Top Ten May Blooms.

I nearly missed the date for my top ten monthly blooms this time as I have become so detached from the calendar. I just rushed out to take some photos but it is blowing a hooley and my lovely irises which I wanted to feature are looking terrible: some of them are lying drunkenly on the ground and they all have tattered petals and look as if they have been partying too hard.

But I am getting ahead of myself, let’s go back to the beginning of the month and look at the May-flowering Magnolia laevifolia  ‘Gail’s Favourite’. I love this shrub, it is evergreen and the buds look as if they are covered in brown suede. They open up into masses of scented white flowers. This used to be classified as Michelia  yunananensis and it is not supposed to be reliably hardy, but mine is several years old and has never been even slightly damaged by frost.

Magnolia laevifolia ‘Gail’s Favourite’

In early May, my excitement mounts as the buds on my tree peonies fatten up. I grew them from seed and at eleven years old they are a wonderful sight with so many flowers I can’t count them all as I did when they first started blooming. They were supposed to be Chinese Paeonia rockii, that wonderful, but elusive white flower with the dark, almost black flare at the base of each petal. But bees have been busy and they range from pale to dark pink but they still have the distinctive chocolatey centre. They should be known as Paeonia ‘Gansu Mudan’ and not rockii.

Paeonia ‘Gansu Mudan

Whatever you call them I think you will agree they are gorgeous and worth the long wait of six or seven years to get flowers from seed- grown plants.
Roses are early this year and so the garden has a June look to it right now but the earliest May-flowering rose is the delectable climber Rosa banksiae ‘Lutea’. It needs plenty of space, mine grows up the trunk of an old apple tree and is just ten years old from a tiny cutting.

Rosa banksiae ‘Lutea’

It is a shame I had to cut this tree down but its mossy trunk lends itself to the rose and also the Clematis montana ‘Marjorie’ which  climbs up the trunk on the right.

Rosa banksiae ”Lutea’

Clematis montana is wonderful for scrambling up trees or along a fence or wall. I have several of them.

Clematis montana ‘Marjorie’

Here are a few others.

Clematis’wilsonii’ is blooming right at the top of the tree and whilst I am sure he must be a lovely sight for the neighbours, I have to crane my neck to see it and I can’t get near enough to smell it.

I have a lovely evergreen tree from Chile which blooms in May. Unlike Azara microphylla which blooms in early March with vanilla scented flowers, this azara has darker yellow, much bigger and more showy flowers. I think it is Azara serrata but I am not sure, I grew it from a cutting from my old garden, it is about about twelve years old now. The flowers look rather like those of mimosa.

Azara serrata

Azara serrrata

Another May- flowering shrub is beautiful right now. It is Calycanthus x raulstonii ‘Hartlage Wine’ and has gorgeous burgundy red flowers which are slightly fragrant. It is a cross betwwen Calycanthus and Sinocalycanthus. I once tried to grow Sinocalycanthus and failed dismally, but this seems very easy and problem -free. It likes a sunny spot.

Calycanthus x raulstoni ‘Hartlage Wine’

Wisterias have been wonderful this year. This one which I have tried to train as a standard, usually gets all its buds picked off by pigeons but this year they have taken a fancy to my thalictrums instead.

Wisteria are easy from layered cuttings. It is a waste of time trying to grow them from seed, they will take years to bloom and when and if, they do they will probably be disappointing. Over two of the arches into my secret garden I have wisterias, one is pink and the other one is white.

I have an unusual flowering shrub from New Zealand , which I now learn is Sophora tetraptera. It has clusters of pea-like yellow flowers and is quite eye-catching, specially against a blue sky. The flowers are followed by large seed pods and so I have a few baby trees coming along.

Sophora tetraptera

Another unusual and eye-catching tree is the Chilean Lantern Tree, Crinodendron hookerianum. It likes a sheltered spot and acid soil. I don’t have acid soil so I grow mine in a large pot against the wall. It has happily grown through the pot onto the soil.

Crinodendron hookerianum


Crinodendron hookerianum

I will finish with a few orchids.

I seem to have missed out so many May beauties that maybe I will do another post soon. I haven’t said a word about my beloved irises and they deserve a post of their own. But that is enough for now. I hope your gardens are surviving this awful wind if you live in the UK. And I hope wherever you live you are keeping well and safe and don’t forget to be A Lert. All this staying at home and enjoying the garden every single day is lovely, if you can forget the horrors all about us. But it does mean I haven’t bought one single plant since February and that is very strange for me, in fact it’s an all-time record. Still, when I look round the garden I think I probably don’t actually need any more plants, although that has never stopped me in the past.

Please join me and share your favourite May blooms.

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42 Responses to Top Ten May Blooms.

  1. Tina says:

    Your garden tours never disappoint! I enjoy seeing what you grow and it’s always an exercise in “oohs and aahs” for me and I scroll through your photos. If–and that’s a big if–I have a favorite, it’s probably your Crinodendron hookerianum. Such a beauty.

  2. Jo Shafer says:

    I see from your garden that I should have invested in more shrubbery. The only large bushes I cultivate are peonies and roses and one large fleeceflower, but I do fill in the “gaps” with lavender and lemon balm, irises and, soon, dahlias. Your Magnolia laevifolia ‘Gail’s Favourite’ reminds me of another magnolia shrub, Magnolia fiscata from my childhood home. My sister and I used to fill our pockets with the brown velvet covered buds and pretend they were miniature bananas for our dolls.

