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My Garden Journal 2019 – May

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

Blueberry

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.”

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My Garden Journal 2017 – May

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.

  

“Bearded iris.”

  

“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.

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Croft Castle month by month – part two – February

So here we are back at Croft Castle for the second wander in 2015 around the grounds for my February post. We thought we would find that little would have changed since our January visit, but we found plenty to see and really enjoyed our wander. Fresh buds looked ready and waiting to burst into new life when temperatures rise and light values increase. Droplets of rain from a recent shower caught the light where they lay upon the leaves of a Hypericum.

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In the long mixed border beside the tall walls which enclose the walled garden the first flowers of the year had opened, the delicate blooms of the snowdrops, Galanthus nivalis and a few pink blooms dotted amongst the marbled foliage of the Cyclamen coum.

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Gardeners had recently discovered a cobbled path running diagonally beneath the lawn close to the gateway to the walled garden. We imagined the excitement when the first signs appeared or perhaps the chink of a spade heard as it hit a cobble. When fully excavated no doubt it will join up with the network of cobble path to be found throughout the garden and grounds.

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Inside the walled garden the temperature rose noticeably and we were well protected from the cold of the winter winds. Enjoy this batch of photos showing what we found within the walls.

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The foliage of two different Epimedium plants looked good together, one with its coat of glossy green the other a rich shining bronze.

 

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This old willow with branches rambling haphazardly and randomly caught our attention as its silver catkins shone out in its dark corner of the walled garden. Some branches were severely affected by fasciation causing them to be deformed and tightly curled. Others were subject to gall growths caused by gall wasps.

 

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The blue gate that had enticed us to pass through it in January was open again, and we diverted easily to see what was happening in the bothy and greenhouses.

 

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Snowdrops found the shelter under every tree within the walls and encircled their trunks in white bracelets.

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We left the protection of the walled garden and wandered around the borders closer to the castle. We were amused by the sight of this caterpillar up a tree. He was a part of a children’s trail discovering the delights of Alice in Wonderland.

 

 

 

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When we had skirted most of the castle we reached the little church which on our last visit was covered in scaffolding due to being subject to renovation. We were glad to find the builders had left the little building in peace.

 

 

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Little narrow borders feature in the grounds of the church and looked full of promise. For now though we had to be content with the display put on by this wonderfully colourful Euphorbia.

From there we returned to the car park to make our way home. On our next visit to Croft Castle we will hopefully discover many more signs of spring.

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Another Wander around our Garden in June

We can start the second part of our wander by looking again at the front garden. Buds give us hints of blooms to come in midsummer, Phlomis, Oriental Poppies, Erygiums and Echinops. Promises of yellows, reds and steely blues.

Foliage colour and texture can be as striking as the most colourful of flowers.

Our collection of Clematis are beginning to flower and others are covered in robust buds.

Flower colours have been so important during the first few weeks of this month simply as an antidote to dull days and dark skies. It matters not whether it is a gaudy cerise beauty or a subtle green or white.

Blue on blue.

Another view of our Freda Border.

Our mini-meadows in their pots are developing well. We think we may be onto a winner.

The Shed Bed created on the site of an old shed which we demolished when we moved in, is really pleasing as below the shed we found just rubble, gravel, broken pots and sand. We added wheelbarrows of compost to improve it and now every little flower is a true gem.

A vine grows over one end of the greenhouse acting as a natural shading agent as well as feeding the gardeners. The startlingly red flowering currant has hitched a lift along it so the vine drips with red droplets.

We enjoy these irises as cut flowers but bees take advantage of them before we pick them. This clump is growing through our stepover apples. Double harvesting – cut flowers followed by apples.

The planting around the pool has closed in and made it an intimate area. Nearby the Prairie Garden is bursting with fresh blooms.

In the Secret Garden Aquilegias and Alliums look good alongside the purple foliage of Pentstemon Huskers Red.

These aeonium enjoy the hottest part of the garden, the Rill Garden.

To one side of the rill we grow a snake bark maple, with silver and green striped bark, cream and red seed capsules and in autumn it has amazing rich red foliage. A wonderful specimen tree to finish this garden wander underneath.

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Impulse buying at nurseries – is this true retail therapy?

We hate shopping in town centres, retail parks and especially supermarkets. How can people refer to such unpleasant things as being any sort of therapy? But put us in a nursery and everything seems different – we get tempted every time! We have just visited two of our favourite nurseries half an hour from home just into the Welsh countryside outside Welshpool, The Dingle and  its sister, The Derwin. We went to buy a couple of plants for a container that sits empty at the end of the central path in the back garden. It has long been crying out for some plants. We came back with a boot full of plants, some for that pot, some for another pot, some alpines, a couple of shrubs and some perennials. It happens to us all the time, but just look at our booty! We are definitely into coloured foliage.

Euphorbia Silver Swan and Euphorbia Walberton's Rudolf
Heucheras Frosted Violet and Mahogany
Hellebore lividus
Bergenias - Bach, Winterglut and Winter Glow.
Osmanthus x macrodonta and Luma apiculata "Glanleam Gold"