with little summer water. Nice, tidy plant. Only blooms once.

Astrantia major ‘Star of Beauty’ in front of Heuchera ‘Red Lightning’.

Iris ‘Moose Tracks’. Still one of my favorite irises for it’s strong patterning and brown/yellow color base. Deliciously beautiful, reminiscent of a warm cinnamon coffee cake with ribbons of icing and dollops of melting butter.

The last of the bearded iris, ‘Reckless Abandon’, with a similar color profile as ‘Moose Tracks’. And, with the last of the iris, it’s officially the end of spring. I made sure to enjoy their spicy scent every morning before heading off to work. I  even found out our variegated iris does indeed smell like grape soda. Always figured that the people who made this claim were somehow mistaken until I experienced it myself. L, by the way, detests bearded iris. Thinks they look too froofy.

Another mayapple (Podophyllum peltatum) in a different part of the garden, this one native to the eastern US. Unlike P. pleianthemum, the leaves die down and disappear over the summer.

Very happy with this accidental combination of color and texture: blue green leaves of Dicentra formosa ‘Spring Magic’, the lighter green fronds of Polystichum setiferum ‘Divisilobum’, and the dark green, heart-shaped leaves of Lamium orvale.

Moving over to the sun garden against the southwest side of the house. These plants have to contend with unamended clay and hot baking sun. Callistemon subulatus ‘Dark Red’ takes both in stride. This plant got too big though because somebody planted it too close to the house, thinking it would look nice outside the window in summer. It’s getting removed as soon as the blooms disappear. I rooted a few cuttings as insurance, but I still don’t know where I will put them. Maybe in the abandoned blueberry patch that will become a greenhouse someday.

Another, better view of the sun garden. The Callistemon is that rangy green plant just under the window. All the foxgloves are in full bloom – the smaller, light yellow Digitalis lutea in the front and the more common, larger Digitalis purpurea in the back. Allium christophii heads in the lower right corner. These are seeding all over the place because I thought the dried seed heads looked decorative when left in place. Big mistake.

Dianthus cruentus.

And jumping over to the raised beds a couple feet over from the sun garden – the Johnny jump-ups have continued to flourish and are about three times bigger than last month. Viola tricolor ‘King Henry’.

That’s a wrap on the perennial beds. There may be one more post on rock garden plants if I can stand it. Heading out soon on a botanizing trip to northern California. It will be nice to do some exploring and see plants that don’t depend on me for their well-being. Happy Solstice!

This Post Has 6 Comments

  1. Kris P

    Lots of beautiful color here, Jerry! You have a wonderful collection of plants, many which are completely unfamiliar to me. I’m very envious of the Astrantia, which I’ve tried and failed to grow twice. And I adore that Iris ‘Moose Tracks’. I vaguely recall growing a piggyback plant as a house specimen many years ago but I don’t believe I’ve ever seen it flower.

    1. Botanica Chaotica

      Thanks Kris! Can’t remember if I ever had one as a houseplant, but I do remember reading that it was from the Pacific Northwest. I remember thinking how odd it was that most houseplants were from the tropics, but that there was this one common houseplant that grew wild outdoors.

  2. danger garden

    Iris ‘Moose Tracks’ is far more lovely than that horrible name suggests.

    1. Botanica Chaotica

      Ok, this made me laugh! I actually like the name, which reminds me of ice cream (but which looks very different than the flower). Always fun to hear which plant names people dislike. I hate the ones named things like ‘Snoogy Woogums’ or ‘Love and Kisses’. Plants named after horrible people are also a turn off.

  3. Anna K

    I confess to siding with L. on bearded irises. A long time ago – before I was even a gardener – a work mate brought me home to his place to show me his garden. He had a huge collection of bearded irises of all kinds of colors, and was positively bubbly about them. I was more excited about his joyful exuberance over them, than over the irises themselves – it was infectious, and I did my best to conceal I didn’t quite understand it. Mind you, I have evolved in my tastes in regards to several other plants before, so you never know… One day, I just might finally get it – LOL! Love the Moose Tracks, though!

    1. Botanica Chaotica

      They are a bit artificial. L compares them to Silkie chickens, with their oddly poofy feathers. I don’t think I could have a full garden of them, but they do hold a special place in my heart. It is fun to see how carried away a true plant nut can get about their obsession. Sometimes it’s contagious and I get a new obsession myself. You are so right – one day my tastes can just suddenly change and I suddenly like a plant that I formerly didn’t!

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