End of Month View: May


Yes – it’s finished! Even the corner pieces are now on the new pergola. And that marvellous shadow effect is not only due to the sun – the Bon Viveur painted the wood in two different shades of blue to accentuate the effect. 

May has been a very mixed month. Much wetter than is usual here and temperatures quite cool. Up to 27 degrees centigrade in the garden occasionally, but often not much more than 15 or 17. A mixed blessing. There has been fantastic growth on the plants and I am particularly pleased that my new herbaceous plants in the Hornbeam Gardens have had time to establish properly, without additional water.


Rosa banksiae ‘Lutea’ flowering on the steps up to the Mirror Garden

The down side is that we are (as of Saturday 28th May) heading into another rainy period and all of the juicy rosebuds may be a bit of a wash-out. And just when they finally started getting their toes in … No one can be a real gardener without dabbling in philosophy.

The shot below is of the Rose Walk, Long Border, Knot Garden and blue pergola from the balcony of the house.DSC_0002

I’m still in two minds about the Knot Garden. Half of me says topiary hollies and bedded- out tulips (flamboyant!), followed by some cool bedding colours (white and green nicotiana?). The other half sees low white roses against green hedges.

The Bon Viveur is for both. At the moment I just keep weeding and allowing the young box (cuttings from 2013) to grow …DSC_0007 (1)

Moving down to the Mirror Garden. Rosa banksiae ‘Lutea’ is just finishing off its annual performance. What a star – the first rose to flower here every year since it was planted in 2012. I’ve noticed that it begins on a particularly warm little spot on the old tower and spreads like wildfire. I had to hang it back up and chop it a little in May, while it was already flowering. (Takes a steely heart to cut buds from a rose like this!)


The Melianthus major have gone out in their blue pots again this year. DSC_0008The pleated foliage is beautiful, but they are not really working in the pots, and I still haven’t found an alternative. I loved the  Melianthus that used to be in the huge pot at Hidcote (still is?), and that’s where the idea comes from. These pots are too small.

DSC_0013 (1)I was wondering about some yellow bedding (the theme up here is yellow, grey and green). But I’m currently drawing a blank.

The blue pergola on the Vine Terrace is finished, as I’ve said. This is the prettiest thing I’ve ever had in a garden of mine. But thank goodness the BV has gone back to work in Basel – he has been laying waste to the ivy that covered most of our ‘service’ bits – hence the ladder that you can see in the background.

DSC_0014 (1)DSC_0019 (1)Like the wire down to the plug where I attach my electric lawnmower in the Iris Garden – and even the pipe for the fosse septique. I’m mortified! This is where we bring our visitors on a nice summer’s evening.

Still – the irises look grand. I’m enjoying the first flowering of plants I purchased back in 2014. ‘Forest Hills’ you’ve already seen here, in my post about the irises in Basel.

The other little stars are …


Langport Storm

DSC_0028 (1)

Jane Phillips

DSC_0023 (1)

Foggy Dew

DSC_0021 (1)

Carnaby – the flashiest iris I’ve ever grown. Love it!


Blue Rhythm


Wine and Roses – sweetly pretty. I’m already imagining it in combination with other plants in the garden when it is big enough to divide.

The Iris Garden is where my worst fears about the current bad weather reside. ‘Souvenir de la Malmaison’ is just getting into her stride.

DSC_0025 (1)My worst fears because this is simply the worst rose I’ve ever come across for ‘balling’. I’m sure I’ve written it before, but here goes again: ‘When she was good, she was very, very good. But when she was bad she was HORRID!’ If it rains when she’s flowering, that’s it. The buds become ugly grey-brown lumps of lead – and they are heavy, heavy, like little bullets when you cut them off.

DSC_0024 (1)

You can just see a browned-off bud in the background. She’s looking like a bit of a Joan of Arc here, gazing up to the skies … and suffering.

Today I did a mercy run and cut some for the table in the kitchen. We do usually get flowers again in late summer – so I’ll pray for better weather then. She was superb last year.

I’m not so worried about ‘Blairii No. 2’, also just coming into flower. It seems much more tolerant of wet weather.DSC_0105

This is the first year I’ve planted clematis out against the walls – so far I’ve been a bit nervous to add them, because I still am doing so much planting and they don’t like being ‘messed with’.  But now ‘Mrs Cholmondeley’ is snuggled up between ‘Souvenir de la Malmaison’ and ‘Pierre  de Ronsard’. She’s a ‘wilter’ and all I can do is pray for her …


DSC_0140Down in the Rose Walk things are exactly as I want them (and just the way most other people don’t!). I like to feel I’m in a wild flower meadow and my roses are just growing there accidentally. The picture below is at my shoulder height – buds all the way.


