"Joys of June"

Some lovely June flowers!
Sunday, 07 June 2020     

Camellia japonica Lovelight

Winter is well and truly here, but luckily for Sydneysiders, there is plenty of flower colour still to be found in our gardens. A stroll around my garden revealed some of the blooms that only appear once the temperature plunges. Who knows why they choose winter to star, but I am very glad that they do! I spied the very first flower on my specimen of Camellia japonica 'Lovelight' (ht to 3 m), a pristine white semi-double form, which is my favourite camellia. Once there are enough blooms, I like floating them in a shallow bowl indoors. The flowering period lasts till early spring, and the shady border where I grow this shrub will later have other icy-coloured blooms to echo the camellia: snowflakes, hellebore hybrids and self-seeded white forget-me-nots and Primula.

Another evergreen shrub that has just started to bloom is Mahonia lomariifolia (ht 2-3 m) producing its long, upright flowering spires of tiny, yellow, clustered bells, which have a soft scent. It also does very well in shade. Recently, I planted some Corsican hellebore seedlings (Helleborus argutifolius, ht to 80 cm) beneath my shrub: this has tall stems holding clusters of large, rounded green flowers from now on all through winter, and its serrated-edged, veined foliage has a similar look and colour to that of the Mahonia. Another beautiful evergreen, perfumed shrub that begins to bloom in June is Daphne odora (ht 1 m). It has exquisite posies of waxy pale pink (or white) flowers from rosy buds all along its evergreen stems all through winter. The waxy lilac or white stars of winter-flowering sweet garlic (Tulbaghia simmerli, ht 40-60cm) are remarkably similar to the flowers of the Daphne and make good companion plantings, as these bulbous perennials too will bloom in shade. Other pretty bulbs that produce their flowers now include jonquils (ht 30-40 cm), Nerine (ht 45 cm), Haemanthus albiflos (ht 20-30 cm) and winter iris (ht 50 cm), all adding welcome splashes of colour.

There are many Salvia still lingering on in bloom from autumn, but June sees a few more come into their own. One of the most delightful to me is Salvia 'Timboon'. It appears to be one of the many winter-flowering Salvia involucrata x karwinskii crosses, which do well in Sydney gardens. I found that most of these got too big for my garden (up to 4 m!) but 'Timboon' has a more upright shape and grows to around 2 m high and 1.5 m wide. It has deep burgundy-pink flowers in wine-coloured calyces: even when it is in bud, it is beautiful. It is such a cheering sight in the winter garden. The flowers are a perfect match for the leaves of Iresine herbstii 'Brilliantissima' (ht 60 cm), which I grow nearby to it: a fantastic foliage plant for mild gardens.

Another great salvia for winter blooms is Salvia rubiginosa (ht 1-1.5 m), a much more compact plant, with rich blue flowers accentuated by purple calyces in winter and early spring. It pairs well with the bromeliad Aechmea gamosepala (ht 50 cm), which has unusual brush-like pink inflorescences tipped with the same colour blue as this Salvia, and in bloom now. Another attractive bromeliad that has just started flowering in my garden is Aechmea weilbachii (ht 60 cm), bearing a slender stem with red-bracted, lilac-purple flowers. The flower spikes of both these Aechmea species last for a long time and they are very useful plants for dry shade.

The Acanthaceae family of plants has winter bloomers offering bright hues for the garden. Justicia floribunda (syn. Justicia rizzinii, ht 1 m) has dainty, pendulous, tubular-bell shaped flowers, each multi-toned in colours of scarlet, orange and yellow - from June until October! The effect is like that of a shower of embers suspended in mid-air, sparkling in a sunny spot or lighting up a shadier position. A related plant is Justicia aurea (ht 1.5 m), which has big, feathery flowers of a brilliant yellow hue; it does best in a sunny spot. Megaskepasma erythrochlamys (ht 2-3 m) is another bold shrub, with vibrant crimson bracts in bold spikes held all through winter above huge, glossy, veined leaves. It will grow in sun or shade, and grows well even next to trees, but flowering seems to be best in a sunny position.

