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This Week in My Maine Garden

June 8, 2013
blooming amsoniaThis week my garden moved steadily toward the big flush of early summer bloom that usually occurs in mid-June. This is a time of delicious anticipation as each morning’s tour of the garden reveals new blooms and the garden builds toward a beautiful crescendo.

What’s in Bloom

Many plants that had just opened their first flowers a week ago are now fully in bloom. These include the Amsonia that was displaying one lone star last week, the old-fashioned Siberian irises and Geranium x cantabrigiense ‘Biokovo.’

iris bed in bloom

Of the 11 different varieties of Siberian iris that grow in my garden, two are now in bloom and at least three others have well-developed buds that should open within the next few days. The old-fashioned blue irises, given to me many years ago as divisions from a friend’s garden, may be a very early cultivar or (given their tendency to self-sow with abandon) may simply be the species. Whatever their identity, these are always the first to bloom in my garden and have gone from a single flower among the Tradescantia last week to masses of blue flowers this week in both the Iris Bed and the Blue and Yellow Border. ‘Chartreuse Encore,’ purchased more than a decade ago when I first discovered the world of Siberian iris breeding and the amazing variety of cultivars, has never grown very vigorously in my garden, so I am happy to see it with multiple blooms this year.

blue iris in bloom chartreuse encore in bloom

biokovo waveOf the 14 different varieties of hardy geranium growing in my garden, 5 are now in bloom. ‘Biokovo,’ which had just opened its first flower last week, is now blooming in three different flower beds. This cultivar is most prominent in the Deck Border, where it grows in a long band along the front edge and blooms in a wave that begins at the end closest to the deck and then spreads toward the far end.

The Tradescantia flowers which had just begun to bloom in the Iris Bed last week are now blooming in four different flower beds. The flowers of ‘Zwannenburg Blue’ have been joined by blue-violet self-sown plants and by the beautiful white and blue flowers of ‘Osprey.’

tradescantia varieties

hemerocallis flava flowersThis week, I’ve also celebrated the first daylily blooms, on the very early species Hemerocallis flava. These are usually the only daylilies that bloom in June in my garden, and they will finish flowering more than a week before any of the other daylily varieties begin to open. Yesterday, however, I did notice flower scapes growing on one of the first daylilies to bloom in July, the common orange daylily Hemerocallis fulva.

Garden Chores

linum perenne newI took advantage of good weather in the first part of the week to make progress on my early season garden chores. The first task was to uproot the two young plants of Tatarian honeysuckle (an invasive exotic here) blooming at the edge of the woods. I also planted a number of new acquisitions, most to replace short-lived plants (like Linum perenne) that had not returned this year.

Although I didn’t accomplish everything I had hoped to, I did remove the rest of the deer protection from the Serenity Garden. In addition, all flower beds except the Deck Border have now been weeded, and the Circular Bed, the Fence Border, and a small portion of the Blue and Yellow Border have been mulched.

Completing mulching and getting all plant supports in place will be the high priority chores for the coming week. I have been mulching with leftover organic compost from last year, but this week I will need to order this year’s truckload of compost to complete the job.


Although I have yet to see the resident woodchuck, the phlox continue to get chomped on. I held my breath after I removed the last of the deer protection from the Serenity Garden, but I am happy to have seen no sign of deer damage in the garden. Unfortunately, I did find my first sign of iris budfly damage among the Siberian irises this week. This insect pest lays its eggs on the buds of irises each spring; as the bud develops, the larvae drill into the side and eat it from the inside (see Battling the Iris Budfly). The result is deformed flowers or buds that simply collapse without opening. The budfly first appeared in my garden seven or eight years ago; and while I have managed to keep it under control, I have not succeeded in eradicating it.  Some years see more budfly damage than others, and I am hoping that this is not going to be one of the bad years.

Pollinators, on the other hand, are welcome visitors to the garden. The bees (primarily bumblebees) have been busy among the rhododendron and Biokovo geranium blooms. At least one of the tiger swallowtail butterflies that were flitting among the treetops last week has descended into the garden, particularly attracted to the nectar of the blooming Amsonia. And I was thrilled to see my first ruby throated hummingbird of the season in the garden this week.

