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My Garden Journal in May

Just as I completed my journal for June I realised that I had not yet posted “My Garden Journal for May”, so here it is now for you to enjoy! The June journal report won’t be far behind!

Summer creeping in can only mean that our May garden is changing by the day. Exuberance in every border with things growing before your eyes. A month of excitement! I began my May entry in my garden journal by writing,

“May means exuberance! It is the month when our garden shows us the ability it has to surprise. It shows off its strength and its artistic talents. Growth is so rapid and colour so exciting, that we are aware of what our garden means to us and also aware of its power that Mother Nature possesses and uses with pride and to excess!”

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I then turn to looking back at my original garden journey recording the first few years that we have lived and gardened at Avocet.

“Looking back in my garden journal that recorded the early years at Avocet, I read a paragraph that shows just how similar May is now. 

“The garden is bursting with life – butterflies including Holly Blues, bees and so many birds. Suddenly the garden is alive with birds giving extra colour, sound and movement. There seems to be so many finches – Goldfinches, Chaffinches and Greenfinches. Swifts, Swallows and House Martins swoop overhead especially in the evening.”

Sadly though there are far fewer Swifts, Swallows and House Martins overhead. So many have not survived their long migrations. What does the future hold for these beautiful acrobats?”

Turning over the page of my journal and we see the next two pages feature Acers and Roses.

“Acers are one of the many stars of the May garden, a month when their foliage and stems are delicate and colourful.”

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“May means Roses and by the middle of the month we have many buds and pioneer blooms. Reds and pinks dominate at the moment. Yellows and oranges are still to come.”

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I moved on to look at one of the climbers we enjoy in our garden and at the grasses that have now started to grow rapidly.

“Think of climbers early in the summer garden and Clematis is the first plant to spring to mind.”

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“Grasses are growing quickly now and the myriad shades of green move skyward in our borders.”

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Turning over again and succulents are discussed. These are a recent interest and I have only been growing them and propagating them for a few years.

Succulent plants are an interest that has grown over the last few years. Beginning with Aeoniums and Echeverias I soon branched out.”

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“Troughs of succulents grace the Rill Garden in May and on into October when the risk of frost mean that they retreat to the warmth of our greenhouse.”

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When we turn over next we see that I talk of Hostas and in particular those growing in our Bog Garden. The bog garden is so full of life at the moment with plants growing appreciably by the day.

“Hostas are one of the more subtle of our garden favourites both their foliage and later in the year their flowers. The Bog Garden next to our Wildlife Pond and snuggled up to it is a place of rapid growth in May.”

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White is not a colour I particularly appreciate in the garden and as a result I do not use it much.

“White is not my favourite colour in the garden. I particularly do not like white painted garden furniture or white painted fences, trellises or walls. We tend to paint our seats in ivory or cream which are much softer colours particularly on bright sunny days. Our fences we paint in browns and trellis work in gentle shades of green which acts as a great foil for our plants. I think this dislike of white is to do with our weather as it can work so well in other countries. Where flowers are concerned I appreciate them most in May when white can look good with the brightness of fresh foliage. Below are photos of a few particularly good white flowers, Viburnums, Cornus, white Bluebells, Iberis and Camassias. Some of these are the purest of white where others have gentle hints of colour. The Camassia has a green tint to it and the Iberis the gentlest hint of pink.”

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As we leave May behind we can look forward to the longest day, the time when day and night share equal number of hours.

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autumn autumn colours birds colours flowering bulbs garden photography garden wildlife gardening grasses half-hardy perennials hardy perennials house martins light light quality migration ornamental grasses ornamental trees and shrubs Shropshire swallows trees

My Garden Journal – September

The September pages of my garden journal sees the first signs of autumn creeping in, colours changing, light creeping in at a lower level and our summer migrant birdlife disappearing. The skies are empty and quiet now that the Swallows and Martins have left us for warmer climes. We are missing the sight and sounds of Warblers flitting among the trees and shrubs but hopefully some Garden Warblers and Chiffchaffs will decide to stay with us. Climate change seems to be encouraging more migrants to remain in the UK all year through.

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Being a British gardener I start by talking about the weather! “The “Met Office” weathermen tell us that September is the first month of Autumn, but we hope it will be the continuation of Summer. This year September is unlike Summer, and is not even an Indian Summer. It is a dismal month of heavy skies and rain. Every flower that fights its way through the gloom is a ray of sunshine.”

