May has skipped past with its usual quickstep.
Now it’s almost mid-June, and this post has been languishing, not to mention a forest of subsequent pictures and words which pile up higgledy-piggledy on the computer and in my head. Slowly, slowly, I shall find the time… But here, for the time being, are a few thoughts on May.
This has been a wonderful spring for foliage; the tapestries of newly emerging leaves in all shades of green, gold, pink and coral easily rivalling the trees’ autumn show for spectacle. It also seems to be a good year for horse chestnut flowers and hawthorn blossom, both striking in their abundance. I’ve certainly never noticed so many candles on our horse chestnut tree – it bodes well for the conker harvest!
Early in the month, we took a trip out to visit the nursery of Chris Pattison, on the border of Gloucestershire with Worcestershire, in search of an acer to complete our specimen containers on the terrace. We set out with ‘Emerald Lace’ in mind, a fresh green dissected maple to complement our existing acers, but ended up falling for its relative, Acer dissectum Flavescens instead. We also came away with a specimen of the goldenrain tree, Koelreuteria paniculata ‘Coral Sun’, whose vivid young stems are a bright shade of coral, of which you can catch a glimpse in the bottom left corner of the opening picture of this post. It is awaiting planting out into one of the borders, where we will keep it pollarded to restrict size and promote those colourful stems.
This purchase completed our run of five containers: one containing a young collection of ferns and grasses which I will explore in a future post, the next our new acer, besides ornamental cherry Prunus incisa ‘Kojo–No–Mai‘, followed in procession by Acer dissectum ‘Orangeola’ – whose beautiful russet foliage can be seen more closely in the next photograph below – and last but not least, our heavenly bamboo, Nandina domestica, which seemed hard-hit by our winter. I suspect it was rather waterlogged in the winter’s deluges, as it threatened to lose all its leaves, before rallying around in the last month or two. On the acers, we have begun to stake upright a leader on each, after advice from Chris Pattison himself to encourage them to grow tall before succumbing to their natural inclination to weep – this way we should have balanced and handsome weeping shrubs rather than a low mad sprawl!
Before I move on from these fine shrubs, I can’t resist a snapshot of our oldest acer, which is flourishing in the border. Its name lies long forgotten, being a purchase some ten years or so ago on one of our first trips to the Malvern Spring Show. It has stalwartly put up with all manner of indignities, being dug out of our previous garden, then being mostly neglected in a container for a couple of years during the long-running building works before finally finding a new position in the reclaimed borders here.
Such beautiful foliage. As you can tell, we have rather a fondness for the dissected forms of maples – though I hope to coax a few of the less intricate forms into the garden too in time! I seem to remember that ‘Butterfly’ featured in its name somewhere, but that may well be a red herring…
For the sake of completeness, then, it would be wrong not to at least mention in passing the equally striking new foliage glimpsed on Acer palmatum dissectum ‘Garnet’ above, which has been presiding over a sea of blue forget-me-nots this year, accompanied more recently by the matching dark red flowers of Aquilegia ‘Ruby Port’ which wander liberally around this border. I also planted a handful of Geum ‘Lady Stratheden’ into this border, and their frilly egg-yolk blooms make lovely counterpoints to the pale blue and dark red which dominates at this time of year.
This year (for a change!) I shall not dwell ad-nauseum on the tide of aquilegias which rise and fall across the garden through May, but cannot resist a picture of this hearty plant above; one of my ‘Black and Bruises’ seedlings grown from Carrie Thomas’ seeds from Touchwood, somehow managing to evade the terrible blight which has devastated her treasured collections.
And how is this for a sea of violet? Various forms of our native Aquilegia vulgaris dominate the swell of the long border here.
Finally, while exploring the dense planting at the foot of the black elder, Sambucus nigra, I was thrilled to see that while our shuttlecock fern, Matteucia struthopteris, has not yet taken off as I hoped, it is happy enough that it has begun to spread; a second plantlet erupting alongside the main crown.
I hope that you have been enjoying the spring too – and the lovely run of hot weather these past few weeks.