Top Ten May Blooms.

Queer things happen in May. Little forgotten faces appear, and plants thought to be dead suddenly wave a green hand to confound you’.  W.E.Johns.

The May garden is a place of daily delights. In gardening books you read sometimes of the May gap in the garden, but there is no excuse for a lack of blooms when everything is so fresh and lovely and you can have a rainbow of aquilegias,  alliums, roses, irises and poppies. Every day brings new treats. I  featured my fabulous tree peonies on Monday  but there are plenty more treasures.

I always like to show you something a little unusual in my monthly top ten blooms, plants that you might like to try. So let’s start with the Chilean Lantern tree, Crinodendron hookerianum. This is supposed to need acid soil so I grow it in a pot and although the roots have long ago found their way into the ground, it seems very happy. I am not sure how hardy it is so I grow it against the wall of the house. The flowers are real show stoppers, waxy red lanterns and lots of them. It is evergreen but the leaves are rather dull and they are poisonous so don’t eat it. Well, why would you, it doesn’t look very appetising. Everyone who comes to the garden is drawn to this exotic tree.

Crinodendron hookerianum

And talking about exotic, the clusters of bright yellow claws of my Sophora tetraptera are really eye catching. I thought it was Sophora microphylla ‘Sun King’ until I saw it on a couple of blogs and realised that ‘Sun King’ is more of a shrub than a tree and it  blooms in March unlike this one. But they do look very similar. They have long thin seed pods so I am growing some babies but they take years to bloom from seed so it is probably not the best way to propagate it. This tree comes from New Zealand and it needs a sunny spot.

Sophora tetraptera

Another lovely plant from New Zealand is the unusual Hebe hulkeana. In its native habitat it grows from cliffs and rocks and I wish I could contrive something like that here for it. It has long panicles of lilac flowers and must look wonderful growing from a rock. The shiny leaves are serrated and edged in red. It likes a nice sunny protected spot. It produces its buds early in spring and last year they got  frost damaged so this year I gave it a fleece hairnet. It is worth the effort because it is so pretty.

Hebe hulkeana

Readers of my blog will know that I am mad on magnolias and I have a May flowering one which is a real winner. It is called Magnolia laevigata ‘Gail’s Favourite’. It used to be called Michelia yunnanensis ‘Gail’s Favourite’ until the inscrutable powers that be decided that it is a magnolia. Whatever it is called, it is fabulous. It is a slow growing shrub rather than a tree, with glossy evergreen leaves. When the buds appear they look as if they are made of brown suede. The flowers are gorgeous, creamy white with a boss of yellow stamens and they are fragrant. This shrub needs a sunny site and protection from winds. I don’t know why such a wonderful plant isn’t seen more often.

Magnolia laevigata ‘Gail’s Favourite’

My number five is a shrub too. It is Abutilon x ‘Suntense‘. It has lovely saucer shaped lilac flowers and nice fuzzy felt buds. In my old garden it used to seed around but it doesn’t here. Still it is easy from cuttings. It belongs to the mallow family.

Abutilon x suntense

I love all the members of the scilla family but the most dazzling is Scilla peruviana with astonishing cones of metallic blue flowers. It comes from the western Mediterranean area, not Peru and is sometimes known as the Portuguese Squill, but not by pedants like me. It likes a warm, sunny spot and mine is flourishing in the gravel in my Mediterranean garden. It never bloomed at all until I moved it here. If it is happy it will increase. I don’t know why I only have one clump, I would like a river of it.

Scilla peruviana

Mathiasella  bupleuroides ‘Green Dream’ is an unusual plant. If  you like green flowers that look like a cross between Helleborus argutifolius, an umbellifer and a euphorbia you might like this. It has angelica type leaves and because the flowers are sterile they last all summer and they get a pink tinge later in the season. They can be dried for winter arrangements too, so it is a versatile plant. I would like lots of them but I’m not sure how to propagate it. It comes from Mexico and was first discovered in 1954.

Mathiasella bupleuriodes ‘Green Dream’

Talking about umbellifers, Melanoselinum decipiens is the ultimate, like a pink Giant Hogweed without the danger. Its common name is Madeira Black Parsley; melano = black, selinum=parsley and it is endemic to Madeira.  The seeds are black. It grows  for several years until it is enormous with a stem like an elephant’s trunk.

I got the seeds for this from Rod Leeds who has written several books on bulbs and was president of the Alpine Society so not the sort of person you associate with giant umbellifers. When I asked what it was he said: ‘Oh you know, one of those umbellifers with pink flowers’ so I was expecting something like pimpinella or achillea and watched in amazement as it grew and grew and grew and this year for the first time it has flowers. Masses of them.