    • Chloris says:

      Yes, shrubs are important in the garden. I can’t remember who said that a garden of just flowers without the structure and texture of shrubs looks like coloured hay. I don’t know Magnolia fiscata but the buds of this one are lovely. Fortunately there are no children around to pick them for dolly bananas.

  3. Kris Peterson says:

    Well, you may not have captured everything that’s putting on a show in your garden this month, but you had enough to keep me sighing throughout your post. Maybe I should try tree peonies again, although I can’t imagine growing them from seed as you’ve done. I did plant a second Clematis in the fall but the result isn’t impressive thus far.

    • Chloris says:

      The thing about growing things like tree peonies from seed is you can get on with other things whilst they are busy growing and time passes so quickly. And every stage is exciting. After 1 year, if you are lucky you get a tiny shoot and each year it gets bigger. For the first few years you get excited by the leaves. And the moment you get the first flower bud is wonderful. You miss all that if you buy the plant.

  4. Beth says:

    Those tree peonies are gorgeous! And all those shrubs that I’ve never heard of and that won’t grow here — very interesting to see. Your gardens are looking beautiful — thanks for sharing! Best, -Beth

  5. March Picker says:

    Chloris, what an abundance of beauty you’re enjoying there! Your peonies are spectacular, and I so admire you growing them from seed.

    • Chloris says:

      Thank you. Peonies are easy from seed, you just have to be patient. The first year is hard as nothing seems to be happening at all as they put down a root before anything appears on the surface. I always long to dig around and see if anything is happening.

  6. Gorgeous, I especially love the tree peony. Perhaps I will try one from seed and by the time it is big we will have moved and got a larger garden. You have inspired me.

    You are worrying me though. And I don’t ever want to hear you speak like that again. You do not have enough plants, there is always room for just one more. 😉

    Take care, my friend x

    • Chloris says:

      You must try, I will send you some seeds when they are ripe. If you think you might move you could keep them in pots for a year or two.
      I do miss buying plants and I will do it again eventually, but for the moment I am a FOGO, (frightened of going out.) I go for walks and cycle rides, whizzing past people at great speed, but I’m not going to nurseries.

  7. Cathy says:

    I enjoyed seeing your exciting exotics like azara and the lantern tree. You obviously have good soil and a very sheltered garden. 😃 The tree peonies are wonderful even if they are the ‘wrong’ colour – I love the shades of pink! Did they all come from the same seed?

    • Chloris says:

      The Chilean Lantern tree is in a pot as it likes acid soil.
      Some of the peony seeds were from Chilterns but the pale pink one is from a seed a friend gave me from the true white Paeonia rockii which was a cutting from the original one from China which grew in Frederick Stern’s garden. I really thought that would be white. But never mind, it’s still lovely.

  8. Frog says:

    Beautiful as always ! I wish my lantern tree would look good like yours ! It is in a pot as I don’t have acidic soil, and sulking (but growing new leaves). I think I shall move it. I love discovering new plants in your posts !

  9. Pauline says:

    Lovely selection as always and so interesting too. Like everyone else I have fallen for your tree peonies, they are gorgeous! The wind yesterday was awful wasn’t it, not much better here today, but I have no real damage, just masses of leaves wrenched from the trees and shrubs, it looks like autumn.
    my offering

  10. janesmudgeegarden says:

    I always enjoy your top ten posts and also learn about something new. This time it’s the Chilean lantern tree which I’ve never seen before. Nearly every UK gardener mentioned the wind this weekend so you must have had a terrible time with it.
    I am familiar with the Kowhai tree being from NZ myself, originally. I grew one here, but it was attacked terribly by caterpillars and in the end I had to remove it, which I felt very sad about.

    • Chloris says:

      The Chilean Lantern tree always steals the show, it doesn’t like cold winters but it is tucked up in a corner against the house here.

  11. Ann Mackay says:

    Those tree peonies are gorgeous – love all the different shades!

  12. All of your flowers and so beautiful and different from what I can grow. I also love the tree peonies and have never seen the tree version of them.

  13. Relijen says:

    Everything looks so lovely! And how satisfying it must be to look upon that beautiful tree peony, knowing you grew it from seed. Wow. 🙂

  14. Pingback: May the Blooms be With You | Rambling in the Garden

  15. Those tree peonies are just fabulous, thank you for sharing!

  16. Cathy says:

    This is such a glorious time of year in the garden (well, I suppose for some of us every day is a glorious time of year in the garden!) and as always it has been a joy to see what you are sharing with us. Your standard wisteria are gorgeous – every now and then I try and think of where I could put another wisteria… My top May blooms are here Thanks for hosting

  17. snowbird says:

    Oh the wind is horrific! I was nearly blinded walking the dogs. Your garden is always a delight, those tree peonies are heavenly! I love it all but especially the clematis and standard wisteria. Oh those exotics too. You live in paradise, you don’t need to buy any more plants, they are growing themselves, with your

  18. tonytomeo says:

    That Azara is so rare here that I have seen only one of them. It took me a long time to identify it, just before it was cut down and killed. I will never know why it was cut down. It was against a blank wall of a Wells Fargo Bank in Santa Cruz, which has remained blank for the past several years. Nor will I know why it is rare here.

  19. alison41 says:

    Thanks for sharing your beautiful garden with us. I loved this post. My favourites were the peonies and the Chilean Lantern shrub.

  20. You had me with the peonies, glorious! But orchids really? That’s incredible ,

  21. As always that Rosa Lutea is outstanding! I am very jealous of your Wisteria.

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