During the past week, I’ve also seen several phoebes in the garden. These flycatchers sometimes nest just above my basement door; and they are always welcome to dine on the hordes of blackflies and mosquitoes. (At this time of year, I have to wear a full net shirt, including netting over my face, to protect myself from blackfly bites when I work in the garden.) I have neither seen nor heard the tufted titmouse again, but I have heard the calls of the great crested flycatcher.

14 Comments leave one →
  1. June 8, 2013 10:15 pm

    What a wonderful walk through your garden with great photos. It is a truly special trip and I really enjoyed the information you shared..

    • June 9, 2013 7:36 pm

      Thanks, Charlie. At this time of year, I very much enjoy my daily walks through the garden.

  2. June 9, 2013 7:43 am

    Stunning Jean. You have all my favorites. I thought of you when my first daylily opened. A lovely orange one. My phlox is nibbled on by deer regularly if I don’t spray them. I am so behind with weeding…it will take many weekends to get control.

    • June 9, 2013 7:44 pm

      Donna, I can’t believe you already have daylilies in bloom! Hemerocallis flava is an exception in my garden because it is such an extra-extra-early variety. I checked my records for last year, when everything was early, and the next daylily didn’t open until the end of June.

  3. June 9, 2013 8:57 am

    It must be heavenly up there now. Everything looks so beautiful. I am reading about the iris budfly with great interest and hope it never turns up in my garden. I have enough problems battling flea beetles (the current bane of my existence) and the hibiscus sawfly. Not to mention the rabbits.

    • June 9, 2013 7:47 pm

      Sarah, I often think that heaven must be a lot like Maine — but without the blackflies :-). I don’t know what the range of the iris budfly is, but I hope it doesn’t include your area. I was happy to see new blooms on irises today without any sign of budfly damage, and I am checking developing buds carefully.

  4. June 9, 2013 12:38 pm

    We like many of the same kinds of flowers: hardy geraniums, spiderwort, daylilies, iris. I saw a bird the other day in my Japanese Yew that might have been a phoebe, I still have to ID it.

    • June 9, 2013 7:49 pm

      Jason, Phoebes like to perch on top of a fencepost or a tall garden stake or a car antenna, or on a wire — and as they perch, they are in constant motion, with their tails wagging up and down. That distinctive tail-wagging action is the easiest way to ID them.

  5. June 9, 2013 5:27 pm

    Hi Jean, I’m loving your Siberian Irises, I have one established clump and several small plants of different varieties. I’ve found mine tend to “sit” for a few years and then they really take off once they get to a certain size. We’ve had more flowers in the same large clump each year so perhaps patience is the key to these. At least they’re practically zero maintenance.

    • June 9, 2013 7:55 pm

      Sunil, I adore Siberian irises. They were the first perennials that I planted in my garden here and still a big favorite. Some of mine are very vigorous; others, growing in the same conditions, are very slow to develop and are reluctant bloomers. Because I grow about a dozen different cultivars in 6 different flower beds with different micro-climates, I usually have Siberian irises blooming for about 6 weeks, from late May until early July.

  6. June 10, 2013 7:21 am

    11 types of siberian iris – that is a lot. I have no idea how many of what I have maybe it would be an interesting exercise

    • June 11, 2013 7:09 pm

      Helen, I have some borderline OCD tendencies, which include counting everything! 🙂 When I first blogged about my garden record-keeping spreadsheet, several commenters noted that their garden records included a plant list, which seemed to me like a very good idea. So now my garden spreadsheet includes a plant list page (which makes it easy to count cultivars).

  7. June 11, 2013 7:41 pm

    “What a wonderful walk through your garden with great photos. It is a truly special trip and I really enjoyed the information you shared..”

    Indeed, a very perfect place to relax with these wonderful blooms.

  8. June 12, 2013 8:04 am

    Lovely as always Jean! I find I am too busy to post blogs, rather be doing than telling, but when I get tuckered out it’s great to check in on your advice and fun!

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