Melanoselinum decipiens

Each flower is huge.

Melanoselinum decipiens

I grow it in my Mediterranean garden next to the giant grass, Stipa gigantea.

It is monocarpic  and dies after flowering so next year I will have to start all over again. Incidentally, did you know that the Umbelliferae family is now Apiaciae? Oh dear, it is hard to keep up.

Wisteria of course is not unusual at all but May is the month when they are looking fabulous. Over two of the arches in my secret garden, the wisterias are blooming for the first time and I am thrilled with them.  One is white and the other is pink.

Wisteria floribunda 

Wisteria floribunda ‘Rosea’

Wisteria floribunda ‘Alba’

By the way, did you know that Japanese wisteria, Wisteria floribunda grows clockwise and Chinese wisteria , Wisteria sinensis grows anti-clockwise?

Wisteria floribunda

Elsewhere I have a wisteria which I am trying to grow as a standard but it is getting a bit wild and woolly. I wish I had invested in one of those wrought  iron umbrella-type things to train it on. Last year the pigeons ate every single bud but this year they have decided that they prefer thalictrums. I grew this wisteria from a layered cutting which I brought with me from my old garden. This is the best way to propagate them. Don’t be tempted to grow them from seed, it is not worth it.

I don’t grow many rhododendrons or azaleas because I don’t have an acid soil so they have to live in pots. But I wouldn’t be without the wonderfully fragrant Rhododendron luteum.

Rhododendron luteum

If you grow groves of this you can make hallucinogenic ‘mad honey’. Xenophon described the weird effects of eating this honey. He was leading his army of 10,000 men from Persia back to Greece in 401 bc. and thought he had found a safe place to camp at Pontus on the Black sea coast in Turkey where this rhododendron grows in abundance. After eating the wild honey here the whole army behaved like lunatics and eventually collapsed and were paralyzed and incapacitated for days. The active ingredient is grayanotoxin and eating ‘mad honey’ is a dangerous way of getting your kicks.  I think I am safe though with my one plant. I went to the beautiful Fairhaven woodland garden on the Norfolk broads last week and loved the way this gorgeous plant looked in a woodland setting, much prettier and daintier than the showier rhododendrons and the scent is amazing..

Rhododendron luteum. Fairhaven Woodland and Water Garden, Norfolk.

And talking about the Norfolk broads I hope you will allow a total digression, this has nothing whatsoever to do with my top ten blooms but whilst I was there I managed to capture this shot of a mother Crested Grebe carrying her baby and I am so delighted with it that it is now my screensaver. I just had to bring it in somewhere even if it is a total non sequitur.

Crested grebe. Fairhaven Woodland and water Garden.

So there are my Top Ten May Blooms. I hope you have found something a bit different that you might like to try in your garden. Please link with my blog and share whatever blooms you are enjoying this month.

By the way, if you live in the UK and would like to try some seeds of the tree peonies I wrote about in my last post please let me know later in the season when they are ripe.

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34 Responses to Top Ten May Blooms.

  1. Tina says:

    Your May garden is stunning! Everything you profiled is gorgeous, but that Madeira Black Parsley is really something! Do your plants seed out regularly? Do any of them become pests after a year or two, requiring massive weeding session? Thanks for hosting this fun meme, I had it together enough to participate this month:

    • Chloris says:

      Thank you Tina. This is the first time that the Madeira Black Parsley has flowered so I don’t know whether it seeds around but I shall certainly be collecting seeds. I am so glad you are joining in, thank you, your blooms are always so different and seem very exotic to me. And I expect there will be some wild life in there somewhere.

  2. pbmgarden says:

    That magnolia really caught my eye. Lovely. And the Scilla peruviana—yes, a river…

  3. Pauline says:

    You have so many wonderfully amazing flowers, they are all so unusual, your garden must be a delight. It was good to have enough to join in again.

    • Chloris says:

      Thank you Pauline. May flowers are such a joy. Thank you for joining in, I am looking forward to seeing what you are enjoying at the moment.

  4. Kris P says:

    What an unusual group of plants. I looked up a few of them (that Crinodendron!) but water requirements, sun exposure limitations or US availability ruled them out for inclusion in my own garden. It’s interesting that your Scilla peruviana blooms a full 2 months after those in my garden but I suppose that once again speaks to the differences in our climates.

    BTW, WordPress seems to have inserted their ads right on top of your text (6 times), making much of it impossible to read. I’ve noticed that they recently started inserting ads within WP posts instead of at the bottom as they formerly did; however, this is the first time I noticed this specific problem. I tried reloading your post but nothing changed. Maybe this is just an issue for viewers outside the WordPress community but I wanted to give you a heads-up.

