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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 2018 – May

Here we are with the fifth visit to my garden journal for 2018, where I report on what is happening in our Avocet garden in Shropshire. Does it show that spring may eventually have arrived?

On my first page for May I wrote, “May began wet with continued patches of cold winds from the East. We continued to garden whenever the rain was not torrential but through it all the garden burgeoned. Fresh greens of every shade brightened our patch and contrasted beautifully with the colours of flowers.”

“The brightest leaves of all are those of ferns, hostas, Jacob’s Ladder and Euphorbia.”

  

Turning over the page I looked at a job that Ian our gardener completed in May, plus a look at our wildlife in the garden.

“We decided as the first week ended, to clear the greenhouse out and change two soil borders for gravel. Ian, our gardener did the hard work and enjoyed working under cover. The day he did there were intermittent heavy showers and periods of humid sunshine. His waterproof coat was constantly on and off, one minute hanging on his back, the next hanging on a hook in the greenhouse. The soil from the borders became a useful mulch material for nearby borders.”

 

“Ian cleared the soil away and put membrane down. We covered this in grit.”

“By the end of the first week of May temperatures soared and the rain faded away. Daytime temperatures doubled. The garden has filled with life and as flowers abound, bees, hoverflies and our first butterflies, Orange Tips and Brimstones take to the wing. We garden every day with the constant knocking sound as a Great Spotted Woodpecker bangs away at the finial on top of the wooden telegraph pole opposite our front garden. He hits his own notes!

A woodpecker family nests every year in the old Oak tree in the paddock behind our garden. During the winter several of them visit the feeding stations but once the female is laying and incubating the male makes more frequent visits to our garden feeding himself as well as his partner and the youngsters. 

There seem so few Swallows and House Martins wheeling around overhead this year, further signs of a terrible downward trend in population figures. Our Swifts have only just arrived back from their migration so we can look forward to a few months of their squeals overhead.”

Over the page I moved on to look at Dan Pearson’s thoughts on the sudden growth seen in May.

 

I wrote, “Reading Dan Pearson’s “Natural Selections”, I enjoyed his reference to the noticeably rapid growth in gardens in May.

“The growth is a remarkable thing during these weeks between spring and summer. If you could hear it there would be a tangible hum, made from a million buds breaking and stems flexing. The tide of green sweeps up and over bare earth, cloaking it as fast as the leaves fill out above us.”

For us May is also the month when the first of our visiting garden groups come to share our patch with us. They enjoy wandering around our many paths, taking photographs, asking questions and finishing with tea, coffee and Jude’s home baked cakes.”

I then move on to look at some of our flowering trees and shrubs that are features of our May garden, about which I wrote, “Flowering trees and shrubs add colour and often scent at a higher level than the spring bulbs and early perennials.”

Viburnum farreri

Weigela middendorfiana

  Cercis siliquastrum 

Eriostemon Flower Girl White

  Calycanthus floridus        Buddleia salvifolia

Over the page we look at our Japanese Garden and alpine plants. “We spent more time in mid-May working in the Japanese Garden, where a month ago we added a new step into the lower slope. We planted a miniature Rhododendron at each end of the step. These are now in full flower. Beneath our Prunus subhirtella autumnalis which we have pruned in a Japanese style, we have planted a group of “moss plants”. 

 

On the page opposite are photos of some of our alpines and I wrote, “May is the month when alpine Saxifrages peak.”

   

“Miniature alpine shrubs, Pinus mugo “Mumpitz” and an alpine Daphne.”

 “Alpine Silene”

Turning over the page we find the final double page spread, which featured the first Hemerocallis and the first of our roses to flower. On the opposite page blossom was the star.

“The end of May sees the first Hemerocallis coming into flower, and the first of our roses which is a very late start.”

  

On the final page of my journal for May I featured photos of the fruit blossom which was looking so good and promising a healthy harvest later in the year.

“Fruit blossom this May was the best we can ever remember with apples, pears and quince flowering heavily. We await a great fruit crop!

“Bunches of apples will need thinning out more than ever before!”

So that is the end of my May journal, finishing off on a positive note as the garden feels so full of life.

 

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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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A Walk in the Park – Attingham Park April – Part 2

In this, the second part of April’s  report of our wanderings around Attingham Park, I want to feature the flowers of the park , the wildflowers living in the woodland and the cultivated flowers in the borders and walled garden. I will also share pics of the fresh growth of the bursting buds on the trees and shrubs.

Most new leaves that had burst from buds on trees were the brightest of green imaginable.

   

Some buds had opened to reveal more colours than simply green, they glowed with hints of bronze, browns and purples.

   

Fresh growth on evergreen trees and shrubs were also bright green, on both conifers and broadleaves.

Beneath the trees and shrubs ferns revealed their leaves in such a beautiful way, unfurling from a tight spiral like slowly unwinding springs. As their shapes change so do the textures.

   

We found so many plants flowering on our April wanders that the best way to share them with you and illustrate the huge variety so early in the year is by presenting my photographs as a gallery. Please enjoy by clicking on the first photo then navigate by clicking the right arrow.

We will return in May when summer will be in full swing!

 

 

 

 

 

 

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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.