Carolyn Singer: June flowers, fragrance & open gardens |

Carolyn Singer: June flowers, fragrance & open gardens

Carolyn Singer
Carolyn Singer planted her Japanese snowdrop (Styrax) years ago, and now boasts several branches of small flowers.
Photo by Carolyn Singer

Fragrance is an element of the garden that invites us to pause in our busy lives. The sweet scents of roses, sweet peas and jasmine are a few of the summer flowers that evoke memories of past garden experiences. The lure is more than the often fleeting beauty of the blossoms.

For the past two weeks, as I have had time to garden, my focus has been the edible garden. For at least a week, the jasmine (Jasminum x stephanense) I pass by to get to this garden has drawn me to its delicate pink blossoms. The heady fragrance is a satisfying pause in my day.

Attractive trees

Planted many years ago, this attractive vine has neither tendrils to anchor it, nor a twining habit. But with some encouragement, I trained it over an arched entry to the garden in front of the house. Now it drapes gracefully over the structure.

My primary concern was the deer-resistance of this unusual jasmine. I need not have worried. The deer pay no attention to it, although much of the mature vine is well within reach.

A small tree I also planted years ago, Japanese snowdrop (Styrax japonica), has been its most glorious ever this year as each delicate branch carries hundreds of pendant small flowers. The honeybees have been foraging on the flowers since the first one opened three weeks ago. The progression of bloom has been a focal point of fragrance and bee activity.

The mature Styrax is about 20 feet in height, and delicate in appearance. Branches are almost horizontal, with a slight draping habit. Deer never do any damage, so I have left lower branches to add to the abundance of flowers.

In my unfenced garden of deer and deer-resistant plants, roses have no place. Edibles have priority in the fenced area. However, I am among the many people who appreciate roses for their range of colors, scents and length of bloom.

Roses may be the queen of scented flowers.

Parks to visit

The best local display of roses is a look back in history at the Empire Mine Park in Grass Valley. Many of the roses on display date back to the late 1800s. Take time for a self-guided tour of the Empire Park gardens, or join a guided garden tour at 11 a.m. Saturday or Sunday (except Aug. 25) through September. This park is a local gem!

June brings another garden tour, the special Colfax Garden Tour on June 23. The strength of this tour every year has been the focus on gardens that have been created and maintained by the resident gardener or gardeners. Visitors have a chance to immerse themselves in creative garden elements and appropriate plant choices. Tickets are available in Grass Valley at Weiss Nursery and A to Z Hardware.

‘Always something to learn’

With my interest in edibles, I am looking forward to exploring certified organic Stone’s Throw Farm. While I garden on a much smaller scale, the value of observing any vegetable production makes it possible for me to improve my techniques. As a good gardening friend once observed, there is always something to learn.

The owners of Stone’s Throw Farm suggest garden tour attendees bring shopping bags to purchase the organic produce freshly picked from the garden.

Landscaping on sloped property is a common challenge in the Sierra Foothills. The Sanders garden should inspire you to view this as an opportunity. Contrasting foliage in this garden is a reminder that flowers may be short-lived but the beauty of foliage color carries the garden through many months of the year, often including winter.

Gardens are as unique as the gardeners who had the vision to create them. Take your time to absorb the many details of each site. When you see a plant you have never seen before, take a photo for future reference in planning your own garden.

June is a strong month for perennials. Last time I visited the Empire Mine Park garden, I observed an uncommon iris, Iris spuria. Found primarily on old homestead sites, this tall iris with beautiful foliage reminds me that some of our best perennials are “old-fashioned.”

The surprise and pleasure in discovering the unexpected is the primary reason for taking time to visit an open garden.

Carolyn Singer has gardened organically in Nevada County since 1977. She is the author of the award-winning “The Seasoned Gardener, 5 decades of sustainable and practical garden wisdom”, and two volumes of “Deer in My Garden” (deer-resistant plants), available locally. Send your gardening questions and comments to Check out her website at

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