My Top Ten May Blooms.

‘For May wol have no slogardie a-night. The season priketh every gentil herte and maketh him out of his sleepe to sterte.‘ ‘The Knight’s Tale’. Geoffrey Chaucer.

Indeed Chaucer had it right, there’s been no slogardie* in this house  because how could one bear to miss one second of this fabulous month of May, the crown of the whole year? The beauty certainly priketh my heart; is May always this beautiful, or is this year specially green and flowery? The colours seem extra sparkly and the birds sing louder and more joyfully than usual.  The Pianist and I have cycled for miles and the countryside has never looked so lovely with meadows full of buttercups and every lane frothing with cow parsley. And in the garden the flowers are all shouting for attention.  My self-imposed task of featuring just ten blooms is really difficult this month. But here goes.

I have to start with a paean to peonies.  The Gansu mudan as we have to call Paeonia rockii now have been fabulous. Followers of my blog will know that I am extra proud of mine because I grew them from seed under the impression that I was growing the fabled white Rock’s peony with the deep purple blotch. But of course bees get busy with them so you never know what colour  your seedlings will be. I have a magenta one and two pale pink ones. They are about nine years old now and full of exquisite and enormous blooms.


When I can drag myself away from contemplating these sumptuous beauties I am enjoying the masses of pure white blooms of a late flowering magnolia called Magnolia laevifolia ‘Gail’s Favourite’. This was formerly listed as  Michelia yunnanensis and it needs a sheltered spot. Michelias generally are not totally hardy.  Having said this, it came through a terrible winter unscathed. The flowers open from brown buds which look like suede. The blooms have a central boss of yellow stamens and they are sweetly scented.

Magnolia laevigata ‘Gail’s Favourite’

I don’t know who Gail was but she had good taste. Nearby is another plant which is not supposed to be reliably hardy but again it is absolutely fine. It comes from New Zealand and is called Sophora microphylla ‘Sun King’. It has clusters of claw-like bright yellow flowers.

Sophora microphylla ‘Sun King’

I have another sophora which is a shrub rather than a tree. It comes from China and it is called Sophora davidii. The flowers are pea-like and white with blue-purple calyxes. It is not showy, but nevertheless rather pretty with its ferny foliage.

Sophora davidii

May is the month of the the various forms of Clematis montana. It always amazes me with the extent which it will travel if it is happy. My fastest growing one which is really a mile- a -minute vine is ‘Warwickshire Rose’. It is very pretty but only plant it if you have lots of space.

Clematis  montana ‘Warwickshire Rose’

Two other favourites are both double ones. Clematis montana ‘Marjorie and even better Clematis montana ‘Broughton Star’.

Clematis montana ‘Marjorie’


Clematis montana ‘Broughton Star’

I wouldn’t be without two fragrant ones, Clematis montana ‘Elizabeth’ which is a lovely pale pink and the last to flower is Clematis montana ‘Wilsonii’ which has white star like flowers. This last one travels a long way too. In fact mine has travelled so far up into the trees that I can hardly see it.

Clematis montana ‘Wilsonii’ making a bid for freedom.

A new clematis I bought  last year is the very unusual double yellow one called Clematis koreana ‘Amber’. I am delighted with it.

Clematis koreana ‘Amber’

The backs of the flowers are pretty too.

Of the large flowered ones the earliest to flower in my garden is ‘Miss Bateman’. It has been around for years and is understandably popular with white flowers and a lovely maroon centre.

Clematis ‘Miss Bateman’

The buds have just opened on  the shrub, Calycanthus x raulstonii ‘Hartlage Wine’ which is a  beautiful cross between a Calycanthus and a Sinocalycanthus. It has glossy foliage and delightful wine-red flowers. They are supposed to smell of cinnamon  but I can’t detect it.

Calycanthus x raulstonii ‘Hartlage Wine’

If you have damp soil then the round flowers of trollius  are delightful. Many years ago Beth Chatto told me about a very special one called ‘Alabaster’ and I have grown it ever since, it really is the aristocrat of trolliuses, or should that be trollii? Beth Chatto died recently and she will be greatly missed in the horticultural world . Her garden has been an inspiration for gardeners everywhere. She was always happy to share her knowledge and over the years I have learnt about many fine plants from her. I think the pale lemon of this flower goes beautifully with the dark leaves of the acer.

