Earlier this year you may remember that our specimen Cercis siliquastrum got blown over in a series of three gales day after day. We did finally manage to get it back up and tie firmly to its post which we put into a new hole. We then kept our fingers crossed and looked what happened in May! Such a stoic of a tree!
Back with my garden journal I will now share with you my pages for April, a strange month as we are in total lock down because of the coronavirus problems. The many sunny warm days allowed us the luxury of leisurely time in the garden and even time for lots of sitting on our several garden benches enjoying coffee and cakes.
On my first page I featured the Kiwi Vine, the climbing plant which opens with beautiful moss green leaf buds which turn a purer green as the days progress. I wrote, “April sprung onto the scene with frost-free nights and days littered with ‘April Showers’, sunshine and sparkling light rain. Leaves change on shrubs, trees and climbers are opening rapidly, changing colour, shape and texture. Our Kiwi Vine has beautiful foliage and we enjoy observing how each bud opens day by day.”
The first batch of photos was taken during the first week of the month.
For the next set of photos I wrote, “The third week of the month and the foliage is fully open and bright green.”
I then moved on to consider some of the gardening tasks we undertook in April. “Gardening tasks for April included planting Gladioli and Asiatic Lily bulbs in the ‘Hot Garden’ and cutting down our coppiced Cornus shrubs and pollarded Cornus Midwinter Fire.”
“The plants on the nursery shelves have now been potted on and returned refreshed to their shelves.”
“Jude has pricked out the seedlings of early sowings of annuals such as Cosmos and Sweet Peas, and I re-potted my succulents, Salvias and Fuschias” which have had winter protection.”
On the opposite page I revealed my foliage plants of the month, our many Acer palmatums, and I wrote, “Foliage plant of the month is Acer palmatum the wonder of spring and autumn.”
Tulips featured on the next double page spread where I shared photos of “Tulips – open and closed!”
The final double page spread of this month’s journal features the early Imperial Fritillaries, of which we grow two cultivars and on the opposite page my plant of the month for bark and stems, Cercis siliquastrum.
“Flowering plant of the month for April is the very bright extravagant looking Fritillaria imperialis. We grow just two in our Shrub Garden, F.i. ‘Willliam Rex’ which is a rich orange-red colour with each flower topped in purple, and F. i. ‘Lutea’ a beautiful clear yellow one. But they attract the dreaded Lily Beetles!!”
I created i-Pad paintings of each when in full fat bud and then took photos of them when they had opened up.
I wrote, “Plant of the month for ‘stems and bark, for April is Cercis siliquastrum, a tree that I have chosen not so much for its colour or texture but for its attraction to lichen and its unusual trait of displaying its little cerise flowers directly appearing from its bark.”
“A close-up phot of the bark of the Cercis bark shows its texture and the variety of colour coming from lichens.”
I created a painting of the flower and lichen on a twig of the Cercis, using watercolour pencils, fibre tip pens and watercolour colour washes..
And that is my journal for April so soon I will be starting my May entries.
It is the last month of spring and the garden is alive, everything is thriving and growing apace. But the weather is still confusing our plants. Towards the end of the month we had a few daffodils still in flower alongside normal May flowering plants. Here is my journal entries for the month.
I started by referring back to the weather in April, “April disappeared without giving us a day of ‘April showers’, the garden is still confused by the weather but we carry on enjoying being outside whatever the weather. The garden seems weeks ahead of where it should be, with trees and shrubs flowering and leafing out of season. May is a great month for flowering shrubs, using their fresh foliage as a foil.” I followed with photographs of just a few of our flowering shrubs.
Cercis siliquastrum Loropetalum chinensis “Fire Dance”
Azalea luteum Pittosporum tennuifolium ‘Gold Star’
Pittosporum tennuifolium ‘Silver Queen’ Buddleja salviflora
Over the page I continued by writing, “In May many of our flowering shrubs have white or off-white coloured flowers such as Viburnums in variety, Aronia and deciduous Euonymus.”
On the opposite page Euphorbias take over, a plant that fills our garden with its bright chartreuse, yellow and green. It is a very exciting plant family.
“Euphorbias -one of our favourite plant families. We grow so many! Brilliant form, texture and architectural beauty comes from foliage, bracts, stems and the tiniest of flowers. Euphorbias deserve looking at closely. Get down and enjoy the details.”
Turning over to the next double page we move from Euphorbias to garden jobs and the far more delicate perennial Violas.
“May is a busy month in our Avocet patch, a month when we are still deadheading spring-flowering bulbs and beginning regular mowing and edging of our grass paths and lawns.”
“Ian our garden helper, mows and trims edges while I reorganise my loppers.”
“Jude hangs out the hanging baskets and puts succulent pots outside.”
“We have planted strawberries in the strawberry pot.”
“Our tomatoes and courgette are now snug in their growbags.”
Violas feature on the opposite page where I wrote, “Recently we bought some old varieties of hardy perennial Violas, including V. Elaine Quin, V. Columbine, V. Etaine Cream and V. Belmont Blue.”
“We grow dozens of different ferns in the shadier parts of the garden. The star fern for May has to be ‘Matteuccia struthiopteris’ the Ostrich Fern.”
As we move on to the next double page we discover my Acer pruning and lots of Alliums.
