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My Garden Journal 2020 – May

My May pages for my garden journal are full of summery gardening. I opened with a page featuring two of my paintings of blue irises, one Iris germanica and the other Iris sibirica. I used Japanese brush pens.

I wrote, “May is the month when spring morphs into summer, a time when we can get warm sunny days and blue skies occasionally interrupted by days with biting cold winds and frosty nights. The garden fills rapidly with boisterous growth with flowers on trees, shrubs and herbaceous plants.

The iris family have the most unusually structured flowers in our garden, with their flags, falls and landing strips for bees.”

In contrast to the bright blues of our iris I looked at euphorbias on the opposite page where I created  a montage of photos of closeups of the heads of euphorbias, with their bright greens and yellows of their bracts and flowers. I wrote, “Bracts and flowers work in harmony on our large collection of Euphorbias. The flowers are very much less significant than the bracts that surround them.”

Turn over onto the next double page spread and we consider azaleas and succulents. I wrote on the first page, “We grow very few Azaleas in our gardens apart from a couple of deciduous varieties, ‘Luteum’ and ‘Golden Eagle’. My painting is of  ‘Golden Eagle’.

 

 

On the page opposite ‘Golden Eagle’ I discussed some work I was doing with succulents and I wrote, “For a few days in May I busied myself sorting out our succulent container gardens, using cuttings from last year plus some new selections. By the end of summer all these containers will be full and each plant will give me new cuttings.”

Onto the next double page we look at more azaleas and thalictrums, with azaleas on the left hand page. I wrote, “I have selected miniature azaleas as the flowering plant of the month for May. A few pages back I shared my watercolour painting of the orange flowered Azalea ‘Golden Eagle’, which is deciduous and scented. In the Japanese Garden we grow a few evergreens as used by Japanese garden designers.”

Pair of A. japonica ‘Ageeth’                              A. japonica ‘Spek’s Orange

 

A. japonica George Hyde

A. japonica ‘Spek’s Orange’

This next page looks at thalictrums, my foliage plant for May. My foliage plant of the month is Thalictrum of which we grow a wide selection. These are herbaceous perennials grown for both their flowers and foliage , but for now the foliage has the largest presence.”

For the final page of May I feature one of my favourite trees, a betula (birch). “Plant of the month for bark and stems is the most beautiful of birches, Betula albosinensis ‘Septentronalis”. It boasts white bark peeling to orange and salmon pink. The sun catches the peeling bark and it becomes fine brittle toffee.”

  

   

So when we next visit my garden journal we will be half way through the year – it is going far too quickly!

 

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colours flowering bulbs

Simply Beautiful – no 32 in an occasional series – iris flowers

Back with the 32nd post in my Simply Beautiful series where I look at the beauty of a single object, in this case Iris flowers, one white and one black found in the same garden.

   

Simply beautiful!

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buildings colours garden buildings garden design garden photography garden ponds garden pools gardening gardens gardens open to the public hardy perennials Herefordshire irises nurseries ornamental trees and shrubs water garden water in the garden

A Water Garden around an Old Mill

A while ago now we visited this wonderful water garden created around an old water mill on the outskirts of the beautiful Herefordshire village of Pembridge. We decided it was about time for a return visit and also time to peruse the Old Chapel Galleries in the same village. After spending some time and too much money on new sculptures for the garden we drove a few miles on and parked up in the garden car park under lovely mature trees. We collected our hand drawn plan of the garden and set off to explore the Westonbury Mill Water Gardens. Immediately we were impressed by how fresh everything looked and were drawn to bright patches of colourful planting among the greenery.

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As in any good garden the quality and choice of individual plants is a key factor in making it an enjoyable place to visit. Take a look at these beauties at Westonbury Mill. Being a water garden designed around a series of streams and pools we searched out the water and marsh loving plants first and found many in flower including the following specimens. Irises including varieties of I.ensata, the wild flowerheads of Butomis, the flowering rush and various Primulas including P. florindae and Rodgersias.

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Even though this was a water garden there were plenty more perennials flowering well and catching the attention of visitors.

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Westonbury is well-known for its collection of follies, built by the garden owner for the sheer fun of it and to amuse the visitors, although they can also have a secondary purpose.

We discovered the first just as we approached the garden itself and so we could enjoy it from outside the garden and within. Water rose up a water ladder from the stream beneath to be released into the hands of gravity thus sending water spewing from the mouth of a stone gargoyle.

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Through a structure of willow rather than stone we moved on to discover further eccentric buildings including a glass bottle igloo, towers and shelters.

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To give you an idea of the feel of the garden and the quality of the planting and structure I thought I would finish this post about Westonbury Mill Water Gardens with a selection of broad shots taken as we wandered its many winding paths.

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What a lovely atmospheric garden this is! Full of interest and full of interesting plants and features.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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My Garden Journal – May

May has now finished so it is time to present my entries for that month in my Garden Journal. Gardening was totally at the behest of the weather, which was to say  disappointing.

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As usual my first page for the month of May included my chosen quotation from Jenny Joseph’s little book “Led by the Nose – A Garden of Smells”. Concerning May she wrote, “I breathe in the warm pleasant air and think “Ah, heavenly summer” and the next day I have retreated to my living-room, lit my boiler again, shut the windows and returned to winter. May can indeed be a complicating month.”

