New Dawn Rosebud

Early Summer Garden:

The Season of Fragrance

Think of it: roses, peonies, early honeysuckles, and many other fragrant flowers like Sweet William, herbs of lavender, thyme, and sweet woodruff waft upon soft zephyrs which release their aromatic molecules in a cloud of heady scent. Especially in the soft evenings of the longest days of the year, the breezes bring the most delicious scents.

This pleasant time of year makes gardening tasks pleasurable to those who love to be outdoors. We enjoy these rare conditions, basking in the gentle sunshine or sinking our hands in life-filled earth. Not that every early summer day is perfect, or all goes well in the garden- but it is the greatest possibility and gardeners are the the ones to catch the moments.

While there is still time to plant, hopefully that was accomplished in the spring. This is the best time to rid your borders and beds of weeds which love the growing conditions just as much as your intended plants. It is time to pinch back, train and support the vigorous growth, to harvest pickings of lettuces, radishes, and cool season vegetables. Summer abundance begins now.

What one can expect to do in the garden?

Chores and tips:

A good time to use a hoe like the shuffle hoe to cut off baby weeds just below the surface of the soil. Learn more about hoes, the different types and what they are used for, in

  • Fend off weeds before they take hold and weather gets hot- they are much harder to dislodge at that point.
  • Edge beds and borders. The soil is likely softer with late spring and early summer rain.
  • Deadhead flowers as needed. roses will benefit from removing the old blooms
  • After spring shrubs bloom they are ready for pruning, do that now.
  • Pinch back chrysanthemums, tomato foliage, asters for better bloom and stronger plants. Coleus plants also benefit from pinching back.
bright pink peony

How Does Your Garden Grow?

With fertilizer! So feed those trees, shrubs, and plants.
What’s blooming now?

  • Roses rule the scene
  • Clethra
  • Calycanthus
  • Fothergilla
  • Aquilegia (Columbines)
  • Oriental Poppies
  • Iris
  • Lady’s Mantle
  • Lupines
  • Viola tricolor (Johnny Jump Ups)


I was never able to grow Clethra or “Summersweet” bushes because they need a more moist and acid soil than I can give them. They are such gorgeous bushes with an enticing smell that they should find a place in your garden if it isn’t too dry or alkaline. I saw a large example growing at Dawes Arboretum. It was wider than tall and very full looking. Those are the type of shrubs which are wonderful for specimen plantings where they can show off.
Fothergilla will not just give early summer bloom, but outstanding autumn color. They, too, need some moisture and slightly acid soil conditions.

spring blooming bush

Dream Catcher Beauty bush has finished blooming and needs to be pruned back.

It is time for trimming – asters and tomatoes, all sorts of plants benefit from snipping or pinching back at this time. All the spring blooming bushes can be pruned now that their bloom is over. So get out the pruning shears and have at it!

Chrysanthemums will also need to be pinched. It prevents them from blooming and being over too early.

Prune Lavenders for best growth, cutting bouquets of their flowers is one of the great pleasures of the garden – their scent is calming and refreshing.

Cultivating the ground is a major task that is not at all onerous in June. The soil is soft and the weather pleasant. The weeds are still small enough that you imagine you will win against them.

Ideal time to mulch as well. The spring was too wet, but now while moisture is in the ground, before the heat of midsummer, I like to lay down the mulch for weed suppression, moisture conservation, and general tidy look for beds and pathways.

Quicklist: hints and tips

  • Make good use of pleasant weather to plant and weed.
  • Benefit from mulching to conserve moisture, add humus
  • Harvest early and often in the food garden
  • Tie up or stake tomato, cucumber, and climbing beans
  • Bulb foliage is withered, and can be removed
  • Don’t kill butterflies or bees with deadly sprays: live and let live. Try companion planting instead. (And soap and oil sprays)
Timely Links

Summer Vegetables

Lettuces, radishes, spinach, and other early crops are ready to harvest in early summer. It is salad days from the garden! be sure to make full use of them because as soon as the temperatures turn hot these crops bolt and turn bitter.
Keep planting … time to make sure the bean, corn , and tomato plants are all tucked into the soil, along with peppers, eggplants and other warmth loving crops.

Delightful Combinations

This season yields more riches in blossoming plants than any other time. It is the subject of Shakespeare and sonnets with bowers of roses, honeysuckle, fragrant dames rocket, peonies, iris and so many other plants. We are busy getting in the last of the annuals, and filling up containers with every sort of combination of foliage and flower. I think early summer is busier than spring in some ways…because the burgeoning weed crops must be kept in check, while we try to make sure that all our seeds and plants are in the ground before summer heat kicks in.

  • Shirley poppies, lavender, and rue are a threesome in my garden.  The lavender is coming into bud, while poppies bloom in the still mild temperatures and the rue lifts its chartreuse corymbs against the backdrop of the glaucous fingered foliage are a favorite sight here in June.
  • Roses are in their glory. Sometimes I long for the blooms of temperamental hybrid teas, but the Rosa rugosa and other hardy citizens continue to give beauty and fragrance. Footed with Nepeta mussinii, dotted with poppies, the roses hold sway with late peonies for rich lush bloom.
  • Hydrangeas are beginning to bloom. I like them by themselves, but try them with bronze fennel and footed with lambs ears.

For more summer picture planning ideas, see “Plant A Garden For Fragrance“. Container Recipes | Is It Time To Prune Your Hydrangeas? | Fringe Trees, Fragrant and Fluttery

Impatiens, Diamond Frost Euphorbia, Rubrum Purple Fountain Grass