‘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.
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.
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.
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.
Two other favourites are both double ones. Clematis montana ‘Marjorie and even better 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.
A new clematis I bought last year is the very unusual double yellow one called Clematis koreana ‘Amber’. I am delighted with it.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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’.
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’.
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.
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 ‘Mai Ta’ is a semi-double frilly apricot one which is very pretty.
And who can resist ‘Flames of Passion’? Specially with a name like that.
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.