When we think of getting out and gardening, the month of May most likely comes to mind. There is no question that May is a glorious month on our northwest calendar to be outside and in the yard. But for me, mostly because I own a garden center, May is shear madness with so much going on that it is all I can do to find a moment here and there to pull a few weeds and plant a few cool season veggies. June, on the other hand, is when I really get to play in my yard, for all sorts of reasons… you should too.
First off, I find myself overflowing with energy due to the long days of sunlight (16 hours this time of year). The other day I was out in the garden at 5 am planting some summer color and was serenaded by the resident robin, chickadee, and pair of ring-necked doves the whole time. It is very peaceful that early in the morning, but also warm enough to be able to dress lightly and not be encumbered by layers of clothes. Even with the occasional “June Gloom” we often have, June is a lovely time to work in the yard.
I often hear the question: “Is it too late to plant?” and my answer is always: “It’s never too late to plant and in fact, in the northwest, we can plant all year long!” What I love about planting in June is that I know whatever I plunge into the ground this month will give me 90 to 120 days of joy, all the way into October. Unfortunately, you can’t say the same thing about seasonal color items that were planted back in March and April. They might still be growing, but are most likely done blooming. June, on the other hand, is the ideal month to plant summer color. Here are a couple of my favorite “June stuff” plants:
Chocolate cosmos — These yummy smelling flowers are actually in the dahlia family, but have a smaller flower closer in size to cosmos. They are chocolate in color, also in fragrance, and are a must in my summer border. They will form a tuber, much like a dahlia, and in a mild winter will sometimes survive. They will form a loose mound of foliage (approximately 18 inches tall and as wide) with a constant supply of flowers all summer long. Plant this treat in full sun and don’t forget to pick a few flowers for a tasty smelling bouquet.
Golden Delicious Pineapple Sage — I can’t wait until this plant arrives in the nursery. It sports golden foliage (which I am always a sucker for) that has a strong pineapple scent when brushed up against. While it can produce red flowers late in the summer, I grow it specifically for the foliage. This plant can reach up to 3 feet tall, so give it a little space.
Salvia — This is a large genus (including the above sage) of both hardy perennials and tender ones that we treat as annuals. I prefer the tender ones only because they will bloom all summer in my garden. ‘Amistad’ came on the scene a couple of years ago with stunning purple flowers and this year I have discovered ‘Rockin’ Fuchsia’ with electric fuchsia pink flowers. ‘Love and Wishes’ has deep purple flowers, ‘Wendy’s Wish’ is purple pink, ‘Ember’s Wish’ is bright red, and the fourth new flavor in the Wish series, ‘Kisses and Wishes’ has deep fuchsia colored flowers. All of these have dark green, glossy foliage with a compact growth habit reaching around 30 inches tall. They will attract hummers and other pollinators and work well both in containers and in the ground, as long as they are in full sun. You can dig them up in the fall and hold them over in a cool garage.
So to summarize, the planting season didn’t end on May 31st. June affords us extended daylight, comfortable temperatures, a vastly expanded selection, and the assurance that any seasonal color that we plant this month will continual to bloom all the way into October. Don’t put away your trowel, there must be a few bare spaces in your yard or an unused container that needs to be filled — come August and September you will be glad you did.
Steve Smith is the owner of Sunnyside Nursery in Marysville and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.