The last of May

May has been an excellent gardening month – mostly warm, sunny days with some decent bits of rain at night. Perfection. Nighttime temperatures had been low, but this changed over the last week. The plants responded with rampant growth and flowers. The dominant colour is now blue – oh and red, orange, purple, green, yellow..hmm.


Bulb activity is continuing through into the summer with gladiolus, iris and alliums.


Grasses are really starting to come into their own now.


The wall-trained cotoneaster is looking wonderful in flower – we will need somebody to come and prune it soon.


We are enjoying the view that was revealed by removing the massive bay tree, killed by the winter cold. Thank you Kate; you speak excellent chainsaw.


Somebody said there was a garden show on somewhere, I think I will give that a miss and hang out here instead.




More white..

Since mentioning how many white flowers there are I’m now seeing them everywhere. Here is an update on yesterday’s post; more white flowers of May.

Fruit and veg: (clockwise) quince, pea, loganberry, medlar, strawberry.


Viburnums: (clockwise) Viburnum plicatum ‘Mariesii’, Viburnum opulus, Viburnum davidii


Various others: (clockwise) Fothergilla minor, Tritelia, Sorbus commixta ‘Dodong’, honesty, cow parsley


And more: (clockwise) Potentilla fruticosa, Cornus kousa, Camassia, Primula prolifera, Iberis sempervirens, Allium, Galium odoratum


And finally some blue: In memory of garden genius Beth Chatto who died 2 days ago, Corydalis flexuosa ‘China Blue’ – purchased from her nursery many years ago, travelled with us to Kent and flowers magnificently every May.


The light in May

The mid-May days are really long – sunrise is about 5am and sunset about 8:40pm. The late spring light is still quite soft and sometimes tentative. Even though we have had some really hot days it cools down quickly after sunset and there’s thick dew by morning. The plants are soaking it all up – look away and they’ve grown by the time you look back. This is the race against time; to grow, to flower, to produce offspring before the darkness returns. The dominant colour in early spring was yellow. Now in late spring it is very much the time of the white flowers.

IMG_4039Yellow-stemmed dogwood Cornus stolonifera ‘Flaviramea’ with a backdrop of hawthorn

IMG_4023White flowered rhododendron

IMG_4038Chokeberry Aronia melanocarpa backdropping a black elder Sambucus Niger

IMG_3996Common hawthorn Crataegus monogyna is spectacular this year – here edging out a lilac.

The smaller spring plants and alpines start early and by this time have reached – or passed – their peak.

IMG_4009This saxifrage Saxifraga × arendsii is really owning a spot in the gravel.

IMG_3999Bugle Ajuga reptans seems to have taken well to the gravel too.

IMG_4007Waterlillies covering the pond – too late for the fish all taken by a hungry/greedy heron.

IMG_4029Afternoon sun; 3pm and everything goes green. The light in May – it doesn’t get much better than this.


Spring harvest

This evening we ate from the garden; spinach, parsley, purple sprouting broccoli in a Japanese-style stir fry with noodles, followed by the sweetest juiciest strawberries.


The strawberries have been growing in the poly tunnel since January. Thankfully this under-cover cultivation has not resulted in those tasteless red fruit so often sold as strawberries. We have also had some really good rhubarb – its a good year for it.

There’s much to look forward to later in the year: broad beans, peas, potatoes, squash, cucumbers, melons, logan/black/blue/goose and raspberries, red and white currants, beans, kale, beetroot, chard, garlic, leeks, sweetcorn, tomatoes, aubergines, lettuce, kohlrabi, celeriac, courgettes, broccoli and brussels sprouts. Herb-wise there’s sage, rosemary, thyme, dill, coriander and basil. Fruit-wise there should be cherries, apples, pears, medlars, plums, damsons, figs and quince.

I’ll post more about these as they arrive. It’s very grounding to eat with the seasons; we are so grateful for this bounty of edibles.

Colour Time

After the hottest day in May – ever* – the garden is blooming to burst. The plants are serving full colour realness, with incredible hues, scents, textures and shapes all to attract whatever pollinators they can. Time to go in close for a look..and may the best flower, win!

Allium hollandicum ‘Purple Sensation’
Euphorbia polychroma
Aronia melanocarpa
Malus hupehensis
Euphorbia characias ‘Black Pearl’


Centaurea montana ‘Purple Heart’
Iris germanica ‘Nick’
Papaver orientale
Persicaria bistorta
Dodacatheon pulchellum

*in the UK..


We are really fortunate here at Snakesbury to be surrounded by pockets of woodland, some of which have my spring favourite: bluebells. I took a walk up to the closest patch of blue yesterday. It was a very typical spring day – cold wind but bright warm sun broken by short, heavy and sudden showers.


This year’s crop is wheat. Looking back east you can see for quite a distance. Snakesbury is the field in the centre of this pic (the one with the 2 mounds..). In the distance there’s yellowing fields of canola. You can just about make out the 11th century church poking out of the dark area in the centre right of the pic.


This bit of woodland is mainly sweet chestnut, which look like they have been planted for some kind of commercial activity. The bluebells are not quite fully open yet, but you can get an idea of what they will look like.


I don’t know how many bluebells there would be in an area like this, but it has to be thousands. They’re most successful in deciduous woodland, doing their thing with some speed before the canopy of leaves above them shuts out the sunlight. A beautiful sight.


I will have to re-visit in a few days when they have opened fully. I’m very grateful to have these wonders right on our doorstep.


Cherries (and other joy)

Today has been cool and breezy, but the heat of the last few days has transformed just about everything in the garden. The most dramatic transformation has happened to the big sweet cherry tree Prunus ‘Bigarreau Napoleon‘ which went from bare branches to clouds of flowers in a single day.IMG_3925

The soft white blossom has a dreamy promise of delicious red cherries in June.IMG_3892

The ornamental cherry Prunus ‘Amanogawa’ is starting to hold its own against its massive cousin – its columnar habit forming a pleasing pillar of colour.IMG_3886

The sour cherries Prunus cerasus ‘Morello’ are showing positive signs of fruit-bearing this year too.IMG_3880.jpgWe have 4 of these Morellos and I’m hoping for cherry pie, jam, brandy and vodka. Lets hope there’s no sudden frosts like last year..

In other news, the red horse chestnut Aesculus x carnea ‘Briotii’ is flowering for the first time. This tree grew from seed collected at RHS Wisley in 2009. I think it is happy here.IMG_3889

The sun is rising earlier every day; sunrise will soon be completely obscured by the old sycamore as it comes into full leaf. Spring is happening very fast this year.IMG_3872 (1)