The Garden in May
After a rather difficult winter; caused by a combination of a very wet autumn and a wet and cold winter that has been followed by cool early spring temperatures, many plants are significantly later than we might expect. Finally however thanks to the arrival of some warmer night temperatures, spring has now arrived.
The main areas of later performing grasses and perennials such as we have in the Decennium and Mill End borders are now starting their fast green growth that is always ignited as the temperatures warm. In the Decennium the bright yellow flowers belong to Euphorbia palustris which is always the first perennial to flower in the border; often only a matter of weeks after the annual cut back around late March.
Thanks to the cool wet weather the Dry Meadow has been relatively devoid of flower these last few months but the blue grey foliage of the poa that makes up the base of the meadow seems to sparkle in the welcome sunshine. However the Spring Meadow timed, as it name suggests, to be of peak interest in the spring is alive with many shades of green and the rather beautiful almost icy white flowers of Luzula Snowflake; a Knoll Gardens selection of Luzula nivea. The primulas that were carpeting the base have more or less finished but, alongside the luzula, the broad foliage of self sown foxgloves work well with the soft foliage of the sedges and are about to push up their spikes of purple flower.
Though now coming to the end of their display, primroses and early season bulbs have been in flower for many weeks. However the tall blue spikes of camassia in the Sunny Meadow are still looking rather lovely and seem to be happy in the gardens dry soil. In the Carex remota ‘lawn’ on the edge of the Summer Garden the equally wonderful Star of Bethlehem (Ornithogalum umbellatum) open their delicately beautiful green backed white flowers whenever there is enough sunshine.
There are plenty of flowers to be seen from the many woody plants such as cornus, berberis, magnolia, viburnum and of course the rhododendrons. While large woody plants are invaluable for structure and shelter as well as spring flower their thirsty root systems create a lot of dry shade within the garden. Luckily symphytum is a lover of dry shady conditions. Not only does this large leaved adaptable plant provide weed proof cover all year in such places, at this time of year it offers impressive numbers of beautifully attractive tubular flowers that are as popular with early bees and other pollinators as they are with ourselves. The form that we use with soft blue and white flowers is Symphytum ‘Norwich Sky’.