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June in The RPA Garden

June is for Juneberries: Summer in the RPA Garden

By Betsy Washington

One of the pleasures of working in the RPA garden is observing the abundance of wildlife visiting the diverse selection of native plants.  Check out some of the plants that are blooming or fruiting in the garden this month along with the birds and insects that are attracted to them.

The tasty fruit of the Serviceberry trees, also known as Juneberries, should be ripening about the time that you receive your newsletter.  The small fruit turns from green to red and then to purple when ripe in mid June.  Native Americans made pemmican from the fruit. The juicy fruit are delectable, but bruise easily and must be home grown to be enjoyed, if you can that is if can beat the birds to it.  My son and I have stood cheek to beak with sparrows and robins who don’t budge an inch, as we all gobble the fruit from our tree. Cedar waxwings, scarlet tanagers, orioles, and many nesting birds are attracted to the fruit, as well as deer, turkey, and the odd bears you may have lurking around.  It is also the host plant for red spotted purple butterflies.

A few blooms should be lingering on the lovely Carolina Allspice or as I prefer to call it, Sweet Betsy.  Wander over by the river birches and take a sniff of the fruity fragrance which is variously described as smelling like pineapples, strawberries, or bananas.  The curiously fragrant flowers attract beetles and other insect pollinators, for this primitive plant evolved before bees (B.B.).  

Virginia Sweetspire begins blooming in early June, and is a real showstopper with its pendulous racemes of fragrant white flowers and spectacular fall color. A number of butterflies and pollinators are attracted to the sweet nectar. 

Two of our most fragrant native azaleas also bloom in June, the Sweet Azalea with white flowers with the heady scent of heliotrope, and the Swamp Azalea with spicily fragrant white or pink flowers.  Hummingbirds, butterflies, and other insects relish the nectar of these lovely summer bloomers.

Several native viburnums found in the garden and in the nearby woods by Beach 5 also bloom with flat topped lacy white flowers in June.  Their colorful fall fruit attract flocks of birds such as cedar waxwings, thrashers, robins, woodpeckers, and flycatchers, as well as small animals such as chipmunks, squirrels, foxes, and even turtles.  Spring azure butterflies feed on the nectar.

The Smooth Hydrangeas begin their long season of bloom in June when their flowers open apple green and slowly mature to white.  Flowers are still showy into fall, when the flowers turn back to a soft green. 

Many showy native perennials also begin to bloom in June and attract a variety of butterflies, other insect pollinators, songbirds, and even hummingbirds to the garden. Bowman’s Root relishes the moist soil near the lake and flaunts its airy panicles of starry white flowers held aloft on wiry red stems. The alumroots are foliage plants par excellence with their large ruffled leaves and tiny bell like flowers pollinated by hummingbirds. Creeping verbena with its masses of violet flowers attracts many kinds of butterflies, while the wild columbines and beardtongues provide a vital nectar source for ruby throated hummingbirds as well as butterflies. Spiderworts thrive in the moist soil near the lake, and their three petalled blue flowers bloom for months also attracting a variety of butterflies. And last but definitely not least, Butterfly weed and swamp milkweed, both members of the milkweed family, are virtual butterfly magnets and are the primary host of the monarch butterfly. 

Grab a cup of Joe or tea, and join fellow gardeners and nature lovers down at the RPA garden on Sunday mornings or the occasional Friday evening for, a little weeding, a lot of friendship, and a tour of the garden and visiting wildlife.