“I enjoy pruning many of our shrubs in a Japanese style called Niwaki, which finds the beauty in each shrub, exposes their lower limbs and lets light in. Our Acer palmatum ‘Bloodgood’ hasn’t been prunes in this way for a couple of years so May was the time I tackled it. The photos show before and after forms. I removed about 50% of the growth.”
“May is the month when our first variety of Alliums are at their best. Hundreds sweep through our borders with their beautiful, bee-attracting purple spherical flower heads.”
And so the final page for my garden journal in May, where we look at probably our favourite tree and the one asked about and admired most by visitors to our garden, Cercis siliquastrum.
I wrote, “Cercis siliquastrum, probably our favourite tree in the garden was in full flower in April and still looks magnificent at the end of May. I treat this to a Niwaki prune too as the first photo shows. As it begins to slowly drop its pink petals it leaves pools of bright pink on the lawn and on the seat beneath it.”
So as spring moves towards its end and we look forward to summertime, it is time to look at my Garden Journal 2017 entries for May.
I began by writing, “May is the month when Spring turns to Summer and Roses are the stars of many gardens. Irises shine out alongside them and many early hardy perennials join in.”
“Rosa rugosa – deliciously scented purple rose flowers throughout the summer, followed by large, glossy, red hips.
“This is the month when all our patient hardening off of non-hardy “delicates” pays off and we can return them to the garden where they add another dimension.
Hayworthia cymbiformis with its rosettes of boat-shaped succulent translucent leaves, hails from South Africa.”
I did a watercolour and fibre-tip pen picture of this unusual little succulent, which proved quite a challenge.
Turning over to look at the next double page spread we see a sea of pinks and purples. I share our Cercis siliquastrum with you and some more May specials, all decked out in pinks.
“Plant of the month for the month of May is a small, flowering tree, Cercis siliquastrum , a favourite.” Our Cercis is also called the Judas Tree and the Mediterranean cercis.
I continued to look at May special plants, more pink ones!
“More May time specials – those little flowers so worthy of us seeking them out. Take a walk around our patch and I will look down to see what is looking special. Sugar pinks……..Shocking pinks….. Lipstick pinks…..”
Turn over once again and we see that the pages consider the very special little plants, the Dodecatheons, with Euphorbias alongside.
“Dodecatheon – secret gems of the shade garden – sit demurely in dappled shade. Their delicacy and the unique form of their flowers ask the gardener to stop, stoop and study them close up. They are members of the Primula family, the Primulaceae, but it is hard to spot any family features.
The flowers nod on slender stems rising from a basal clump of foliage. We grow the cerise D. cusickii and the white-flowered D. media White Shooting Star.
Close up we find yellow, brown and pink on the white flowers and yellow, orange, red and even blue on the pink flowers.
Dodecatheon are true shooting stars of any shaded border.”
On the page opposite I feature “Bracts at their brightest and best” and go on to look at Euphorbias, featuring photographs of a few of our many varieties. “Euphorbias burst into the brightest possible shades of yellow, orange and red in May. A good month to do so as the bracts catch the rain drops from the frequent showers and as the sun follows on the colours of these bracts brighten further. Here is a small selection of our many much-loved Euphorbias, and more will follow later in May.”
My journal entries for May continues with a look at our garden after a shower, “After the rain……. Plants buck up, birds sing louder and bees return to search for flowers to rob of pollen and nectar. Leaves catch the last rain drops to fall and store them for later. Droplets sit on veins and in leaf centres and act as lenses. Even the birdbaths are topped up!”
Water, water everywhere ……………..
Over another page and we look at some of our little garden friends and allies and next to that a painting challenge for me as I try to paint two very delicate heads of flowers.
“May is the month when our wildlife friends live and work alongside us everyday, beneath our feet in the soil, in the plants surrounding us and in the sky above. From first light, if not slightly before, birds begin their chorus growing to a crescendo as more and more join in. Blackbirds, robins and wrens are first to open their hearts to us with loud song and this trio are also the last to go quiet after the light dims. Owls keep calling throughout the dark hours.
Above our heads swallows, house martins and swifts chatter and squeal as they put on balletic flying demonstrations, catching high-flying insects as they do so. Under stones, inside shrubs and in our greenhouse spiders seem so busy, constantly rushing around.”
“Beautiful flower heads, a painting challenge for May.”
My jottings for May next turned to flowering shrubs and roses.
“Roses and other flowering shrubs.”
A selection of our May-flowering roses …………………..
………… and flowering shrubs.
Back to Euphorbias as we turn the page over and I feature more of our collection of the unusual plants with bracts as bright as any flower.
“More crazy Euphorbias! They have a futuristic look to them, each whorl of bracts like a spaceship.”
“So varied! So bright!”
“Despite their acidic colours, Euphorbias partner well with other plants.”
“We often partner one Euphorbia with another.”
So turning over the page we find the final page for May in my 2017 Garden Journal where I share some of our flowering climbers with you.
“Climbing plants begin to place splashes of colour high up in the trees and on obelisks at eye height, adding another dimension to the Avocet patch. Akebia, Clematis, Lonicera and Coronilla.”
So, the first book in my 2017 Garden Journal comes to an end as the month of May does also. My notes, photos and paintings for the month of June will start off the second 2017 book. See you then.