Common Ground – June 2024

“And what is so rare as a day in June?”

James Russell Lowell

Someone I know who has a hillside of naturalized daffodils tells me that he always has a pang of regret when he deadheads the last daffodil. But he gets over it when what follows the daffodils are the flowers of the lilacs, honeysuckle, horse chestnut and so many more.

Some springs are so chaotic that I don’t bother to cut any lilacs to bring into the house. This year, however, I cut a lot of lilacs and they seem to be particularly fragrant this year. Maybe it’s because we have had a lot of rain. I have no idea really.

I am blessed with a lot of common lilac as most old farms are. It’s a suckering monster but it is wonderful at this time of year. And I have two hybrid lilacs which are darker purple than the common lilac and bloom a little bit later. These two are much better behaved than the common lilac as they don’t sucker at all.  I always cringe when I see when I see people digging up common lilac on the side of the road. I always want to stop and tell those people that they would be so much better off with a nice hybrid lilac.

I also cut some lily of the valley to bring into the house. Yes I am well aware that it’s invasive but it smells so wonderful that I can forgive it anything. Usually I suffer the black flies which coincide with the peak flowering of the lily of the valley. This year, though, I cut a bunch and there was hardly a black fly in sight. How amazing is that? I can’t remember another spring that been so light on black flies. I am grateful to be able to work outside with so few of them around me.

There was no morel harvest this year. I found exactly one in the spots where they usually grow. So I left that one be and I hope that they will be back next year. Morels are one of nature’s mysteries. I never take them for granted and I know that they are capricious and they appear when they want to appear.

I had to laugh recently when an English visitor asked me if my ornamental rhubarb was gunnera. The wet spring has made the ornamental rhubarb much bigger than it is normally. I do actually wish I could grow gunnera but alas it doesn’t grow here. The ornamental rhubarb will eventually have very impressive pink flowers on tall stems. It has taken quite a few years to get to any size.

The same visitor also asked me about a beautifully shaped young apple tree that bloomed for the first time this year. She wondered if I didn’t plant it a bit too close to the garage. I told her that I didn’t plant it at all. Nature planted it and also made it such a beautiful shape.

When trees like this just appear it goes a little way towards making up for the loss of my two big ash trees and one of the old apple trees. The ash trees were taken by emerald ash borer and the apple tree by gypsy moth. But how reassuring that new trees appear all the time and sometimes in exactly the right place. It cheers me up every time I see the little apple tree.

I usually don’t plant tomatoes and pole beans until the first week of June. I have had too many years when I had to replant both because they got frosted. I don’t think I lose anything by waiting a little longer and I don‘t have to cover them on the cold nights.

Finally, can we please have a little more respect for the poor ferns I see everywhere in containers? These need to go in the shade and yet I see so many of them frying in the full sun.

When they turn brown it’s because they don’t like the hot sun. In the shade with lots of water they will be much happier and will last longer…

By Jill Williams

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