I wrote, “Indeed here in Plealey, May has been a complicated month. The weather forecasters have been wrong every day. When they predict a cool 14 C we get a lovely warm 19 C. However for our May garden open day they predicted rain and we got it! But a few hardy souls turned up!

Many visitors to our garden are amazed by our Judas Tree, Cercis siliquastrum. Early in the month its buds are beautiful in colour and shape.”

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I moved on to write “May is the month that our Irises come out to play, to show off their colourful, wonderfully shaped flowers and glow whenever the sun makes an appearance. The palest colours always come first.

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Turn over the page and we find my first watercolour painting and the return to the Judas Tree.

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My painting is of one of our favourite grass-like plants, a rush called Luzula nivea. A real challenge to express its subtlety in paints. I wrote “In amongst the bright colours of May little subtle plants can amaze us.”

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Concerning the Judas Tree, Cercis siliquastrum, I wrote “By the middle of the month, our Judas Tree is in full bloom.” A selection of photos followed.

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Over the page I wrote “May has been a cold, wet month so most disappointing for us gardeners and lovers of wildlife. Birds, Hoverflies and Butterflies have hardly put in an appearance. One patch of surprise colour came as one of the many May showers came to an end. A multi-coloured arch in the sky.”

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Alongside the page about the rainbow was a second page about our Irises, where I wrote “By the end of the month our more extravagently coloured Bearded Irises are giving vibrant explosions of colour in the Beth Chatto border.” Below these words was my second painting for May depicting one of our more brightly coloured Irises.

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My final entry for my Garden Journal in May  was a little gallery of photos.

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To see larger images click the first thumbnail photo and use the arrows to negotiate through the gallery. Enjoy!

 

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colours flowering bulbs garden design garden designers garden photography garden ponds garden pools gardening gardens gardens open to the public hardy perennials irises Italian style gardens lakes Piet Oudolf Staffordshire Tom Stuart-Smith

Irises at Trentham

When we made our monthly pilgrimage to the wonderful gardens at Trentham for my “garden for all seasons” posts, we were particularly taken with the variety of irises on show integrated into the borders designed by Tom Stuart-Smith.

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Most were the large flowered exuberant bearded irises but the more delicate demure Iris sibirica were there to be admired too. My first set of pictures are of the blues and purples and all their variations.

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Blues and purples combine well with a variety of other colours within the flowers of some irises, with the uprights in a different colour to the falls.

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Brown and yellow flowered iris seem to add real depth to mixed plantings in the borders. Some of the browns are very unusual to see in flowers other than iris.

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The gardeners here had cleverly matched a clump of brown Irises with the china blue of Amsonias. What a great combination, but not one that springs to mind when designing borders but we shall most certainly remember it for future use.

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In one of the display gardens, one designed in a Japanese style, Iris sibirica grows in clumps around the edge of a pool. They contrast well with the yellow of the Trollius in the one shot but compliment the glaucous Hosta foliage in the other.

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We also found Iris sibirica growing within the Piet Oudolf designed borders working in a subtle combination with a Nepeta.

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As we were on our way out of the garden we walked along the banks of the lake and discovered this lovely bright stand of our native iris, Yellow Flag. These can stop you in your tracks as well as any produced by plant breeders. They are always good to see and flower for a lot longer than their cultivated cousins. They present a most suitable finale to my tribute to the Irises of Trentham.

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garden design garden photography gardening hardy perennials Shropshire village gardens

A Perfect Iris Day

We deserved a morning out of the garden so set off just a few miles up the road to visit a garden which we had previously visited late last summer. It is open under the auspices of Plant Heritage and it holds two national collections, Roscoea and Cautleya. But of course neither of these are at an interesting stage at the moment.

After our compulsory start for any garden visit – coffee and cake – we wandered off to discover that the dominant plants of the day were irises. The irises were mostly of the bearded type but a few sibiricas were showing early promise.

First though a look at a few plants of interest other than the iris.

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And now for the iris! The glamour plants of the June garden.

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When we returned home we had a look around our own patch to see how our own iris compared. The bearded iris were looking impressive but the sibiricas  were still in bud.

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I delayed writing this post for a couple of days as my favourite bearded irises always come out last. They were definitely worth waiting for as I am glad I can include the final two to burst into bloom, these dark gingery brown flowers with buds that appear almost black.

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Incredible Iris

Early summer sunshine is the best time to see irises and appreciate their beauty. The brightness of colours illuminated by the sun gives them an ethereal quality that no other flowers possess.

A journey around our garden and our allotment site with camera in hand tells all there is to say. The first set shows the irises on our “Beth Chatto Garden”, the gravel bed, where they find the conditions ideal. They can sunbathe for hours!

The borders in the back garden are generally too densely planted for Bearded Iris to thrive, but we do grow Dutch iris as cut flowers and Iris sibirica, the bearded’s more subtle cousins. Our Dutch Iris are unusually coloured, one in a combination of blue and yellow and the other a combination of purple and brown with bright yellow centres. We grow them underneath our stepover apples.

Iris sibirica are tall, slim and delicate, and send up masses of flowers in various shades of blue. They develop large clumps in just a few years so need regularly dividing but friends enjoy receiving the offsets.

On our allotment site several plot holders grow Bearded Iris on their plots and we have planted groups of Iris sibirica in the community gardens.