We have been so busy with planting in April/May I haven’t had a moment to think about all of the maintenance that needs to be done. May has flown by so I’m combining late May and June in this blog. This is one of the busiest times of the year when we get the garden ready to perform throughout the Spring and Summer.
Aquilegias are flowering well this year. They are a cottage garden favourite with such a wide variety of colours and forms. The dark purple and white ‘William Guiness’ is really striking. Plant them in 3’s or 5’s to make an impact. I planted a lot of Aquilegia vulgaris ‘Ruby Port’ for the first time last year – a really dark maroon, double form. I’m keeping my fingers crossed that they re-appear again this year.
Shrubby Potentillas (Potentilla fruticosa) start flowering in May. They are so popular in what I call ‘car park planting’ that they have fallen out of favour in gardens. I still use them if you want a long- lasting yellow, white, cream or pink flowering shrubs. ‘Goldfinger’ is a bright yellow and ‘Limelight’ is a more subtle cream with a yellow centre.
The Hostas start to show in May. I grow them for their foliage rather than the flowers. The variety is wonderful but if you want a few to start you off – ‘Sum and Substance’ is a good plain leaf, ‘Halcyon’ is a good blue/grey leaf and ‘Gold Standard’ is a yellow and green mix. Try to resist surrounding them with slug pellets – you will just attract the slugs! Dot a few a bit further away from the plants and keep the plants clean – pull off the fading foliage at the base so there’s nowhere for the slugs to hide.
Alliums are looking good – they start flowering in May and continue through the early summer. They should be planted in large drifts or clumps to get the best effect. Their foliage needs to be kept on after they flower and that can be quite messy – so plant them so that they poke up among other lower growing plants such as Nepeta (also looking good now) or Alchemilla mollis (Ladys Mantle). Don’t forget that chives are also Alliums. They are a pretty plant for the front of a bed – BUT they seed everywhere. Try Allium Purple Sensation for a tall purple flower or Allium christophii for a shorter stocky flower.
Poppies are starting to flower. There are so many varieties available but the lovely dusky pink Patty’s Plum is a favourite. Poppies don’t last long but they are so beautiful they are worth it. Plant them behind perennials that flower later (like Asters) and they will cover the Poppy’s foliage as it dies down. If you have gaps in your flower beds why not sprinkle a packet of poppy seeds in Autumn or Spring and they will give you colour this time next year.
Campanula poscharskyana is excellent ground cover in sunny beds or on walls. It has pretty violet flowers. It does spread like mad but it’s easily pulled out if it comes up where you don’t want it
.Irises and Sisyrinchium create good, strong, upright plants in beds at this time of the year. Make sure you get the right Iris for your ground conditions – some love moist soil and others prefer to be baked in the Sun with their tubers exposed. Sisyrinchiums have creamy flowers that create a good barrier between any clashing colours in flower beds. As with all perennials they are better planted in groups of 3 or 5.
Another invaluable plant this month and beyond is Salvia nemorosa ‘ Caradonna’ . You see these at Chelsea every year – with good reason. They have upright dark purple flowers that work in groups of 3 or more. Salvia sylvestris ‘Mainarcht’ is a pretty blue/purple that is less upright in habit.
What to do in the garden this month
If you plant at this time of the year - make sure you water new plantings regularly.
Weeding is never ending at this time of year – especially after we have rain. Keep on top of it now and you’ll save yourself work later on.
Put supports in place near your taller perennials like Delphiniums and Alcea (Hollyhocks) – before they grow and flop over.
Keep tying in your Clematis plants with soft twine as they grow – rather than being confronted with a mound of tangled stems later in the year. Feed them as well at this time of the year to improve flowering.
Deadhead and shape/prune Rhododendrons after they have flowered. Prune back stems to a pair of healthy shoots.
Prune the early summer flowering shrubs such as Weigeila, Deutzia, Kolkwitzia and Philadelphus when their flowers start to fade. As usual prune them back to a healthy pair of leaves. If you need to restore them cut a third of the stems back to the lowest leaves you can and repeat this over the next few years.
Now is also the time to re-shape and prune your Choisyas (after they have finished flowering) if they have lost their rounded, cushiony shape. It can seem unfair because the foliage is so good at this time of the year – but it will give you a stronger, bushier shrub. Cut back to a healthy pair of leaves. I’ve started clipping them over and then just tidying any snags back to a pair of leaves with secateurs and that seems to work well.
Cut back early spring flowering perennials such as Pulmonarias now so they produce fresh foliage.Pinch out leading shoots of Fuchsias to encourage bushy growth.
Deadhead Euphorbias as the plumes of bracts die off. Wear gloves and be careful of the milky sap that drips out of the cuts - it can give you a skin reaction.
Aphids start to cover Lupins soon - use an organic soap spray to get rid of them.
Prune Pyracanthas towards the end of the month. They usually push up long stems above the flowering stems – these can be cut back so you can see the flowers and eventually the berries when they form. Just cut back unwanted stems to keep in checkContinue to remove bulb foliage as it dies back.