The tantalising buds of ‘Fantin Latour’. I noticed the first open flowers Saturday evening before rather a scary thunderstorm.

The buds of a pink peony are mixing it with up ‘Fantin Latour’.

DSC_0040 (1)

‘Gertrude Jekyll’ has been the first rose to flower this year.

DSC_0047 (1)

The alliums are in full flood (oops – not the correct word to use, given current weather conditions).DSC_0032 (1)DSC_0124

Allium christophii is flowering for the first time here.

DSC_0037DSC_0121The nigella are (as usual) out of control … but so pretty I can never murder them.

DSC_0119DSC_0053 (1)

Geraniums, disappointingly, don’t do too well in the Rose Walk (I don’t think I give them enough room, really, since they like to spread over the surface of a border). Fortunately the new ones are romping away in the lower part of the garden.

But this little seed-raised G. himalayense has been so pretty this year. DSC_0047

And Anchusa ‘Loddon Royalist’, just along from the geranium, is keeping up the blue/purple theme. I probably shouldn’t have planted this – it will just worry me to death because everyone says it’s short-lived. But I was pretty successful with it on heavy clay in England, so I’m daring to try again.

DSC_0055 (1)

And the bronze fennel is acting as a nice backdrop. Although starting to remind me what a fierce weed it is.


I have to admit, sometimes even I think the Rose Walk is a bit messy … but so romantic and what’s more important? The path is narrow (this is actually dictated by the dimensions of the place, not me) and I feel we should be replacing it with a herringbone brick or something to give more structure.

DSC_0120aWe are due (this sounds better than ‘hoping’) to put a greenhouse down here. It will have to be blue-grey, and specifically for my sixtieth birthday in December. Attached will be a matching pergola created by the BV.

Funnily enough, this whole Rose Walk area (although it was the first place I gardened when I started in 2012) is the most ‘unfinished’ of the cultivated areas in the garden. There’s the awful heap of garden rubbish where the glasshouse will be. And at the far end there’s a matching heap of rubbish (perfect symmetry) where I want my compost bins. Three of them, shaped like beehives, painted cream or pale blue …

I can dream about my greenhouse and the beehive compost bins. That’s what my blog is all about …

Against the Rose Walk wall (the village ramparts), ‘Madame Alfred Carrière’ is pretty startling in this, her third spring.

DSC_0034 (1)DSC_0054

… and just beyond the short length of hornbeam hedge, by our garden gate, once flowering rose ‘Alchymist’ has finally got more than two buds at a time!


Behind the Rose Walk is an area I call the ‘mini woodland’. All looks reasonably respectable at the front, with aquilegias and herbaceous plants coming up in the area where I could see coloured stemmed dogwoods two months ago and then the bluebells.

DSC_0112 (1)

DSC_0111 (1)A week ago I decided to go round to the (even wilder) back where all the creeping buttercups hang out, smoking and generally behaving badly.

I wanted to weed and found myself bathed in wonderful spring sunshine, in the wild heart of one of my best ‘messes’ – the buzzing of bees was overwhelming and I couldn’t bear to touch a hair on its head. Well, maybe the odd one or two …

DSC_0040DSC_0111 (1)

I don’t often say say or write the kind of comment that follows; I’m a perfectionist who not only lacks confidence, but is very critical of herself . However, the Long Border looks lovely at the moment (although poor roses – blasted by the rain since Saturday night).

DSC_0057 (1)DSC_0058 (1)There is a lot of material grown in bulk from cuttings here (filched from the streets of the little town where I used to live). Philadelphus, weigela, and so on clothe the bank down from the Rose Walk. Everything is flowering properly for the first time and I can hardly believe they were about 5 inches high when I brought them here in November 2011.


Weigela, comfrey and borage with Hesperis matronalis.

DSC_0061 (1)


Philadelphus coronarius

And many repeated herbaceous plants grown from seed: different catmint species (N. sessiliflora & N. nervosa), Asphodeline lutea and Thalictrum speciosissimum.

I’m even noticing that my Angelica is self-seeding (in many of the ‘wrong’ places).