Some succulents flower in winter - epiphytic zygocactus (Schlumbergera hybrids, ht to 30 cm) are showing their unusual, silky flowers their stem tips now, in colours of pinks, purples, magenta, white, orange, yellow and red. Some develop a cascading habit with age. They seem to look best when grown in pots under trees, tied to tree branches, in hanging baskets or in a dry rockery situation, and need protection from frost in a part-shade position. Shrubby Crassula ovata (ht 90 cm) is like a small, many-branched tree, with sprays of dainty pale pink or white flowers in winter. It looks good growing in a pot and likes a sunny position.

There's lots to spark joy in June! Let me know some of your favourites.

 Reader Comments

1/5  Margaret - 2122 (Zone:10 - Warm Temperate) Tuesday, 09 June 2020

Lovely to read about all your flowers in bloom, this cold winter. To my delight, my first 'winter flower' was a snowflake, such a delicate little bloom, which gladdened my heart! It is an original plant brought from my parents' garden, many years ago. Further walks around the garden revealed some other bursts of colour - salvia, cane begonias, a rogue mock orange bloom, some gerbera, hidden camellia flowers, streptocarpus and other gesneriad families. My Amazon lily is just about to flower! What delightful plants you have in bloom at the moment, Margaret! Deirdre

2/5  Patricia - 2100 (Zone:10 - Warm Temperate) Tuesday, 09 June 2020

The site here is on clay and camellias have done well apart from Fimbriata, deceased.Camellias, such faithful bloomers to cheer us during winter. The sasanquas, Star Above Star, Jennifer Susan and Setsugekka doing well in full sun. Sparkling Burgundy and Rowena Gordon doing OK in pots mainly in sun with Mignon in a pot in mainly shade. Magnoliaeflora and Frances Butler are stand out japonicas, really beautiful in part sun/part shade. The variety of plants in your garden never ceases to amaze. They all sound lovely camellias, Patricia! Deirdre

3/5  Valerie - 2121 (Zone:10 - Warm Temperate) Tuesday, 09 June 2020

Thank you for showing us your beautiful white camellia. A bush full of them must be a fabulous sight. There are a couple of Strelitzia slowly coming into flower here. Although I think a possum has eaten the flower off a 12mth old Justicia cornea 'Alba'. I just have to get it large enough to withstand the grazing beast! What bad luck re your justicia, Valerie! Hope more flowers might appear. See Sue's tips below to try to deter possums. Deirdre

4/5  Sue - 2074 (Zone:10 - Warm Temperate) Wednesday, 10 June 2020

Thanks for a cheery blog at the start of winter -after seeing your Mahonia I went down to see if mine was flowering - think I am a bit behind. However C. Magnoliaeflora, Silver Waves and Laurie Bray and are doing well after having been trashed last year by possums. Have hung blood & bone in the trees and put clove oil on the fence, seems to be working so far. Kniphofia Winter Cheer, a few cane Begonias, Pentas and one lonely Echinacea flower brighten the day as well. Your garden sounds as if it is colourful. Thanks for the tips re possums! Deirdre

5/5  Pamela - 2158 (Zone:10 - Warm Temperate) Sunday, 14 June 2020

The first Camellia I planted here 6 years ago was Lovelight.They are stunners. I planted many Japonicas, lost a few too. Ive struggled in our droughts to get the Camellias going but this year theyve really taken off - what a joy to see them looking happy. So much colour with the Tagetes, Westringias, Kniphofias, Pycnostachys, Coleus, begonias, Strobilanthes, Salvias and the wonderful Tibouchinas still showing off and reminding us we have the best winters in the world in Sydney. I agree totally! We are so lucky to have so many plants that flower in winter. Deirdre

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