Many think the garden is dead in June and see little beauty in it, but there are many treasures that rear their heads at this time.
Alan Trott has the plants and ideas for a beautiful winter garden
Ialways like seeing Adonis amurensis showing its golden buds followed by ferny foliage on the shortest day of the year. It flowers for many weeks. Cyclamen coum is another gem which never fails to flower, and its foliage is a winner too. This is a great woodland plant which soon colonises under ideal conditions.
Hellebores are just showing buds now. Just before they flower, remove last year’s leaves as this makes the plant look tidy when it does finally bloom. There are many new named cultivars available and one of my favourites is ‘Anna’s Red’ which has wonderful, deep red, outward-facing flowers. Try some of these new cultivars; you will not be disappointed as they will give you years of pleasure.
Bergenia ‘Bressingham Ruby’ is a wonderful foliage plant this month as the green leaves have turned a plum purple with the cool frosty weather. It’s an easy plant to grow in the front of a border in full sun and the bonus is that in spring it sends up panicles of rich plum flowers.
For the woodland, galanthus are probably the most sought-after bulb for that splash of winter colour with their nodding white bells. They are easy to grow and multiply well. Every three years, divide them and you will soon have big drifts of the plant.
Shrubs that flower in midwinter are always a joy. We should plant more of them. Daphne bholua is an upright semi-evergreen shrub which produces an abundance of pale pink flowers fading to almost white with an amazing intoxicating fragrance. This is a plant which can be in any garden, be it large or small.
Chimonanthus praecox ‘Luteus’ is a joy to have as this form has large, deep daffodil-yellow flowers which blooms over a two-month period (and often longer). This shrub will scent your garden and, of course, is great for picking and bringing into the house.
Trees are the bones of any garden.
They can make a statement on their own or planted in a group. I favour deciduous trees as they show their skeletons off in winter and many have wonderful bark.
Prunus serrula always attracts attention, especially when planted on the edge of a border where anyone passing can touch and admire it.
If you have a large garden, you must plant some grafted Betula (birch). There are many good cultivars available. But beware of planting seedlings as they will not be as good. Betula utilis ‘Silver Shadow’ is one of my favourites. This cultivar has ice white bark and an upright habit, and looks amazing planted in a group, and the added bonus is that it has wonderful golden autumn colours.
Of course there are many trees with amazing bark, so you can afford to be selective when planting.
Perennials left uncut in winter can have a certain beauty.
I often tend to leave cutting perennials down till early spring. Many have amazing seedheads which attract the birds as well.
I never cut cannas till early October – if cut too, early they can get waterlogged down the old stem and rot if frozen.
Miscanthus and Calamagrostis are beautiful when left for the winter. I always cut them down in early spring; this also protects new growth from being frosted.
Most perennials are hardy and will survive the harshest of winters, but if you have something a little tender, it’s worth the effort to protect it or dig it up and put it inside for the winter.
Birds bring life to a garden and it’s well worth making a birdfeeder near the house and hanging it in a tree. Just position it so that cats and other such predators cannot reach it. Buy wild bird seed or perhaps just use fat to attract the wax-eyes. If you are in a warmer climate, make something which attracts the tu¯ or wood pigeon. Birds in winter are usually hungry and, once attracted to the station, become very friendly.
How about making a structure in the garden which will become a feature later in the season? Build a gazebo or an arbour you can sit in during winter or summer. Paint it red or blue and make a statement, and brighten up that winter’s day.
So June should not be a depressing month for gardeners. Think of it as a month to plan for those warmer days, or perhaps catch up on the gardening magazines and books that arrived in summer… when you didn’t had time to read them!