Favorite plants in June

A “Megatron” daylily. Photo by Kit Flynn.


By Kit Flynn

The roses have passed their first—and, frequently, their main flush. Now it is the time of the daylilies to shine in the garden.

I apologize for talking about two species that are ultimate deer candy. Both, if they are going to inhabit a garden, need a barrier from the deer. When I first started growing daylilies in the 1990s, deer were not a problem here in Chapel Hill. Then development displaced deer who moved into downtown Chapel Hill for a protracted visit. Liking what they saw, they stayed.

Gardening with deer was a lot different than gardening without them. Pre-fence and post Meadowmont, I went through gallons of deer repellent, testing innumerable brands. I know gardeners who swear by a particular brand but when it came to defending daylilies, my deer defenses proved to be quite limited. Every day, after a good spraying, the deer demolished the blooms. My traumatized daylilies demonstrated a certain reluctance even to try to bloom after the fence went up around my property.

Gradually I watched the daylilies change from rather timidly putting out a flower here and there to one of gathering confidence, a process that took a couple of years. And, before you accuse me of anthropomorphizing daylilies, I can only report of what I noticed. Upon rescue from the clutches of hungry deer, they did not spring back with enthusiasm immediately.

The only recommendation I will make should you find yourself on a daylily buying spree is that you should overlook the reblooming ‘Stella d’Oro’ and ‘Happy Returns’. You can do better. The flowers on these two varieties are small, yellow, and boring. They will become even more boring in the September sun when their blooms are too ordinary to appreciate.

Years ago, I would traipse down to Moncure every June to Jim Massey’s Holly Hill Daylily Farm to choose various daylilies. The clumps were huge while the flowers were brilliant. I can honestly say that Holly Hill Daylily Farm trips were one of the highlights of my summer gardening experience.

Daylilies are undemanding plants that transplant easily in high heat and humidity. I water them thoroughly during their first growing season—and then they are on their own. Have to dig up a daylily? Use a pitchfork. Have to divide it? I cruelly saw through the clump of roots with a retired bread knife. I have never lost a daylily.

June is the month when we supply a second dose of fertilizer to the roses. Ordinarily, I am not a heavy fertilizing gardener as I believe good soil is the key to growing healthy plants. However, roses are (to use that cliché) “heavy feeders” so they get a second round of fertilizer now that the first flush has passed.

The gardenias stun me. Talk to any transplant and they will tell you that having the ability to grow gardenias outside is awesome. Choosing the right gardenia for our zone 7 gardening zone is essential as many varieties cannot withstand the freezing winter temperatures. ‘Crown Jewel’ has worked well for me while other gardeners are fans of ‘Kleim’s Hardy’. The important thing is to note whether a particular variety is hardy in our zone.

Berberis jamesonii is now covered with yellow seedheads, none of which have ever sprouted so I don’t worry about invasiveness. Hard to find, this native of Ecuador is worth seeking out.

Calla lilies, I find, get better with each passing year. The clump will get larger over time although mine have never gotten so large that I have had to divide them. Zanteschia ‘Picasso’  is widely available and one I highly recommend. Z. aethiopica ‘Swartberg Giant’, a zone 7b bulb, has been successful for me, although it’s taken three years to develop into a respectable size. Z. aethiopica ‘White Giant’, good in zone 7a, soars to 72 inches in height so is perfect for those of you who really desire to make a statement – although it has only grown to four feet for Plant Delights. Remember that calla lilies gain more in size every year so be patient.

Gardening this past month has been a pleasure in that the month has been relatively cool. The dahlias are responding well to the coolish nights. Suffering through July and August when nighttime temperatures remain in the 70°s, they will spring back eagerly in September when the nighttime temperatures begin to cool.

Hints of July are in the offing. The lilies have begun to bloom, the Korean Sweetheart tree, aka Euscaphus japonica, has begun to bear red heart-shaped seed pods, and late blooming daylilies are beginning to stir.

Anticipation is certainly one of the reasons we garden.

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1 Comment on "Favorite plants in June"

  1. Hi Kit! Thank you for sharing the info on the daylilies. Do you grow any native blooming plants? There’s many of us moving to more hardy natives and are always interested to hear how different plants perform and work with others, lessons learned, etc. because there are so few people with that experience writing these articles.

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