3 May 2021
The vibrant greens of May
At this time of year the vibrant greens in our gardens, parks and hedgerows sing out, lifting our spirits. Green is such an important colour and many gardeners prefer to keep with the different shades and shapes of green plants rather than using the whole colour palette. It can look amazing, even jungle like.
We’ve got a green and white theme running down one side of our garden that comes into its own in early spring and continues well into summer. The succession is: hardy cyclamen, snowdrops, white crocus if we can keep the mice off them, white daffodils (Thalia), Solomon’s seal, lily of the valley, Dicentra, an Exchordia and an elderly but beautiful repeat flowering shrub rose, name long forgotten. The backdrop is provided by two old but magnificent weeping pears.
Actually ‘magnificent’ is stretching it a bit this year: two winters with some degree of flooding at the front have taken their toll. We have lost a wild cherry, a Judas tree and two Daphnes that were under water yet again for several days. On the upside the primroses and violets are better than they have ever been. It just goes to show, that old mantra from Beth Chatto ‘right plant, right place’ is spot on. Our swamp Cyprus (Taxodium distichum)has taken off like no other tree in the garden, a beautiful specimen and unusual as it is a deciduous conifer. This elegant chap comes highly recommended if you have a damp area and some room, although it is tall rather than wide so would fit in even a quite small garden.
May is a great month for us gardeners. As Monty Don enthuses in his brilliant garden journal, kept over many years at Longmeadow ‘ The Ivington Diaries’:
`It always seems to me that May is like that dessicated paper confetti that you drop into a glass of water and watch grow out into a full, blossomy underwater bloom. Everything expands in May – light, day length, warmth and above all the sensation of being truly, richly alive’.
Hardening off tender plants such as summer bedding and vegetable plants is a key May activity. To take them out of the shelter and warmth of a greenhouse or conservatory straight into the relatively cold garden soil is a shock for them and they may pop their clogs. Put them in a sheltered spot outside for at least a week and bring them back inside if the temperature drops close to freezing. Better still put them in a cold frame for 2 or 3 weeks if you have one. I usually have some horticultural fleece handy if a sudden bout of cold weather is threatened.
I try to keep a succession of colour going in the garden, so later this month I’ll be pulling up any tired looking forget me nots that have dome a brilliant job in spring among the daffodils, peonies and tulips, to make space for the later flowering perennials to thrive. I’ve usually got Dahlias, Cleomes, tobacco plants (Nicotiana) or Mexican Sunflower (Tithonia) to pop into any gaps and to provide colour all summer. Salvias are becoming a mainstay of the summer borders here, both the herbaceous kinds such as Cordona, or the woody Salvias, the grown up name for the sage family. I’ve a blackcurrant sage that gives me much joy, a gorgeous deep violet that flowers without fuss for weeks and weeks.
My tomatoes and basil are germinating and growing on, sweet peas are looking good and the garlic looks promising. Monty Don is spot on – May makes me feel really alive and that is very special right now!
Stay safe and well everyone