As the last week of May unfolds, the garden is surging with vibrant colour.
In the front garden, the Erysimum cheiri ‘Blood Red’ have relaxed into a carpet of fiery reds and burnt oranges, above which the striped goblets of Tulipa Helmar continue to stand with panache.
The sumptuous frills of red and white ranunculus have joined the chorus here, along with a couple of late Narcissus poeticus, and I am still thrilled with this blazing border as spring somersaults towards summer.
The back garden displays a cooler palette; a tapestry of lush greens illuminated with blues, purples, pinks and white. Clusters of Tulipa Barcelona continue to hold court in the borders here.
For a couple of weeks, this has been one of my favourite tableaux in the garden; these hot pink tulips still stubbornly holding on to most of their delicious bright pink petals, against the cool blue-white spires of Veronica gentianoides ‘Tissington White’; offset by the contrast of bright zesty Euphorbia and dark sweet william foliage while a flounce of candy-floss aquilegias tower behind them.
I bought the Veronica at Malvern last spring, and it is has wowed me all over again this year with those wonderful spires; a cloud of white from a distance, up close each flower daintily marked with pale blue whiskers and a lime green eye.
The garden is already looking its fullest ever this year. I am particularly pleased with the tapestry of foliage at the far end of the long border, where a swathe of mostly pale pink and lilac aquilegias has erupted from the seamless groundcover, which includes hostas, hellebores, foxgloves, the silvery cardoon leaves and purple Viburnum plicatum. These aquilegias germinated here last year, apparently the progeny of A. Red Hobbit, whose buds are still to burst, and one of the many A. vulgaris Lime Sorbet/Green Apples which run through both main borders.
A new favourite in the garden this year is A. longissima, raised from seed and flowering for the first time. I love the purple-flushed stems and foliage of this plant, and those long delicate spurs from the blushing butter-yellow flower, like a jester’s hat.
Red rose foliage flares in the afternoon sun, and Lychnis flos-cuculia alba, the white ragged robin, peeps shyly out from beneath the skirts of a neighbouring geranium.
These past few weeks have often felt more like April than May, with swift heavy downpours from leaden clouds that scurry across blue skies, soon dispersed once more by the sun and often courting rainbows. The winds have been fickle, sweeping one day from the north-east, the next from the more familiar south-west, and then dropping for a day of blissful sunshine, before returning once more, keeping the garden in a spin. These cold winds gallop unbridled through our garden, laying plants low in their path. For a day the fat buds on our oriental poppy were sprawled on the ground, when the winds dropped the following day I was so relieved to find that they had somehow righted themselves once more.
One of my favourite foliage plants at the moment is our Acer palmatum var. dissectum ‘Garnet’, newly clothed in resplendent purple leaves that flare crimson in the sun. Planted in as sheltered a spot as we could find it is still pushed sideways when the wind sweeps through, and my heart plummets to see it so, but these lovely leaves do not (yet!) bear as much scarring from wind-burn as they did last year when we planted it.
The vivid blues of the perennial cornflower, Centaurea cyanus, are a stunning shock of colour this month, particularly against the magenta flowers of Geranium macrorrhizum which romp around the old birch tree behind.
New treasures are appearing in the garden almost every day: our first Welsh poppy, from a seedpod that I came upon while out and about last summer, the contents of which I scattered here optimistically; the emerging stars of Allium hollandicum ‘Purple Sensation’ which erupt from their casing. What an amazing time of year; it feels almost impossible to keep up as the garden leaps ahead.