Gardener’s Corner: May 2024

Gardener’s Corner: May 2024

Following a very mild April and probably the earliest/most advanced growing season I have ever recorded we can look forward to lots of early colour in May. The gardens are very lush and green as I write this on the 23rd of April and normally dormant plants like the giant rhubarb (Gunnera) have been growing since February. The Gunnera is already taller than me!
The exceptionally mild winter and early spring means that our roses will start blooming well before June and are looking very promising as are many of our herbaceous perennials. May is as much about foliage and its contrast as it is about colourful displays. Over the last 20 years, I have tried to add as much diversity within the borders as possible, with lots of contrasting leaf shape, texture and colour. The borders that face the Croquet Lawn contain the oak-leaved Hydrangea, copper hazel, horse chestnut-leaved Rodgersia and Viburnums, which I think creates an almost natural feel of planting. The hot border also contains plenty of interesting, lush foliage but lots of colour too, beautiful blues from the Anchusa, yellows from the Sisyrinchiums, reds and oranges from the oriental poppies and red from the early flowering Rosa ‘National Trust’. Some of our collection of roses will flower later in the month particularly ‘Scarlet Fire’, Iceberg and Rosa ‘Moyessi’. As a contrast the stumpery planting contains freshly unfurling Hosta leaves, lots of ferns, beautiful gentian blue Omphalodes (forget me not like flowers) and Tiarella. May is also the first month of the season that our huge Wells border takes off, to start with lots of yellows, blues and gentle shades of white. Day lilies like ‘Golden Chimes’, Iris sibirica cv’s and Astrantia. As the month progresses roses like the yellow ‘Charles Darwin’ and richer wine-coloured rose ‘Munstead Wood’ appear with a beautiful scent from the stunning Philadelphus ‘Belle Etoile’ (mock orange).
May is a great month because almost any garden tasks are possible both because of the improved weather but also because it is still early in the season and possible to finish any tasks left over from the winter. Perfect for planting a new border and for sowing annual flowers and vegetables. Jo and her team have been busy in the Community Garden and by the end of May, all the greenhouse and cold frame-grown plants will have been planted out. Much of this produce will be used by the café or sold by the shop. The cut flowers have become increasingly popular and there really is nothing quite like homegrown flowers. The beautifully presented flowers in the Palace building come from the gardens and are arranged by some of our lovely community garden volunteers.

We look forward to welcoming you to the gardens throughout May.

James Cross, Head Gardener

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