    • Chloris says:

      Thank you so much for telling me. How awful. I just contacted wordpress support and they said they checked and couldn’t see anything which is odd. Please let me know if it happens again and I might consider upgrading and paying so that I won’t get any adverts.

  5. Anna says:

    Oh where did you get hold of your lovely Magnolia laevigata ‘Gail’s Favourite’ from Chloris? It is very similar to one I fell for at the Malvern spring show a few years ago called Magnolia laevigata ‘Mini Mouse’ which I’ve been unable to find. I think that it was on the HPS stand. I’ve had Mathiasella bupleuroides ‘Green Dream’ for several years now and it flowers over a long spell and is much appreciated by the bees. So far I’ve been bamboozled when it comes to propagating it so will be interested if discover how to. My plant seems to have suckered so I’m going to be delving around soon to investigate.

    • Chloris says:

      I haven’t seen M. Minnie Mouse but I got M. Gail’s Favourite a few years ago at The Place for Plants in East Bergholt. I don’t go there any more because they have got so ridiculously expensive. I am going to the Plant Heritage Plant Sale at Helmingham Hall on Sunday and I will see if any of the sellers there stock it and make a note of them for you.

  6. Wow! and I love the grebe picture. I think the Lantern Tree would stop me weeding just to look at it.. Well done.

  7. Eliza Waters says:

    I always enjoy seeing the unusual plants you grow. You have a fine and diverse collection.
    Now I’m curious, how big is your plot of land? You fit a lot into it!

  8. You have the most remarkable plants in your garden, Chloris. Never ceases to amaze. I didn’t realize you could start a wisteria from a cutting. Glad to see its blooms. Mind you, we had a mother plant that never bloomed, but sent out a sucker which bloomed pretty fast after we replanted it. So who knows?

  9. Pingback: Ten May Blooms or Thereabouts | Rambling in the Garden

  10. Heyjude says:

    You do have the most loveliest of plants in your garden, I am most envious! I do however have a Crinodendron, but the flowers are lacking this year – there are some buds, but nothing like last year! Is this normal with this tree? Mine does grow on the shady side and underneath two goat willow trees, though I relieved them of their lower branches to allow light in to the undergrowth.

    • Chloris says:

      Thank you Jude. Mine flowers every year. I wonder if it is too dry under your willows? These shrubs need sun but partial shade is OK as long as the soil doesn’t dry out.

      • Heyjude says:

        I doubt anywhere in my garden is too dry! Except last summer of course. Maybe it has been too busy putting on new growth at the expense of flowers. I shall make sure I give it a good soak if we don’t have rain.

  11. Cathy says:

    Sorry to be later adding my link, Chloris. And you have wisteria too – I don’t remember you mentioning them before. I would love to have a white one but as yet haven’t thought of anywhere it could go although I will keep it in mind for when inspiration comes. But pigeons eating the buds – really? How dare they – do you like pigeon pie, perchance? I love the quotation you shared today and certainly feel sorry for anyone suffering a ‘May gap’ in their garden, even if they did bring it on themselves. Thanks for hosting

  12. Chloris says:

    No, I never mentioned wisteria before because the standard one was stripped by the b…… pigeons. And this is the first time that the pink and white ones on the arches in the secret garden have bloomed. My thalictrums which should be looking wonderful right now are chewed to nothing, this year. I wish somebody would shoot the pigeons ,they make the most disgusting mess.

  13. Each and every one a star! Lovely to share with you. And the grebe mother and baby shot is charming. Cheered up this dull morning for me!

  14. Cathy says:

    An impressive collection of gorgeous flowers again. I do love that pale pink Wisteria and enjoyed the little snippets of background information, especially about the army in Turkey!

  15. tonytomeo says:

    Although I know most of those genera, I am completely unfamiliar with all of the species except for the two wisterias. I have heard that each of the two wisterias wraps in a particular direction, but have not actually witnessed it. My wisterias are not so coordinated, and will climb randomly.

  16. Some amazing blooms that are new to me. I am wowed by the Scilla, Hebe, and Abutilon – love the color, especially. Surprising to me that the Scilla peruviana is part of the genus Scilla.

  17. snowbird says:

    Oh, so many glorious blooms! I especially love the Chilean Lantern tree and the wisteria in the secret garden, interesting hearing how they grow in different directions. The mad honey info had me smiling!!!How fabulous capturing the mother grebe carrying her baby, I’m always surprised how low they sit in the water. This reminded me of the time I released

    • Chloris says:

      The Chilean Lantern tree is the best its ever been this year. I was so pleased to get it a shot of the mother grebe carrying her baby.

  18. antonia_ says:

    Wonderful photos and post!

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