Really?, Already? May?

Time flies at this time of gardening year it all seems to come at once. I have been busy gardening for myself and for clients and I love it. All the rain we have had in the droughty South East of the county!, has made everything grow grow grow though a little sunshine would not go amiss to get something flowering as well as putting on leafage. Enough complaining frmo me I am delighted with the rain though a bit tired of explaining to friends with house-bound kids that it’s great for us all that we’re getting out of the drought. It will no doubt stop soon as we’ll be having some summer sun in the coming months.

At the end of April I visited Prague for the first time, a stunning city with so much to see, 4 days was not enough. What stuck me was how out of kilter their flowering seemed to be, Lilacs in full glorious bloom but apple trees barely opening their buds. Having come from the UK where our lilacs were firmly furled and apple blossom all but blown away it seemed  bit back to front. That said the weather had just turned warm, well hot to be fair 30-33 degrees for 4 days and sun sun sun, more gloriousness and heavenly to be out of the constant downpours for all the sight seeing we did.

After trips away is always exciting to come home mostly to see what has survived in my abscence or thrived in the garden. There had been much greening, the lawn is emulating the day of the triffids and the Irises (in pots) had put on a great deal of growth.

Seasonal veg is still sulking and reluctant to come out in the cold (unheated green house and cold frames) but the salad H-Edge has started to sprout and not yet been slug munched. The Pak Choi is putting on some leaf and the stems thickening up and shooting up which is good because they’re in front of a rampaging Centaurea montana Alba which is ALSO shooting up in all directions and putting on it’s late spring growth.

The big task in the next weeks is staking potentially floppy, taller perennials – Delphinium (larkspur), Anthemis (marguerite), Centaurea (cornflower), Peonies, Papaver (poppy) Getting stakes in early makes it simpler to contain them later on. I’ve used some lovely 3/4 circular metal frames bought last year at Chelsea (3 for £9 was a bit of a bargain) and when those ran out I resorted to  1m lengths of  bean pole secured with rounds of garden string and when they ran out I used the still bendy branch clippings from the Forsythia to stick into the soil and weave together to  make a kind of fence around the  Lychnis coronaria.

Anthemis tinctoria Sauce Hollandaise

This year I have left the Hemerocalis (Day Lily) and the Achillea (yarrow) as they were transplanted last autumn and aren’t looking like they’ll grow on much this year. I may have to revisit that though.


If your Clematis montana has done it’s flowering stint for the year  NOW is the time to give a good haircut, be firm with older plants as they are very very vigorous vines in the right position and happily take over if not kept in check. I am currently growing one up a rather unsightly Holly that cannot be got rid of in the vain hope that the montana with smother (and kill) the Holly in years to come!


Keep planting successional carrots, beetroot and salad leaves on a weekly basis to give you a regular crop at the other end of the cycle. I have two large IKEA bins hosting Carrot seedlings and Parsnip seeds. The parsnips have yet to surface, the carrots are romping away.

Plant Basil the Alys Fowler way. Ann Marie Powell Tweeted that she had had speedy success (less than 48 hrs) with this method so I followed suit (remarks of Lemming will not be received kindly!) Some black basil seed was hastily, if lightly sprinkled over a 9cm pot of damp seed compost, pressed into contact with the soil but not covered with same, covered with a spot of cling film and placed in a window near a heat source. In my case it was in the south east facing window of my office near the radiator. They took 4 days to emerge and are now putting on steady growth in readiness for repotting and more heat and sun in the coming months (optimistic I know). Looking forward to lots of fresh basil this summer.

Plant Squash seeds. After so much joy with the Alys Fowler method for Basil I tried it on my other seeds and low and behold up came the Courgette, the Boston Squash, Perilla and some Calendular. The pumpkin and courgette are already potted on into their own 9cm pots the rest are waiting for the clement weather to arrive first.

The seedlings of Phlox, Stocks and Cosmos are romping away and already in module mode. I have given away lots and lots of these as I over seeded in the February rush. Mark Diacono said in a River Cottage Bites episode “grow a little of a lot…” which struck a chord here and I have cut back seriously on my usual excesses of seedlings. My lovely neighbours and friends will not benefit from the annual veg seedling glut but I will be able to try more varieties this year and there will be room in the greenhouse (well, maybe…..)

Earth up your spuds as their green tops emerge, unless of course you’re trying the cover them in straw and pray method (or no dig!) in which case do not forage about in the straw and compost looking for growth it doesn’t help them grow any faster or bigger.

Put in your bean canes in readiness for planting in a couple of weeks. either in arch formation with stabilising side, cross struts and a cross bar on the top or teepee shapes strung together at the very top. I have enough canes for 3 large teepee shapes and enough space this year too. So I am growing green and purple climbing French beans and some runner beans. I am also trialing mixing my sweet peas in with the climbing beans, mainly for space reasons but also to see if it helps with pollination.

Pea netting can go in too with some study stakes at either end to support the inevitable burgeoning crop that will come. I didn’t stake sturdily last year and the whole netting collapsed under the weight of peas. It is much more difficult to re-errect the pea’ vegetation network once it has collapsed!

It’s not quite time to put out Dahlia and semi tender plants, watch the weather forecast for more balmy conditions and the end of frosts. I am anticipating the last week of May/first week of June for planting them out along with hanging out my hanging baskets.

Centaurea montana Alba


The Malvern Show 10-13th May Malvern, Worcs

Chelsea Flower show 22-26 May at the Royal Hospital in Chelsea.

Chelsea Fringe 19th May – 10th June. In it’s very first year, don’t miss out

Sissinghurst early June would be my favourite time to visit

Yorkshire Sculpture Park I am longing to make this trip this spring it is Joan Miro, Jem FIner and Sophie Ernst

Most of all enjoy your natural spaces be it your garden, a public garden, your allotment, an NGS garden, a walk in the country and remember there is no bad weather, just poor equipment!

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