Trust Shakespeare to hit the nail on the head, he was a keen observer of nature. We are getting strong May winds tonight which are following on from an almost entirely rain-free April with constant frosts, so many gardeners are feeling a little disgruntled. But my precious tree peony, Paeonia suffruticosa which I grew from seed is quite unperturbed by the winds, but I wish it would get warmer because I can hardly wait for the nice fat buds to open.
The charming, cerise Paeonia mascula is already showing pink. This is native to Southern Europe and has single scented flowers.
I was thrilled to discover a couple of seedlings nearby and so I have carefully dug them up and put them in pots. As I also have the pale lemon Paeonia mlokosewitschii or ‘Molly the Witch’ as she is often called by people like me who cannot remember her correct name, I am not sure what colour the flowers will be. I grew some of Molly’s children on a few years ago and they turned out to be various shades of pink.
Many of the darling buds of May are now tender new leaves and their freshness and gorgeous colours make the heart sing. The new leaves of acers are often dazzling in their intensity. Here are a few, the others are still in bud.
But for impact in spring, Acer brilliantissimum is well named for its intense shrimpy -coloured leaves. This tree is one of the plants I am grateful to my predecessors here for and I like the way it is planted as a group with the silvery leaves of Whitebeam, Sorbus aria behind and Amelanchier lamarckii to the side with its white flowers and bronzey leaves.
This is another Amelanchier lamarckii which I coppiced because I wanted a multi-stemmed bush rather than a tree in this spot. The flowers don’t last long but the foliage is pretty and colours well in autumn.
Talking of lovely leaves, Acer brilliantissimum often has seedlings which look as if they would grow into ordinary sycamore trees if I left them. But I was delighted to find this seedling the other day which looks as if it will make a lovely tree one day, but it is nothing like its mother, I don’t know how that happened..
I also love the dazzling spring leaves of Photinia x fraseri ‘Pink Marble’. The one you usually find is ‘Red Robin’ which is lovely but I love the variegation on this one.
I could go on and on talking about leaves and buds but I would like to show you a few flowers which are lovely right now, May blooms are so fleeting. Most of my magnolias are over now but the primrose yellow’ Elizabeth’ is always later and what a good thing as I should hate to see her lovely flowers browned by frost.
I have quite a few crab apples and some of them are still in bud. But I don’t think any of them can compare with Malus ‘Princeton Cardinal’ for sheer flower power.
My favourite May shrub is Exochorda ‘The Bride’ which has long lasting snow white flowers and I think the bush is such a pretty shape.
The flowering currants are just about over now but I have an unusual member of the Ribes family growing against my front wall. Everyone thinks that it is a fuchsia because it has dangly flowers like drop ear rings. It is bright scarlet and so really eye-catching.
The lilacs are coming out now and they of course smell divine but Viburnum burkwoodii smells wonderful too. This one came from a cutting from my previous garden but it is now mature and blooming profusely. It smells a little like furniture polish, but in a nice way.
I really should include a climber in this early May round up and Akebia quinata is a favourite with flowers that smell of chocolate. I have the cream form as well but it is not as striking as this one.
Last year it produced a large lilac seed pod and I sowed the seed in a pot without labelling it and forgot about it. I ended up with a mystery plant which baffled me for a while until I realised it is a young akebia plant, I wonder if it will come true from seed.
It seems churlish not to mention the tulips which are looking wonderful right now but perhaps they can be for another time. Instead I will finish with my very first irises in bloom which are the rare Iris bicapitata from the Gargano peninnsula in Italy. I fell for this iris when I saw vast swathes of it growing wild .
May is such an exciting month as new blooms are appearing every day. Let’s hope we will get some warm weather to enjoy them soon. And above all, some rain. We are supposed to get some rain tonight and this sky looks as if we might; but I am not holding my breath, it always seems to pass us by.
The tree is the double form of the wild cherry, Prunus avium ‘Plena’, it is one of my favourite cherries.