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Pink Haze and Peonies: Sweetness and Light in the Summer Solstice Garden

June 21, 2013

deck view 6-21-13For me, the summer solstice is a day for the celebration of nature’s beauty. The long days of lovely light at this time of year typically combine with some of the sweetest weather of the Maine summer – blue skies, sunshine, and high temperatures in the upper 70s. The soft, sweet feel of the summer air is echoed in the garden, which is primarily a study in soft pastels. As I looked out from the deck this morning, I saw a mix of blues, pinks and lavenders.

Pink Haze & Peonies

Two of the sweetest blooms in the garden right now are the soft pink flowers of Paeonia lactiflora ‘M. Jules Elie’ and Iris sibirica ‘Pink Haze.’ This is the fourth year in the garden for ‘M. Jules Elie’ and the first year that this peony is well enough established to make more than a few flowers. I didn’t expect to see any flowers on ‘Pink Haze,’ which has been described by iris breeder Will Dougherty as a “reluctant bloomer.” When I saw buds on only two of the three pink Siberian irises growing in the Deck Border, I assumed that the no show was ‘Pink Haze.’ What a delight to see its first bud open a few days ago among the blooms of ‘Lavender Bounty.’ Pink Haze is a flower well worth waiting for; I especially love the touch of powder blue on its falls.

In the Deck Border, the pink and lavender Siberian irises are accompanied by other pink blooms, including the clear pink flowers of Geranium x oxonianum

G. Oxonianum portrait G. oxonianum

… the flowers of Tradescantia ‘Pink Chablis’ with their lavender pink brushwork, and the slender pink inflorescences of Heuchera ‘Raspberry Ice.’

pink chablis 2013 raspberry ice bloom
Biokovo frothThe mass of pink-tinged Geranium x cantabrigiense ‘Biokovo’ blooming along the front of the border always reminds me of a froth of whipped cream on strawberry shortcake (perhaps because their bloom coincides with the local strawberry season, when I indulge in that particular delectable dessert :-)).

The pink theme continues in the Fence Border, where the deeper pink shades of Geranium x cantabrigiense ‘Karmina’ combine beautifully with chartreuse plumes of Lady’s Mantle (Alchemilla mollis) and where ‘M. Jules Elie’ grows beside an unidentified strongly veined pink Geranium endressii.

G. Karmina G. endresii unknown
serenity pinksIn the Serenity Garden, which is designed to feature foliage with soft floral accents, more Geranium ‘Biokovo’ is accompanied by a few remaining pink hearts on Lamprocapnos spectabilis ‘Gold Heart,’ one strong shot of color in the airy blooms of Geranium ‘Patricia,’ and by the first feathery plumes of goatsbeard (Aruncus dioicus).
G. Patricia serenity goatsbeard

If you are reading this from the northern hemisphere, I hope that you have also had a summer solstice full of sweetness and light. I am linking this to Donna’s Seasonal Celebrations at Gardens Eye View.

22 Comments leave one →
  1. June 22, 2013 3:17 am

    What a lovely stroll through your garden, Jean!

    • June 22, 2013 10:00 pm

      Thanks, Jack. The garden is such a source of delight at this time of year.

  2. June 22, 2013 5:45 am

    Jean I was delighted to be in your summer garden and enjoying those gorgeous pinks. I am adding your post to the wrap up…so nice to have you join in. Thanks you!

    • June 22, 2013 10:01 pm

      Donna, Thanks for editing your post to include mine in your wrap-up. For most of my life, I was not a fan of pink; but the garden has made me reconsider. All those pinks at this time of year are such a source of sensual pleasure.

  3. June 22, 2013 6:16 pm

    Your sea of soft pink is beautiful! I know some people have disdain for pink in the garden but I love it – in all shades. Love the phrase “reluctant bloomer”! That’s a classic.

    • June 22, 2013 10:04 pm

      Sarah, I used to be one of those people with a disdain for pink — but the garden has definitely changed my mind. I owe Will for the “reluctant bloomer” description; as soon as I heard it, I realized how apt it was for this plant (and a few others, too!).

  4. June 22, 2013 8:10 pm

    Happy summer solstice to you, Jean! Your garden looks both peaceful and pretty. I’ve noticed the spiderwort in the posts of several Eastern gardeners now and think perhaps I need to get over my apprehensions about its invasive ways and try it here (in a pot) – the varieties in your garden are beautiful.