Trollius x cultorum ‘Alabaster’

Another plant I learnt about from Beth Chatto, is a beautiful and very elegant gladiolus which I used to keep in the greenhouse as I believed it was only borderline hardy. I planted it in the garden and forgot to bring it in for the winter but it has come through unscathed and is blooming prettily. The flowers are the palest yellow and it is fragrant in the evenings. It is nice in a pot but it needs a bit of support because the leaves are rush-like and grow throughout the winter.

Gladiolus tristis

In winter, carpets of little Corydalis solida or C. cava seed around and are very welcome when there is not much else about.  By now they have disappeared. But there is a May- flowering tall corydalis which is my absolute favourite. If you have ever  tried to grow  the sky-blue Corydalis flexuosa you have probably loved it and lost it; it doesn’t hang about. If you want a blue corydalis (and why wouldn’t you?) try Corydalis ‘Spinners’; it is a cross between Corydalis elata and Corydalis flexuosa. It doesn’t seed around but the clumps get bigger every year, the flowers are electric blue. And  scented too.

Corydalis elata x flexuosa ‘Spinners’

The biggest corydalis of all starts out with beautiful bronze leaves in winter. It is called Corydalis temulifolia ‘Chocolate Stars’. The leaves go greener in summer but it still looks good with its lilac flowers next to Epimedium ‘Amber Queen’ which I featured last month and it is still going strong. Behind is Euphorbia griffithii ‘Fireglow’.

Corydalis temulifolia Chocolate Stars’ with Epimedium ‘Amber Queen’ and Euphorbia ‘Fireglow’

Red Campion, Silene dioica is looking wonderful at the moment in all the lanes round here. The damp- loving Silene flos cuculi, commonly called ‘Ragged Robin’ is one of my favourite silenes. I grow some by my pond alongside the ‘Sticky Catchfly’, Lychnis viscaria ‘Splendens’.

Silene flos cuculi with Lychnis viscaria ‘Splendens’

Well I had better finish with some geums as they seem to be all the rage this year. The bright red ‘Mrs. Bradshaw’ has been around for years but  for a long time was eschewed by many gardeners as being too bright and garish. But now primary colours are fashionable  we can embrace ‘Mrs. Bradshaw, and indeed she is a fine geum.

Geum ‘Mrs. Bradshaw’

Some of the modern hybrids come in some gorgeous shades. I have been wanting ‘Totally Tangerine’ for ages after seeing her on other blogs. And now I have it.

Geum ‘Totally Tangerine’

Geum ‘Mai Ta’ is a semi-double frilly apricot one which is very pretty.

Geum ‘Mai Tai’

And who can resist ‘Flames of Passion’? Specially with a name like that.

Geum ‘Flames of Passsion’

I know I have left out some quintessentially May flowers, how could I omit lupins, aquilegias and alliums? And the first roses and irises are already in bloom. Never mind they will have to wait until June. And now it’s back to work, May is the most beautiful month but it is also the busiest, specially for gardeners whose eyes are bigger than their stomachs when it comes to ordering seeds and dahlias. And the weeds are all on steroids. And of course, there is the latest project to work on. Which reminds me I never got round to posting about last year’s project which is looking very pretty right now so I will write about it in my next post. In the meantime, it would be lovely if you could find time to share your favourite May blooms and link with me.

* ‘Slogardie‘ means slothfulness or laziness and it’s my current favourite word.

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53 Responses to My Top Ten May Blooms.

  1. Ali says:

    I love that Chaucer quote! Your peonies are just stunning, and you are right to be proud. Those clematis too are beautiful. I especially love ‘Amber’. What a privilege to have learnt from Beth Chatto!

    • Chloris says:

      Tree peonies don’t bloom for long but while they last they are the best thing in the garden. Frilly, opulent and fragrant too. They take 6 or 7 years from seed to bloom but they are worth the wait. Would you like some seeds to try?

  2. Eliza Waters says:

    Everything in your garden is gorgeous, Chloris. You must be beside yourself with joy. 🙂

  3. Incredible, I am inspired to paint those Peonies, Enjoy from the she shed!

  4. Gorgeous! I am a total sucker for rockii peonies, and IMHO they are the most beautiful of the tree peony types. And I have added that lovely creamy Trollius to my TGGR want-list for sure! I am underwhelmed by the normal yellow but that French-vanilla white is simply stunning.

