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