As the last week of May unfolds, the garden is surging with vibrant colour.

Wallflowers and tulips in late May

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.

Tulipa Helmar

Ranunculus (red and white) and wallflowers with late tulips

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.

Narcissus poeticus

Garden border in May

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.

Tulipa Barcelona flaring in the winds

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 ย bright zesty Euphorbia and dark sweet william foliage while a flounce of candy-floss aquilegias tower behind them.

Veronica gentianoides 'Tissington White'

Veronica gentianoides 'Tissington White'

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.

Aquilegia vulgaris Lime Sorbet/Green Apples

Aquilegias in purple and pinkThere are deeper colours opening too; these purples are some of my favourites, whether two-tone with white petticoats, or resplendent in purple alone.

Aquilegia longissima

A new favourite in the garden this year is A. longissima, raised from seed and flowering for the first time.ย 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


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.

Horse chestnut foliage in strong winds

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.

Acer palmatum var. dissectum 'Garnet'

Acer palmatum var. dissectum 'Garnet'

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.

I do worry about 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 by the wind, 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.

Allium hollandicum 'Purple Sensation'

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.


22 thoughts on “Surge

  1. It is amazing how suddenly it all happens! Tulips are already a distant memorie for me so I enjoyed seeing yours. Love all the combinations you have created; you must be so happy as the garden is still very young and already is fabulous. Christina

    • The garden is almost growing as you watch, at this time of year! I’m impressed with how long some of the tulips have lasted this year, despite rain and wind. Thank you, I am really pleased with how the garden is knitting together.

    • I love them both, I’m really pleased that the Veronica has settled in – and that the Helmar are standing up to the weather so well.

  2. that is a seriously stripey tulip, reminds me of raspberry ripple ice cream. Been very windy here today and now we are awaiting the rain which I need to water everything in properly

    • Yes, it is rather raspberry-ripple-ish! My husband chose it; I’m not sure I would have from the catalogue, but it’s really impressed me.
      Our rain has set in here (along with that south-westerly wind again); watering in all the weekend’s hard work. I hope the sun comes back again too though!

  3. For me the outstanding flower in all these (which in truth are all beautiful) is the raspberry ripple tulip Helmar! I sympathise with the poor old Acer Palmatum being battered by the wind…

    • Aren’t they glorious tulips? So impressed that they’re still standing. Yes I hate watching the Acer being swept sideways by the winds…

    • Thanks, Dave. The veronica was an impulse buy last spring, a very fine plant. After a couple of solid days spent working in the garden this weekend, I finally feel on top of it – for a minute.

  4. I am equally enthused by the veronica and will definitely look out for that one – does it normally flower before other veronicas do you think? Your ‘Helmar’ confirms that the dregs of the stripey one I have which has lost its label is the same, as I know I have bought some in the past. I was pleased to see some pictures of your green aquilegias as I have been growing some from seed (can’t remember the variety without checking) so it’s reassuring that yours are returning reliablyfor another year. No-one has mentioned your elegant prose, though – I really enjoyed this post, not just for the pictures but for the way you have put it all into words. Thank you for a lovely piece of writing!

    • Ahh, thank you, Cathy. That’s a lovely compliment. I can talk for hours about the things I love in the garden… ๐Ÿ˜‰

      My green aquilegias I grew from seed in 2011, so they flowered last year for the first time, and all seem to be present and correct again this year, and as tall and pretty as ever. Hope that yours bring you lots of pleasure too.

      I’m not sure how our Veronica compares to other types, as it’s the only one I’ve grown so far! I bought it in bloom mid-May last year at Malvern (though you never know which plants have been brought on early, or kept back, for the shows) from Hardy’s nursery, where the friendly plantsman on the stand was understandably proud that his grandfather had introduced it. It has been flowering for a few weeks now and shows no signs of stopping – and has really beefed out this year already.

  5. Some gorgeous flowers there. Loving the lime coloured aquilegia and the veronica. It’s a plant I’d like some of, although I have no idea where I would put it. ๐Ÿ˜‰

    • Thanks, I bought the Veronica with no idea where it would go last year – I just couldn’t resist it, and the Hardy’s Plants nurseryman was very encouraging of my whim ๐Ÿ™‚

  6. What a lovely blast of colour there is in your garden! The Tulipa Helmar are fabulous. I too am still admiring some of my dark purple/hot pink tulips, they are holding on despite the wind and rain, but I fear their petals will fall this week. I’m quite jealous of your Narcissus Poeticus as mine never really came to anything, I have one single bloom this year ๐Ÿ˜ฆ Bethx

    • Thanks, Beth. We’ve only a trio of N.poeticus too, from the pot full (perhaps half a dozen) that I planted out last autumn – I had forgotten about them, when they suddenly sprang up. S x

  7. it all looks so beautiful Sara, despite the wet and windy weather, now the wind is coming from both directions SW and NE I am finding it harder to protect plants as I don’t want to ‘box them in’ I want to view across the garden,

    really love your firey front border, A.longissima is so beautiful, it made me think of a crown though I can also see the jesters hat, Frances x

    • It’s hard when the wind switches around isn’t it? Hope that things settle soon.

      A crown is far more fitting for the shape of A. longissima, indeed.

      S x

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