Is it late Spring or early Summer? With our climate it’s hard to tell, but it’s that happy time in a gardener’s year when everything is bursting into life and clumps of perennials seem to double in size weekly. There’s lots to do and keep on top of, but also much to enjoy.
Wisteria is the classic early-flowering summer climber. Patience is a virtue with this one as it may take five years to flower for the first time, but it’s well worth it when it does. At 10m tall, it will need a large wall or pergola and fertile soil in sun or light shade. Wisteria Sinensis is a Chinese Wisteria with lilac-purple fragrant flowers in May.
Lilacs (Syringa Vulgaris) can be grown as small trees or large shrubs and bear trusses of sweet-scented flowers that are very attractive to butterflies and bees. Foliage is mid-green and heart-shaped. The flowering season is relatively short but a summer-flowering climber can be grown through the foliage to extend the season of interest. Lilacs require well-drained soil and a sunny spot.
Bearded Iris. These flamboyant, ruffled blooms are stunning at this time of year. Available in just about every colour and with mid-green sword-like foliage, they don’t like to be crowded or shaded by other plants and like a sunny, well-drained mediterranean environment, so team successfully with the silver-leaf colours of rosemaries, lavenders and cistus.
All the summer flowers are starting to put in an appearance and if we’re lucky, June will be ‘flaming’. The weather is improving, so we can finally plant out tender plants if we didn’t at the end of May. There’s lots to keep on top of as perennials and shrubs start to cover the ground and hopefully smother the weeds. Make time to sit down and enjoy the view.
The spectacular shrub rose ‘Charles de Mills’ bears rosettes of deep crimson-magenta deliciously fragrant flowers in June and July. Growing to 1.5m x 1m, as with all roses it needs rich, fertile soil in full sun.
Hosta ‘Gold Standard’ has gold leaves with a dark green edge and, although it does bear lavender-blue flowers, the leaves are the main attraction. Hostas need moist soil and are best grown in light shade but sun is fine for all but the gold varieties. They are good for ground cover and good in pots, where they can be more easily protected from slugs.
Bearded Irises have a short but fabulous season. Dwarf, intermediate and tall varieties are available, with the dwarf varieties flowering a little earlier in May. ‘Black Swan’ is a tall variety that bears deep purple, almost black, flowers above sword-shaped grey-green leaves. Plant in large swathes for maximum impact. For a dramatic effect, partner with silver foliage plants such as the pale silvery leaves of Artemisia. Needs sunny well-drained soil where the rhizomes are not overshadowed by surrounding plants.