May 11 – ‘Making a Show of it’

Well here we are at the start of May and another bank holiday weekend is upon us and what a fabulous weekend it’s been. The Royal Wedding was amazing on Friday; truly spectacular and the rest of the weekend stayed dry and sunny; great weather for enjoying the garden!

 May is probably the most miraculous month in the gardening calendar. Plants are growing so quickly you can almost see them. The early spring sunshine and mild temperatures have brought everything on early; the bluebells are at least 2 to 3 weeks ahead of where they were last year and so are the lilacs. The gardens are starting to spring into life as cherished herbaceous perennials push through and explode into riotous colour. Our plants of the month are Lilac ‘Madame Lemoine’, which has an elegant white scented flower,  all types of Soloman’s Seal and Lily of the Valley (as used in the Royal Wedding Flower displays) Astrantia ‘Hadspen’s Blood’, a delicate perennial with claret-red flowers, and Cercis siliquastrum (the Judas tree). Not forgetting forget-me-knots which look spectacular when planted amongst purple tulips (particularly Tulip ‘Negrita’).

 May is also the start of the Show season, with the RHS Chelsea Flower Show at the end of May kicking it all off. This is the jewel in the crown of all the horticultural Shows and the one that receives the most coverage, followed by Hampton Court Palace at the beginning of July and Tatton Park towards the end of July. This year you can bet that there’s going to be a lot of stressed out garden designers trying to hold things back. We know how it feels and it certainly does make you panic, no matter how calm and organised you think you are. We are hoping for a kind July as we are exhibiting a garden at Tatton Park this year.

 There’s a lot to crack on with in the garden this month. Just as the plants are romping away then so are the weeds so be sure to hoe them off as they come up.

  Keep an eye out for pests. Fortunately, as April was so dry slugs haven’t been too much of a problem so far but we did notice a few lily beetles the other day so stay vigilant and pick them off as you see them.

 You’ll need to give some of your herbaceous plants some support to stop them from flopping all over the place as they grow. Do this now with old twigs or bamboo canes. As the plants grow they will hide the ugly sticks and give invisible support. There’s nothing worse then waiting all year for your prize peonies to flower only to see them collapse and look pathetic.

 It’s also time to replace your winter bedding plants now that the threat of late frosts have almost subsided. The garden centres and DIY stores are awash with all types of geraniums, busy lizzies and petunias. Try something different like cleomes, nemesia or diascia and keep an eye out for pot grown lilies to fill in any gaps in your borders . Our favourite varieties are ‘Star Gazer’ which are admittedly a bit brash but are very fragrant and colourful, ‘Golden Splender’ which is tall and elegant with buttery yellow flowers which have a sumptuous scent in the evening and ‘Netty’s Pride’ which is has a delicate purple and white flower and is very reliable and easy to grow.

 In the vegetable garden, make sure that you plant the last of your potatoes and remember to earth them up as they grow to stop them from greening. Keep on planting carrots and lettuce and start runner beans off now but you’ll need to wait until June before you plant out your tender cucumbers and tomatoes. The best runner bean variety for taste is ‘Enorma’, which is a lovely scarlet variety and a good cropper.

 As a final tip do remember to keep watering your pots and containers. We really haven’t had enough rain yet and they will start to dry out very quickly if not watered regularly.

 Unusual plants to look out for which are definitely worth a try are; Trachycarpus wagnerianus (a stunning and more attractive alternative to the standard Trachycarpus fortuneii palm and is hardy to at least -20 degrees C),  Spotty Dotty or Podophyllum which has unusual spotted leaves and pendant red, bell-shaped flowers, Holboellia latifolia which is a climber and has lovely pink flowers in the spring followed by purple fruits and finally a lily that you might not be able to find yet but is worth looking out for is a variety called ‘Kushi Meyer’ which has stunning purple and lime green flowers with intoxicating scent in the morning and evening (available from H.W.Hyde and Sons).

 Saying of the Month: ‘If the ash is out before the oak, we’ll have a soak, if the oak is out before the ash we’ve have a splash.’ This certainly seems to be holding true this year as we’ve noticed that the oak is most certainly out before the ash.