For whatever little credibility I have, I find a few of the garden’s blooms in early June to be incomparably beautiful. I know, I’ve probably said the same thing a handful of times so far this year, and the year’s not half over. But, read on and judge for yourself.
The first, and my current favorite is a confounding shrub, Deutzia ‘Magician’ (Deutzia x hybrida ‘Magicien’, above and below). Surprising because its flowers are lovely, and the shrub is easy to grow and trouble-free, but it’s regularly overlooked and rarely planted. I understand that deciduous shrubs are not so popular, and ones that grow to six feet rather than to a more compact size have even less appeal, but look at ‘Magician’ today in my garden and you’re going to want one of your own. Before and after flowering its foliage is a pleasant light green, remaining vigorous through the heat of summer, but the flowers that appear in late May are most stunning, and the reason I grabbed this plant the first time I saw it blooming.
For the first few years after I planted ‘Magician’ it grew compactly to just above knee high, but in the third year it sent long arching branches several feet above the main body of the shrub. Typically, I don’t prune anything, but the long stems cried out to be cut in half, so I did, and since it has grown without the long shoots, filling in nicely to six feet tall.
A year ago I planted a handful of varieties of ground orchids (Bletilla striata, above). These grow in soil rather than dangling from trees as many orchids do, thus ground orchid. These are cold hardy, and in a year they have spread enough that there are dozens of beautiful flowers. The body of the plant doesn’t amount to much, so they are best plugged into small, sunny gaps between more substantial plants. And, the blooms last only a few weeks from start to finish, but then it’s time to move on to the equally splendid, but larger blooms of Japanese irises (Iris ensata, below).
Only a few Japanese irises in my garden are planted in soil, with most positioned in the shallows of the garden’s ponds, planted in small gravel between small boulders that are partially submerged. A clump of three fans will quickly triple or quadruple in size, but the granite boulders limit spreading much further. I’ll not go into too much detail to detract from an update when all are flowering in a few days, but the Japanese irises flourish in several inches of water or in damp soil.
Before the spring passes I must mention the delightfully huge flowers of Bigleaf magnolia (Magnolia macrophylla, above). Its plain green leaves are unremarkable except for their size, and the tree’s form and size is coarse and impractical for most home gardens, but the fragrant, jumbo sized magnolia blooms are certain to capture visitors’ attention. Unfortunately, as the tree has aged many of the lowest branches have been lost, so there are only a few flowers close enough to the ground to stick my nose into.
When fully opened the Bigleaf magnolia’s blooms are more than a foot across, easily the largest in the garden. Large or small, these flowers add immeasurably to the enjoyment of the late spring garden.