    • June 22, 2013 10:10 pm

      Kris, In my Maine garden, I would describe spiderwort as an exuberant self-sower, but not as invasive (in the sense that birds don’t seem to plant seeds far from the parent plant). The seedlings usually show up quite close to the parent, and they seem willing to grow in almost any conditions. In that sense, they do behave like the weeds that they are known as in the southeast. Interestingly, when I tried to grow some of these in my Gettysburg garden (much closer geographically to their native habitat), they just weren’t happy and have barely grown or bloomed at all. Growing them in a pot seems like a good idea; you’ll just need to patrol the areas around the pot to pull up the seedlings — or deadhead before they go to seed (something I never seem to get around to doing). I already gave away all my volunteer seedlings for this year, but I’ll surely have more next spring; let me know if you’d like some of them. I am quite happy to wrap them up and ship them off bare root.

  5. June 24, 2013 1:15 am

    Wonderful tour of your garden.. Peonies blooms makes a wonderful cut flowers and the shrub-like stems of the plant remain after the blooms have finished providing a handsome and dark green background in the garden throughout the season.

    • June 26, 2013 9:22 pm

      Sophia, I think I love peonies as cut flowers even more than I love them in the garden. Two days ago, when the weather got unseasonably hot here, I cut the remaining unopened peony bud and brought it inside where I am continuing to enjoy it (and its wonderful scent).

  6. June 24, 2013 12:57 pm

    Jean, I have always been surprised at gardeners turning up their nose at pink, I mean it just goes with the territory. I do have issues with the Hydrangea that my wife purchased named Paniculata Pinky Winky. I don’t know if I will be brave enough to feature this one in my plant profiles, well you never know, I am getting to old to care really..

    • June 26, 2013 9:25 pm

      Alistair, I have several plants whose names are an embarrassment, and I always wonder what provokes breeders to give them such silly names. I’m not so sure it’s the color pink that people object to as much as its symbolic associations with femininity. For women of my generation, disliking pink was associated with rebellion against all the derogatory assumptions about women designed to keep us in our subordinate place.

  7. June 24, 2013 5:51 pm

    So many really charming plants have pink flowers. It’s hard to ignore. But good to stick with it throughout rather than try and mix too many other colours I think. It has a strange power as a colour, influencing everything else, not always for the better.

    Nice post Jean.

    • June 26, 2013 9:28 pm

      Jane, My Deck Border has mostly pink flowers (along with some white and lavender); the result is very pretty and serene. Sometimes, though, I find that combining pinks with other colors can really make the pinks pop. I love dark pink growing next to chartreuse (like the foliage of some plants or the plumes of Lady’s Mantle), and the right pink with the right yellow can make me swoon. Right now, I have pinks and blues growing together in my Fence Border, and I find that combination very pretty.

  8. June 25, 2013 4:33 pm

    Hi Jean, that’s a lot of pink. I can’t wait until my Iris Sibirica “Pink Haze” comes out in a few years (if it survives). Is it fragrant? In my garden at the moment, there’s a small stand of lupins that are candy pink and white, which look lovely.

    • June 26, 2013 9:32 pm

      Sunil, In my garden, different parts of the garden season seem to be associated with different colors. Many of the first perennials to bloom in late spring/early summer are blue (Siberian irises and tradescantia), and these are followed by lots of pink. Soon, though, the mood will change completely as all kinds of yellow flowers begin to bloom.

  9. June 25, 2013 5:16 pm

    I loved reading about so many of your geraniums. I realized I needed more fluffy-filler plants, so I’ve bought a couple this past wee – Elke and Pink Penny. I also have a light pink from a friend and lots of Rozanne, of course. Such great plants.

    • June 26, 2013 9:35 pm

      VW, Elke and Pink Penny are both unfamiliar to me — but one of the things I love about hardy geraniums are that there are so many hundreds of species, with different ones that thrive in different conditions. Most of us in Maine, for example, find that Rozanne doesn’t do well here; instead lots of people grow Brookside which, under the right conditions, forms huge clumps that bloom almost all summer long. Those of us who live in the right climates to grow these many great plants are very lucky!

  10. Anonymous permalink
    June 26, 2013 11:55 am

    Hello, Jean. May I use this article in the July issue of The nature Place Journal? As you know, this is all voluntary. Our readers will enjoy these pictures and your explanation.
    Shirley Flanagan (

    • June 26, 2013 9:36 pm

      Shirley, I’d be very happy for you to use the article (in fact, I’d be honored!) as long as you attribute it to me as author. Also, if Nature Place Journal is published in electronic format, I’d appreciate it if you include a link to my blog.

  11. June 30, 2013 9:32 am

    What a gorgeous garden. Pink is my favorite color. Especially love your peonies and iris. Beautiful photos. 🙂

    Visiting from Donna’s meme 🙂


  1. Gardens Eye View » Blog Archive » Seasonal Celebrations Revealed-June 2013

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