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Saugus Gardens in the Summer

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Here’s what’s blooming in town this week to make your walks more enjoyable


By Laura Eisener


Judy McCarthy enjoys long walks almost every day from her home in Malden through Revere and Saugus on the bike trail. One day this week she was delighted to see this great blue heron (Ardea herodias) take off from the marsh. Herons, egrets, ospreys and bald eagles often fly over the Saugus River, the marsh and sometimes ponds in search of small fish, which make up a significant part of their diet. Judy often sees these birds and enjoys photographing them, as well as flowers in the gardens she sees. This time of year brings many interesting sights no matter where in town you like to walk.

At Saturday’s Scholarship Reception and Memorial Anniversary Service at the Harold L. Vitale Park on Ballard Street, a beautiful bouquet – which included blue delphiniums (Delphinium elatum), white lilies (Lilium sp.) and white chrysanthemums (Chrysanthemum moriifolium) – adorned the statue “Artorius” by John Raimondi and remained through the Juneteenth weekend. Saugus Officer Harold Vitale was born on June 14, 1943, and would have celebrated his 80th birthday this year if he had not been killed in the line of duty June 18, 1985. Every June, scholarships are given to local high school students from Saugus, Revere and surrounding towns in the park established in his memory in 1992.

Delphiniums are among the beautiful summer flowers and can be found in sky blue, shades of lilac and purple, white and occasionally pink. Of about 300 species in the genus, the most popular are hybrids of a Eurasian species sometimes called alpine delphinium or candle larkspur (Delphinium elatum), with tall spikes of showy flowers. They are sometimes a bit tricky to grow and are usually short-lived perennials. Since they are somewhat toxic, they are generally left alone by rabbits and other animals, which sometimes destroy other garden plants. Occasionally the flower spikes are over five feet tall.

Sweet mock orange (Philadelphus coronarius) is a shrub that was very popular in mid-20th-century suburban landscapes, but it went out of style for a few decades and now seems to be making a bit of a comeback. The fragrant white June-blooming flowers smell quite a bit like orange blossoms, and they were popular in bridal bouquets where the climate made real orange blossoms difficult to come by. The species epithet “coronarius” actually means for crowns or garlands, referring to its use as a floral bridal accessory. This hardy shrub and a close relative with less fragrant but showier flowers (Philadelphus inodorus) are easy to grow and bloom well in sun or part shade. The flowers in this genus generally have four petals, and it is sometimes confused with dogwoods, which have four prominent bracts of a somewhat similar shape. Like dogwoods, mock oranges have opposite rather than alternate foliage arrangement.

An evergreen native shrub with clusters of pink to white flowers blooming now is mountain laurel or calico bush (Kalmia latifolia). Despite its common name it is not related to the true laurel or bay laurel (Laurus nobilis), which crowns the heads of marathon runners and gives flavor to tomato sauces, but the evergreen leaves do bear some resemblance. Mountain laurel is a common wild shrub in many parts of Massachusetts, especially the western half of the state, and it is also planted in gardens. Like its relatives, rhododendrons and azaleas, the flower buds blooming now were produced last summer. However, the drought of last year seems to have had less ill effects on the buds of mountain laurels, and they are having a very good year. In the wild, mountain laurels often grow over 20 feet tall, but there are also dwarf forms, which are very popular in gardens, that grow only about four feet tall. They can grow very well in deep shade but flower better if they get at least a few hours of sunlight a day. They can be seen in gardens all around town, but there are several near the wooden fences around the Saugus Ironworks.

  Editor’s Note: Laura Eisener is a landscape design consultant who helps homeowners with landscape design, plant selection and placement of trees and shrubs, as well as perennials. She is a member of the Saugus Garden Club and offered to write a series of articles about “what’s blooming in town” shortly after the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic. She was inspired after seeing so many people taking up walking.

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