Gardening with Galligan: Summer brings blooming daylilies and phlox

CAROL GALLIGAN PHOTO One of my phlox, just coming into bloom. I love that color!
One of my phlox, just coming into bloom. I love that color!

When last we were together, the June solstice had just taken place, the weather was still cool, the nights even cooler and the roses were in bloom. Well, we’re full into summer now and although the weather is still pleasant, the days are warmer and so are the nights. And everywhere, everything is in bloom.

Let’s start with daylilies, otherwise known as hemerocallis. Shelter Island used to be “daylily heaven” before they widened Route 114 and killed most of them. My daughter is still upset because she can’t find any “plain enough” to remind her of back then. She’s right, of course, they are so hybridized now, as to be quite fancy.

I’ve tried to take note of where some of the older ones are still blooming, thinking that maybe in the fall, I can go back and get some seed for her. I have to own up to liking the yellow ones. Stella D’Oro is a favorite. I don’t have enough sun to squander on daylilies but if I did, that would be my first choice. There are fancier ones worth noting as well.

My phlox are in full bloom. Phlox are rightly called “the mainstay of the summer garden.” Hardy, prolific, in a wide range of colors — pale blue, violet, pink, bright red or white ­— it’s hard to imagine summer without them.

Phlox should be planted in spring, spacing the plants 1 to 2 feet apart. If you bought the plants potted, dig a hole twice the size of the pot. Make sure when you put the plant in the hole, that you place it so that the top of the plant remains level with the top of the soil surrounding it. Don’t dump soil against the stem, which will rot it.

All of the border phlox like their soil moist but well-drained and their placement in full to three-quarters sun. If you fertilize heavily, I have found it possible to manage with half sun, but why walk uphill? If you don’t have enough sun, find something that likes what you do have. Giving in to nature is always a fight worth losing.

On the Island, lilies are either in bloom or coming into bloom. Lilies are reason enough for having a garden! The choices now are extraordinary and endless. Everything but blue but who would want a blue lily?

Years ago when I was still very much a novice, I remember reading that lilies “enjoy some afternoon shade.” For some reason, I was irked by that and wanted to inquire, “And would they care for a cup of tea?” It seemed so fussy. But after growing them for years, I would gladly bring them their afternoon cup of tea.

I can’t think of any flower that actually gives more “bang for the buck.” If you want to cut lilies and bring them indoors, you need to have tall and heavy vases. I have several beauties and although lilies are the only thing for which the vases are used — less than four weeks a year — I still love owning them. If you like orange, and I do, try “African Queen.”

So party on, my fellows. The weather holds so outdoor chores are not hateful. There has been enough rain so no one should be lugging hoses and the rest of the summer’s bloom awaits us.

Chore of the week: You should have done your next-to-last feeding now and if you haven’t, do it! The last one should be scheduled for early August. If you missed one, don’t miss another.