Some perennials are particular about where they are planted, others are not.
Japanese iris (Iris ensata) must be planted into soil that remains damp, or in the shallow water of a garden pond, unless such a spot is not available. Then, any sunny position in the garden will do, but they will require some attention to watering in the odd year when there is not regular rainfall into late May. Given a lack of damp ground, iris will begin to look tired and ragged in July, and only in standing water does the foliage remain fresh through the late summer.
Nearing the end of May most of the Japanese iris in the garden were blooming, and a substantial clump might flower for two weeks, but there are a few late varieties, and a few that are partially shaded, so they will flower a week later than those in full sun. In the shallows of the pond those in water two inches deeper than others will bloom ten days later. Thus, the span of blooms might stretch as long as four weeks, into mid June.
As the iris’ blooms have progressed I’ve noticed that there are more varieties than I was aware of, which is not surprising since my record keeping often does not keep pace with my planting, and there is a slim chance that I would recall their names. The same is true for daylilies and coneflowers, hostas, and well, just about any perennial that there is more than one of in the garden. Nevertheless, I will do as best I can and muddle through to update what’s blooming today.
The prime season for daylilies (Hemerocallis ‘Happy Returns’, above) is a few weeks away, but many of the rebloomers begin earlier, in late May and extend through September. For mysterious reasons I have not given daylilies preferred positions in the garden, and have subjected them to dry and poor soils, and even roadside gravel which does not seem to discourage them greatly, but they grow with less vigor than if they were provided richer soil.
Coneflowers grow splendidly in similar poor soils, and tolerate dry conditions so long as there is sufficient sun through the day. A patch of Black-eyed Susans (Rudbeckia, above) in the garden faded over several years as the shade from the forest’s edge encroached, and the soil where they were planted was so poor that I was reluctant to transplant them, so of course now they are gone.
In the sunnier back garden I have planted a number of echinaceas over the years, and in recent years some newer introductions. Most of the plant tags have been stored in a box in the garage, so as they bloom through the summer I have some chance of naming them correctly. The first to bloom is ‘Coconut Lime’ (above), though several of the others were nibbled to the ground by deer when left unprotected by the deer repellent, so these will be later to bloom.
Bear’s Breeches (Acanthus spinosus, above) does not require protection from deer, the spiny leaves and blooming stalks are armed for the task. The thistle-like perennial will self sow in dry soils, but this garden has so much neighboring foliage that this has not been a bother.
Lambs ear is another self seeder that can become a nuisance, so sterile types are recommended to avoid spreading them about the garden. The green, non-fuzzy leafed variety, ‘Hummelo’ (Stachys officinalis ‘Hummelo’, above) does not present this problem, and it grows well in poor, dry soil. Without the fuzzy foliage that deer dislike it is not resistant, and in past years when I have not sprayed the repellent the deer will eat the blooms and foliage to the ground. It grows back quickly and blooms dependably.
Perennials grow so quickly in May and into June that extra caution must be exercised to protect those plants that are favored by deer, and hosta are perhaps their most favored. With a regular routine to spray the repellent, many hostas (above) that were damaged in past years have rebounded, and are beginning to bloom. Some varieties will have blooming stalks that soar to six feet, but I prefer those with shorter stalks.
Hostas will grow in a range of conditions, in dry shade nestled between tree roots, and many will tolerate half a day of sun, but they will grow more robust without direct sunlight and in good garden soil with adequate moisture. I often find that hostas, and other perennials are forced into less than ideal circumstances, and flourish nonetheless.