Next comes my usual piece of writing from Jenny Joseph’s little book, “Lead by the Nose”.

For September, it is harvesting and clearing what is there on the one hand, with a great deal of sharp acrid savoury smells from dead-heading, disentangling, weeding, cutting down leaf and stalk, digging up roots.”

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I move on to consider a special group of plants which Jude and I love in our garden, the airy, whispy plants that can’t help but move in the gentlest of breezes, the “Windcatchers”.

“September has been a windy month, which has accentuated the part played by the “Windcatchers”, those special plants which display the ability to catch the slightest breeze and dance in it. These are the tall grasses, Stipa gigantea, Miscanthus sinensis and the Molinias and Calamagrostis, the airy flowering perennials especially Verbena bonariensis and Gaura lindheimeri. Gauras have variety names that suggest their windcatching skills, “Whirling Butterflies” and “Summer Breeze”. 

The photos below show what a beautiful plant Verbena bonariensis is with its bright purple flower heads nodding in the breeze atop its stiff thin stems. It is a true wildlife magnet too attracting Butterflies and Moths, Bees and Hoverflies and many other flying insects. As the light fades in the evening the flowers glow and their scent intensifies to attract night flying insects and a miriad of Moths.

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The movement of grasses and their big cousins the Bamboos also adds sounds to our garden, rustling, tinkling and sounds like those of the seashore, shifting sands, rolling pebbles and retreating waves.”

Grasses are such an important element in our garden and help create an all year round garden. From their fresh green leaves emerging in the spring right through to their flowers and on to their seedheads which stand right through the winter.

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Surprises are the subject of my next page.

Surprises are always fun in the garden, those little things not planned for or expected. Here are two surprises for September in our garden.

We were pleasantly surprised at the rich autumnal colours of our Euphorbia griffithii “Dixter” which grows in our Beth Chatto garden, and how this damaged Verbascum repaired itself.”

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My watercolour paintings of Acer rufinerve and Phlomis russeliana feature on the next page titled “Seedpods for September”. These seeds are capsules of promise, time capsules. The wing-like Acer seeds are shaped and moulded to allow a gentle descent in the wind, each maple key parachuting down to find a place to germinate. The pompom seedheads of the Phlomis are tightly packed balls of rough textured seeds designed to stick to any passing creature who will wander off and drop it away from the parent plant where it can find space to become a herbaceous plant with hairy heart shaped leaves and yellow-orange balls of flowers. 

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We now move on to the end of the month when the weather surprised us as it changed for the better, change to good gardening weather and good weather for appreciating gardens.

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“As the month came to its end we were suddenly treated to an “Indian Summer”. The skies were clearest blue, the sun shone and temperatures went back up. The garden loved it as much as the gardeners! Our two varieties of Schizostylus, “The Major” and “Alba”are flowering better than ever before.”

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“Two real stars of the autumn garden are our two Salvias that are too tender for us to leave out over our winters, so we grow them in pots and bring them indoors as soon as the cold nights appear. They are Salvia “Amistad” with its bright purple and black flowers and Salvia confertiflora with its long spikes of red and salmon flowers.”

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So that is my journal all about our garden in September. I am already writing and painting my entry for October so that will be the next episode of “My Garden Journal”.

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bird watching birds garden wildlife house martins migration natural pest control swallows wildlife

Mad Autumn Moments with Martins

Six weeks or so ago our flocks of martins suddenly departed southward and the swallows gathered on the telephone wires above the road passing the front of our house. They chattered and fidgeted, stretched their wings and tails and preened busily ensuring that they were in the best of trim for their long migratory adventure.

Then one day the skies were silent and the wires empty.

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But a week later as we were working away in the garden borders we heard excited calls overhead and dozens of swallows were swirling around just above shrub height. They were so close to us as they enjoyed a feeding frenzy. They must have been en route south from further up North, Scotland or the Lake District perhaps, when the big old oak tree in the paddock behind us and the gardens of our little group of houses called them down. This place meant insects to gorge on to refill and prepare themselves by stocking up for the next leg of their long migration. As we watched stunned by their excitement, their noise and flying acrobatics, they were joined by an equal number of house martins.

They periodically stopped in mixed groups on our roof ridge to chatter and catch up on the latest migration news. For us of course there was the added bonus of all those garden pests being hoovered up by gaped beaks. Great pest control!

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Now in early October they have definitely all gone. We miss their constant chattering in the sky above the garden and await their return in the Spring.