Snow, sleet, hail and frost – so far it’s not been an average May and at one point I even began to feel sorry for the baby rabbit who, on the coldest days, hid under a large rhododendron, only venturing out to nibble on my plants when there was a break in the squalls.
The cherry blossom that looked so lovely was lost on a night of high winds and the sweet peas which were growing strongly are now sulking. I don’t think they have put on any new growth in the last three weeks.
Some progress has been made, however. The pieris that was getting too big for its boots has had a third chopped off the top and the dead twigs and branches have been removed to reveal an airy outline and an attractive trunk.
Pieris have a habit of producing lots of dead wood as they grow and you can transform these fat, puddingy shrubs by crawling inside them and snipping this off. My advice though is to wear glasses when you do it.
Renovating a mature pieris is yet another of the many opportunities that the garden presents for poking yourself in the eye with a jaggy stick.
Now is a good time to cut back shrubs that flowered early in the season as the new wood they produce over the summer will have a chance to ripen in time to set buds for next spring. I was hoping to cut down the camellia in the front garden now that it has dropped most of its flowers but for the moment it is home to a nest of blackbirds, so cutting it back will have to wait.
This is prime nesting season so check before you wield the secateurs and inspect areas of long grass before starting up the mower. Last year a friend found a leveret sheltering in the long grass beside her drive and it has made me realise how vulnerable many small creatures are at this time of the year. Meanwhile, as more of the topsoil is removed to create space for the new greenhouse, I’m using it to sort out the levels in some of the sloping borders.
This has involved removing most of the plants, but it does give me a chance to shuffle them round and find gaps where I can add new flowers.
Among those waiting in the wings is an attractive form of Lamprocapnos spectabilis, once called Dicentra but better known to gardeners as the “bleeding heart” flower because of its pink heart-shaped flowers. There’s a lovely white version too, although this is much harder to come by and every supplier I have tried is currently sold out. I’ll keep on going until I track it down because I love this plant not only for its flowers but for its soft foliage.
Some flowers don’t last more than a few weeks so I’ve learned over the years the importance of selecting for leaves, as well as flowers, when choosing what to plant.
Agnes Stevenson bemoans the hail, winds and even snow that have made it a brutal month for tending to flowers and shrubbery. Roll on summer
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