As the saying goes ‘April showers bring May flowers' and the April showers have certainly arrived in our part of the region over the last few weeks and the long term forecast is for more rain on the way. We haven’t seen this amount of sustained rain in the east for what seems like years and speaking as an outdoor worker that has to work in it every day, I’ve had enough of it. Roll on May!
Although it’s not great weather for us it, it is perfect growing weather for our plants, and as we can no longer use our hosepipes, it’s actually quite welcome. A wet April will improve the vigour of our plants and give them plenty of moisture when they start bursting into growth, which will result in bigger leaves, bigger flowers and better fruit set. There’s a lot of truth in the old saying ‘April showers bring May flowers’.
Here are our top five May flowering plants;
Lamprocapnos spectabilis (Formerly Dicentra spectabilis) (Bleeding Heart) – A truly wonderful little plant with the most unusual pink flowers that hang down all along the stem. One of its common names ‘Dutchman’s trousers’ describes the flower shape perfectly. It is happy in partial shade or sun. The ‘Alba’ variety is pure white.
Syringa ‘Madame Lemoine’ – This gorgeous white lilac is just coming into flower at the moment. It’s a bushy, medium sized, deciduous shrub that likes full sun and is happiest in neutral to alkaline soils, especially chalk soils. It also has the Royal Horticultural Society’s Award of Garden Merit (AGM) so you can’t go wrong. The ultimate height is approximately 2.5-4 metres.
Aquilegia vulgaris (Columbine) – Aquilegias are old-fashioned cottage garden perennials with bonnet-shaped flowers in many different colours. They are happy in full sun or partial shade and will tolerate most soils. They are one of the few early flowering perennials that bridge the flowering gap between the end of the bulbs and the start of the main flowering season. They self seed readily so you’ll need to dead head regularly to keep the variety pure.
Lychnis Flos -cuculi (Ragged Robin) – Our next choice is one of our favourite wildflowers which grows in wet meadows and all sorts of damp places. The flower is pink and finely lobed and looks great swaying in the wind alongside grasses and oxe-eye daisies. Available in some garden centres or through specialist nurseries such as British Wildflower Plants. We are using ragged robin in our Chelsea garden.
Digitalis purpurea and Hybrids (Foxgloves) – These native woodland plants come in all sorts of colours, not just the usual purple, and are great for difficult shady places as well as in full sun. The excelsior group of hybrids are particularly good and look great at the back of a border where they give height and interest. The bees love them.
Of course, the downside to all this rain is the appearance of the gardener’s most hated enemy, the slug. Slugs are particularly active at night, especially in warm and wet conditions so you need to be vigilant. If you don’t want to use sprays then pick off as many as you can or try using an organic slug pellet based on ferric phosphate.
For more gardening tips for April and May check out our ‘Tips and Tricks’ section on our website www.woolcottandsmith.com.
It’s not long now until we start building our Artisan Garden at the Chelsea Flower Show. We start on May 11 and have 10 days to build it. We must admit to feeling a bit anxious now. We are really happy with our preparations and everything has been organised but we just need a bit more sun to bring on some of our flowers. We did have a panic last week when we realised that our sweet chestnut tree wasn’t just late coming out into leaf but was actually stone dead. Thankfully, it’s easy to replace.
Our shepherd’s hut feature, which has been made by our sponsor, Plankbridge Shepherd’s Hut Makers, looks beautifully weathered and we’re chuffed that best selling author Tracey Chevalier (‘Girl with a Pearl Earring’) has agreed to write in it on Press day.
What is reassuring is that once again we are working with a fantastic contractor; Cormac Conway of Conway Landscapes. We have known Cormac for a number of years and he has been responsible for building all of the hard landscaping features of our gold medal winning gardens and his expertise in turning our ideas into reality is amazing.
Taking part in Chelsea is a real buzz and we can’t wait to get on site. Judgement day is May 21.