June is almost always a lovely month. Some years it seems to rain almost every day but other years (and this appears to be one of them) there is almost a drought. Let’s blame El Nino. It seems to get the blame for almost any problem gardeners are plagued with and a lot of other things as well.
Since there is nothing we can do about it, we might as well relax and go with the flow. Keep the hoses within reach, mulch with grass clippings or bark, or wet newspaper (it’s not pretty, but it does work) water in early morning to get the maximum benefit from the moisture, provide shade for hanging baskets when it gets really hot and go to the beach when your conscience will allow you to escape from garden duties. Even if you don’t swim, it is cooler near the water, especially if there is some shade available. Tell yourself (and anyone else who is inerested) that you have earned it (lie if you have to). It is summer and it doesn’t last forever, so we have to snatch what sunshine we can, while it lasts.
If you have a rhododendron it is likely either blooming or has just finished. This is the time to rid the shrub of dead flower clusters. Please use caution in taking off the dead blooms. Make sure to just remove the dead flowers, leaving the infant leaves surrounding the bloom to mature. They are needed for future growth.
Years ago I was fortunate enough to be taken to a rhodo collection at the border between us and the U.S.A. These rhodos were enormous, many of them eight feet tall or more, great giant plants, with their blooms often beyond reach. They seem to have been allowed to grow wild, which was interesting but not very practical. It was so many years ago I don’t remember how we got there, but it was interesting to see to what great heights these magnificent shrubs will grow if the location is right. And they are allowed to just grow.
I recall they were amongst tall evergeen trees, so in deep shade (which probably accounted for their great height). The poor dears were reaching for some sunlight.
There is a family in North Saanich with a great many rhodos in a beautiful wooded area, but I can’t give you their name. I don’t want to be responsible for a parade of cars loaded with rhodo lovers parked beside their privae property, but I do wish they would sponsor a tour to show us locals just what a magnificent sight their love of rhododendrons and their hard labour has provided.
I’ll be going with my eldest daughter up to Cedar, south of Nanaimo, to visit my dear brother who is not well. Actually I rather dread it, as he can no longer speak clearly and I’m not clever enough to understand what he is attempting to say, at least over the phone. And I’m sure he must be completely frustrated, which makes him bad tempered, so I’m somewhat nervous about such a visit, much as I love him. Oh well, we’ll just have to wait to find out what will happen.
I suppose I could always walk home, but I’d have to swim from Mill Bay to Brentwood, and doing the dog paddle could take me a good week to make the transit. I don’t think there have been any sharks seen in the area recently, so that’s one less thing to worry about.
All I’ll need to find is a big log to rest on when I’m completely exhausted. But, wait! If I take my purse, I could buy ferry fare and not have to swim after all. Now why didn’t I think of that earlier, instead of fussing about all the terrible things that might happen?
Helen Lang has been the Peninsula News Review’s garden columnist for more than 30 years.