Nature Calendar: June in the British Garden
Even allowing for the many unexpected changes in the British climate, June is one of the driest months of the year, and brings welcome summer warmth. It is often the sunniest month of summer.
This is the month of; of the many species that reach perfection at this time, the deep red of Rosa moyesii and R. hugonis, with its graceful arches of yellow , are among the most striking.
The herbaceous border is also a kaleidoscope of colour, with poppies, potentillas, paeonies, and tall spires of lupins.
The passion flower is of special interest, and stocks scent the evening air. The graceful arches of Solomon’s seal are white with flowers, and the great trumpets of the day lily are also open, though each bloom lasts for only one day.
Many varieties of iris are already in bloom, but the long season for scabious and for the blue Omphalodes cappadocica is only beginning. Geraniums and alliums, candytuft and campanulas are all in flower, while columbines shake on their wiry stems at the faintest breath of wind.
Window-boxes and hanging baskets make colourful displays.
Hay-making, hedge-trimming and verge-brushing are in full swing in June, but on untouched roadside hedges honeysuckle, bramble, elder, dog rose and field rose should be at their best. Under the hedges and on the commons, the more noticeable of the many summer flowers are the poppy, silver-weed, cranesbill, toadflax, St. John’s wort, ragwort, agrimony, hog-weed (cow parsnip),goosegrass(cleavers) and willow herb. Hop trefoil and others of the clover family are now in flower, as well as yarrow and the first thistles.
Certain flowers, including wild mignonette, rest harrow, stonecrop and rock-rose, are confined to chalk and limestone areas. There, too, are the yellow-flowered rough hawkbit and ox-tongue. Out on the dry commons are milkwort, with deep blue flowers that pale to white; and pink centaury, growing among heath bedstraw, creeping cinquefoil, and the four-petalled tormentil.
In woodlands, foxglove flowers profusely where the timber has been cleared, whereas the dainty enchanter’s nightshade likes some shade. The lesser spearwort thrives in wetter places, while at the edge of the water is the taller water dropwort, and in the water itself several varieties of water crowfoot.
FLOWERING SHRUBS AND TREES
This month also brings the sweet, heavy, all-pervading scent of lime flowers, and several shrubs and trees provide colour in June, includingalternifolia, which is decked with tiny mauve flowers.
Birdsong is diminishing by now; nightingales and robins cease singing by the middle of the month, and cuckoos, blackbirds and others also become silent as the year moves towards midsummer.
Large numbers of swifts spend many hours feeding on the wing, flying high on warmer days to take the rising flies.
On lakes, mallard drakes begin to moult and grow their duller, non-breeding plumage. Gulls nest on cliff ledges and shingle beaches, alongside the terns with their distinctive forked tails.
The most common of the British brown butterflies, the meadow brown, is often seen in June. The small pearl-bordered fritillary frequents the damper woods and marshy fields, while large and small skippers stay near the edges of woods and on rough commons. By the end of the month, the ringlet can be seen in country lanes and woodland rides.
Summer broods of many spring butter-flies are due, including the small white, the small tortoiseshell and, less common, the comma. Migrant clouded yellow are now feeding in clover and lucerne fields.
The migrant humming-bird hawk-moth visits gardens in June to feed at the petunias. Day-flying moths found on commons include the cinnabar and the five-spot and six-spot burnets; the empty cocoon cases of the latter are often seen fixed to the stems of grasses.
Two damsel-flies seen for the first time this month are the demoiselles Agrion virgo, with partly shaded wings, and A. splendens, with fully shaded wings. Both frequent tall plants and trees near the streams from which they have recently emerged.
This is one of the few times of the year when it is possible to see that nocturnal creature, the badger; on warm evenings, at twilight, a whole family may be abroad in the woods. There, too, young foxes can be seen at play. Natterjack toads can be heard calling loudly at this time of year, while frogs help the gardener by devouring insects and slugs.