Colourful combinations in June

Allium, clematis, orchids, peonies: in June the garden is full of colour and wonderful plant combinations! By Liz Knowles

June 20, 2010 | | Blogs

Allium, clematis, orchids, peonies: in June the garden is full of colour and wonderful plant combinations!

By Liz Knowles

Mid June and the garden is full of colour and wonderful plant combinations.

One of my favourite unites the spherical heads of mauve Allium christophii with the emerging burgundy leaves of the shrub Cotinus coggygria Royal Purple (purple smoke bush).

Allium christophii with purple smoke bush (Cotinus coggygria). Photos by Liz Knowles

As the season progresses, the allium seed heads fade out and the smoke bush dominates this corner of the garden, eventually becoming 2 metres high or more.

Every spring, I prune back the Cotinus to 15cm above ground and the resulting new growth is a strong colour.

I started off with no more than 8 allium bulbs ten or a dozen years ago, because I was slow to deadhead, the allium has seeded around and now there must be 75 blooms.

Another of my favourite alliums is Allium Globemaster.

It’s currently the main player in the grass garden, where 25 bulbs are planted in a drift through the blue/mauve section.

It has one of the largest flowers among the alliums and, as a sterile hybrid, it doesn’t seed around.

Allium Globemaster.

It also blooms for several weeks, longer than the regular alliums. The bulbs bulk up vegetatively, so every couple of years it’s a good idea to dig and divide them as the foliage dies down in July.

June is also a prime month for clematis. Clematis Niobe displayed its magnificent dark pink blooms for over three weeks on the west wall of the house.

Clematis Niobe

It’s important to know which clematis need to be cut back and when. Niobe blooms on last year’s vines, so if it requires a little corrective pruning, the time to do it is after it has bloomed.

Some years in the winter, the rabbits prune it for me…unfortunately, as they cut off next year’s blooms. I try to protect the lower part of the vine with chicken wire, but if the snow is deep the rabbits can reach even higher!

Another stellar performer here is Clematis Betty Corning. Last year it was so vigorous that it brought down the cedar teepee that supported it.

The larger and more robust replacement is already hidden beneath this year’s vine and the first delicate blue flowers are emerging.

It will produce blooms for over a month. Betty Corning should be cut back to the ground each spring, which makes this vigorous 2 to 3 metres of growth by mid-June all the more amazing.

Lady slipper, Cypripedium calceolus var pubescens

There are several orchids in the garden, one of the most showy is the yellow lady’s slipper, Cypripedium calceolus var pubescens, a native of eastern North America.

It has settled in nicely in the west wood garden and this year has nine bright yellow blooms, each pouch adorned with two spirally twisted petals.

Peonies bloom over a couple of months and the last ones are winding down now, at least two weeks ahead of last year.

The West Wood showing Paeonia Rockii, pink form.

One of the species peonies that I grew from seed four years ago is now a mature 1.5 metre shrub.

This summer, it’s 25 or more pink and maroon, dinner-plate-sized blooms put on a spectacular show. It’s a pink variant of Paeonia rockii, out of the same seed packet came a plant that produces white blooms with a maroon eye.


Liz Knowles gardens at Larkspur Hollow in Hockley Valley.

About the Author More by Liz Knowles

Liz Knowles has been gardening in the Hockley Valley for more than 25 years.

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