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A Midland Alpine Gardener's Diary

This entry: 04 May 2009 by Diane Clement

Midland Diary No 12 - The beginning of May

May begins

There is an old saying which often raises discussion as to its meaning: 'Ne'er cast a clout till May be out'.  The clout is taken to mean outer clothing, and probably May meant the month of May, but it could refer to May blossom (the hawthorn).  When I was young, the term May flower also referred to Cardamine pratensis and Anthriscus sylvestris - a good reason to use Latin names!.  So the saying probably means, don?t go without your coat until the end of May, which I take as a reminder that frosts are possible right up to the end of May.  I tend to think of May as the change of the season.  At the beginning of the month, spring is hanging on and frosts are still likely, but by the end of the month, the chance of frost is minimal and yes, summer is a-coming in. 

For this blog, I am going to take a walk round the garden and look at some of the different areas we have created over the years.  Our garden is not very large, about 43 x 14m (that?s about 140 x 45 ft for the metrically challenged).  Our garden is north facing, and is surrounded by trees to the east and west, so has large sections in shade. 

The bank

I will start my walk on the east side where there is a raised bank which is quite steep for the last half of the garden.  This area is difficult to garden and so we have developed an area where plants can spread and mingle in an informal way.  The sandstone retaining wall is a good area for growing Aubrieta forms, Ajuga reptans and Lithodora diffusaSaxifraga x urbium enjoys the conditions at the base of the wall. 

At the top of the wall is an area which tends to be dry because it is raised above the garden, and also this side of the garden gets the most sun.

A little Erysimum sp enjoys the situation, as does Geranium phaeum.  Higher up on the bank, a plant of Lewisia cotyledon has settled and is seeding around. It clearly enjoys the situation – oddly under a hawthorn tree, but in full sun in the summer and very well drained

Raised beds

Continuing to the central section of the garden, we have made a couple of raised beds. The following are plants raised from seed: Daphne caucasica, Wulfenia carinthiaca and Pulsatilla vulgaris "Rubra"

The tufa bed contains quite a lot of saxifrages, kabschias for earlier in the year and the silvers which are just starting into flower now. At the moment, Pritzelago alpinum seems to be taking over

The Borders

On the shady side of the garden, there are clumps of herbaceous plants to give colour at this time of year: Doronicum and Lamium orvala

Paeonia mlokosewitchii is performing well this year.  I have heard it said that the familiar yellow form in cultivation is not the type form, but either a hybrid or a garden selection.  I would like to hear any comments or observations on this?

On the shady side

The west side of our garden has gradually developed over the years. Clematis alpina is in full flower at the moment

Erythroniums were in flower in April, and are now in seed, but by the beginning of May, Trilliums, Rhododendrons and other plants that enjoy this shady corner are competing for space.

Trillium sulcatum

Trillium grandiflorum

Trillium grandiflorum "Snow Bunting"

Corydalis flexuosa

Uvularia grandiflora

Three years ago I created a new bed mainly for rhododendrons and this is now looking good.

Here, R glaucophyllum (the dark pink mid right) R Maricee (white mid left) with Anemone nemorosa "Vestal" in the foreground and Primula sieboldii filling in the spaces

Rhododendron glaucophyllum

Rhododendron Maricee

Rhododendron (Ledum) diversipilosum

Anemone nemorosa "Vestal"

I have tried several species of Meconopsis in the garden and failed miserably (with the exception of M cambrica!). But I have been pleased to see Meconopsis x cookei now settled and flowering for the third year.  This is a sterile hybrid between M punicea and M quintuplinervia and I have found it much easier to grow than its parents, so I have just bought another colour form.


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