    • Chloris says:

      Yes, I know how you cherish your peony babies. How are they coming on?
      T. Alabaster is very special, you don’t often find it for sale.

  5. Kris P says:

    There are too many plants on this list I love to enumerate. You may remember my deep-seated peony envy but I also count Clematis, Corydalis, and Epimediums on the long list of plants I covet yet can’t successfully grow. I often think I was born in the wrong part of the world but it may be that I’m just very greedy when it comes to plants. It’s a busy week and I’ve got a back-log of posts related to the Garden Bloggers’ Fling to cover but I’ll tuck in a favorites post if I can get to it. Despite our abysmally low rainfall this year, May is still a pretty fabulous month here too.

    • Chloris says:

      But just think how many fabulous plants you can grow that I can’t.
      It must have been such fun to go to the fling, looking forward to seeing more photos.

  6. pbmgarden says:

    Oh what a pleasure to read through your post and picture the enjoyment your must have seeing these beauties in person. Wonderful peonies. I saw “raulstonii” and had to look up ‘Hartlage Wine’ — was named after student Richard Hartlage who crossed Sinocalycanthus chinensis (Chinese species) with Calycanthus floridus (U.S. species) in 1991 at the JC Raulston Arboretum at North Carolina State University, a half-hour’s drive from where I live. I’ve seen more sweet shrub than usual mentioned this year (several on a recent garden tour in town). Lovely! Also, geums do seem to be popular and yours are magnificent. I’ve never grown them but must try.

    • Chloris says:

      So my lovely Calycanthus was born close to where you live. It is a beautiful plant with much bigger flowers than ordinary calycanthus. I can thoroughly recommend it.
      Yes, geums are all the rage this year and they come in ever more gorgeous colours.

  7. janesmudgeegarden says:

    I love your kowhai from NZ. I tried to grow one here, but it eventually succumbed to some unnamed grubs, even though it tried most valiantly to keep on growing.

  8. Linda P says:

    Thank you for sharing the blooms in your garden at this wonderful time of the year. I love the old favourites, but it’s good to see some unusual varieties too. It makes me want to seek out some of them now that we’re back from Italy and bring some variety into our garden.

    • Chloris says:

      I like to feature some more unusual blooms in my monthly 10 favourites, specially if they are easy to grow. I know I always enjoy coming across new plants and reading about them.

  9. Anna says:

    Oh May is certainly sparkling this year Chloris after “Aprille with his shoures soote”. My favourite month of the year and this one seems particularly sweet. As always your post is informative, inspirational and downright fatal when it comes to my wish list. I will return when the sun comes down with pen and paper but meanwhile the watering can is calling my name. Enjoy the last few days of this fabulous month.

    • Chloris says:

      Goodness Anna, I didn’t know you could talk fluent Chaucer. It is a wonderful month isn’t it? But watering duties seem to have started early this year. I am glad if I have introduced you to some new treasures.

  10. Your garden is beautiful and I really enjoyed all your May flowers.

  11. mrsdaffodil says:

    The gardens are especially beautiful here, too. After a wet winter, warm weather came rather abruptly. The blooms are abundant and, as you say, the weeds are on steroids. All of your chosen plants are lovely, but I’m a sucker for the Gansu Mudan – grown from seed (!) and simply breathtaking. How tall do you think they will grow?

    • Chloris says:

      Thank you Mrs. D. (One day I’ll find out your real name.) I believe Gansu Mudan can eventually reach 2 meters but not for many years. They can live for 100 years so I don’t suppose their size will ever be my problem.

  12. March Picker says:

    From the gorgeous peony to the Man tai geum and all in between, JUST STUNNING. Now is the time to enjoy it all, Chloris!

  13. Christina says:

    Geum ‘Totally Tangerine’ seems to be a very good plant – everyone has it (I don’t, sadly but I would even try it here if I ever saw one to buy. The “Corydalis temulifolia Chocolate Stars’ with Epimedium ‘Amber Queen’ and Euphorbia ‘Fireglow’” combination looks like a very elegant quiet group, I like it a lot. I don’t think I’ve ever known anyone who had so many Montana Clematis; they must look amazing at the moment – what about some long shots so we can see what the garden looks like.

  14. Chloris says:

    Ah long shots, I would love to show more of them and the reason I don’t is because I’m not very good at them. Either the light doesn’t seem right or I don’t hold the camera straight and I get a crooked garden. That’s why I never showed any photos of last year’s project – the photos just didn’t capture it well enough. I must keep practising.

  15. Annette says:

    Your garden is a treasure trove, Liz, I’ve just fallen in love with some more plants especially the Sophora and the sweet little Magnolia flowers. And I realised that instead of Marjory I actually wanted Warwickshire Rose! How could this happen?! Off to a plant fair on Sunday, full of hope to find something special. I was shooting peonies for a feature this week. They’re just so gorgeous. Did you know that it took me ALL those years to find out May’s my facourite month? Must have something to do with the climate as well as summer is pretty tough for the garden around here whereas now everything just grows without me doing anything (even the bits I don’t want!). Garden open day tomorrow, still lots to do. Enjoy your weekend xx

    • Chloris says:

      Thank you Annette. Yes it is a wonderful time of the year, the very best. I wish I could come to your Open Day, I hope you have a great day with lots of sunshine.

  16. Your May garden blooms are magnificent. It’s hard to mention favorites but I think the Rocky Peony, the Magnolia and blue Corydalis are standouts.

    • Chloris says:

      Thank you Jason. Yes, the peonies are my favourites but that is because I arranged their birth and have watched over their development from the first tiny shoots.

  17. tonytomeo says:

    I really did not know that it had been re-classified as a magnolia. I suppose it makes sense. (Isn’t conformity the point of using Latin. Oh well.)

  18. Chloris says:

    Yes indeed, Latin is vital so that we all know what we are talking about.

  19. I agree totally about every thing being in technicolour this year, quite startling, in a very good way. Such a lovely selection (as per usual). Great to share, thanks 🙂

  20. snowbird says:

    My eyes are on stalks here, gazing at your babies! Oh my!!! Those peonies, clematis….sighs! Loved the geums too! I smiled seeing sunking, reminded me of little yellow choirboys! I enjoy the image you conjure up of you two powering through the countryside on your bikes soaking up the countryside. I think May is magical this year too, maybe that wet summer and cold winter is the catalyst? xxx

    • Chloris says:

      I love your idea of yellow choirboys, you certainly have an imagination. I think you are right about the sun and rain, everything is brighter and better this year, and now we have the most amazing roses.

  21. Cathy says:

    Beautiful clematis and geums – I do love the Mai Tai especially. So many wonderful blooms! And many exotic ones too. I treid a blue Corydalis flexuosa once and, of course, lost it. So I will take your advice and look out for C. ‘Spinners’. I will be joining you in a day or two! 🙂

  22. Beth says:

    Not sure how you can pick just ten — your whole garden looks like it’s covered in bloom. Thanks so much for sharing your favorites! Best, -Beth

  23. Pingback: My Top Ten May Blooms | Words and Herbs

  24. Cathy says:

    What delights you have, Chloris – and as always lots that most of us haven’t come across before. I am definitely going to add Corydalis here, but after having taken out most of my Clematis montana I don’t think I will be tempted to have them back – or will I…? I have found out this year how much red campion seeds around and I shall be more strict deadheading from now on – it’s never been a problem before. No chance of being slogardie here either but lots of prikething of my gentil herte going on. Thanks for giving us the opportunity to share our May blooms – you have, I think, already seen mine at

    • Chloris says:

      I agree about Red Campion. I was given a plant of Silene ‘Rollies Favourite’ and assured that it was very special. Now I spend my life digging the wretched stuff up.
      I enjoyed your May blooms Cathy.

  25. Wow, Chloris. What a great selection. I’ve never seen those gladioli before and they sound lovely – I wonder if they would grow in S. Ontario? Those peonies are also very pretty and unusual. As are the magnolia flowers, and the clematis. Our tree peony had few buds this year and put out its first bloom today — it’s a delightful deep pink colour. I suspect we may have to move it so it receives more sun, but will wait and see.

    • Chloris says:

      Tree peonies are such a joy, good luck with yours. Gladiolus tristis is not reliably hardy, I was lucky it survived the winter. It gets quite cold in Ontario doesn’t it?

  26. What a gorgeous post and i love those peonies; my favorite flower by far. Pity its not around for long!

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