Naughty angelica settled in the crown of Thalictrum speciosissimum

Very interesting. Being ‘economically challenged’ and using, of necessity, the same plant many times can help give a border unity. I’m proud of it. I planted out some tubers of Dahlia ‘Bishop’s Children’ last Thursday and I’ve a few (too small) cannas to add. The dahlias seem to take the heat really well  (this is almost the hottest part of the garden) and I thought I’d turn this into a real blaze from hell in the summer. Slowly, slowly.

Down in the Hornbeam Gardens, my little dead magnolia, planted over the cat’s grave, has been replaced by a Cornus kousa ‘Satomi’ (fingers crossed that doesn’t die as well!).

DSC_0087 (1) I’m really pleased with the geraniums and grasses that are starting to perform after being planted last year just in advance of the hottest summer I’ve known here.

DSC_0094 (1)

The young shrub above (planted winter 2014) is Viburnum plicatum ‘Watanabe’ (a smaller version of ‘Mariesii’) and the blue geraniums are ‘Orion’ and good old ‘Johnson’s Blue’. The grasses are seed-raised Deschampsia cespitosa.

On the other side of the path, the plantings of herbaceous in March this year are filling out nicely, although my Echinacea ‘Summer Skies’ never made an appearance. Must make sure I get the nursery to replace it – we don’t often do that, do we? But many mail order nurseries offer some sort of guarantee.

DSC_0072 (1)

Lilac ‘Miss Kim’ is very small, but pretty near perfect.DSC_0081 (1)

And the BV has erected the most fabulous support for my sweet peas that they have ever, ever had. At least they will benefit from the rain. Could be a good year!

DSC_0067 (1)

Through the hornbeam hedge into the orchard is my next challenge – a slope that’s being crammed full of shrubs and ‘extras’ from the rest of the garden. So hard to maintain by strimming as it was. It’s still pretty rough around the ears, but I find it interesting to record ‘before and after’.

DSC_0100 (1)

It’s all looking good – even the grass is cut. But if it carries on raining this week, I’ll be forced to turn to the ironing (also growing well in May) and cleaning the beams in the attic.

Weather, be kind to my roses!

This ridiculously long post is my contribution to Helen’s ‘End of Month View’ at the Patient Gardener. Go on over and see the exciting things that exploded into flower in everyone’s else’s May garden.



30 thoughts on “End of Month View: May

    1. Cathy Post author

      Not easily, Eliza. I hope it will get easier however. I’m always still digging new borders in March/April. But that should (mostly) be over by 2017 and then it will just be maintenance and pleasurably ‘fiddling’.

  1. Annette

    Gosh, Cathy, it’s just stunning and I absolutely love your romantic style. I’m the same, roses peeping through veils of wildflowers. It suits the place you’ve chosen perfectly! The new pergola looks really cool, I love the pebble mosaic (can you show a close up some time, please) and the reduced plant palette. You’ve created all these different moods, so important for a garden. It must be bliss to sit there with a glass of wine and look down into the valley. A garden on different levels is harder to maintain but a lot more interesting. As for the parterre, I’m not one for bedding, I’d go for a beautiful groundcover rose or so, like Kent (white) or check out those by Louis Lens, his roses are adorable (I’ve Pink and White Spray, Tapis volant). Chapeau for all you’ve achieved, how I’d love to visit 🙂

    1. Cathy Post author

      Thanks for the kind words, Annette (although I did look everywhere for my pebble mosaic – I don’t think I have one! The idea of having the time to create something so beautiful in my garden is a bit of a dream at the moment – later maybe). Good thoughts about the white groundcover roses – thank you! I’ve made a note of the names you suggest. Will immediately look at the Louis Lens roses. I also wondered about Margaret Merrill (only 2 foot high or so), although people say it can be a bit disease prone.

      1. Annette

        Don’t go for Margaret, too sick, they’re far nicer roses around and I find especially Lens breeds fab, healthy and very charming roses (often Moschata-hybrids). Thought the mosaic is on the ground of your pergola terrace but couldn’t see properly.

      2. Cathy Post author

        Thanks for the advice about Margaret – I did like the Lens roses – I remember Grouse (I think it was) from the past. Thanks again!

  2. biggardenblog

    [J] Hmm! Methinks we in the Outer Hebrides have a lot to be grateful for this May! I think there’s been one day of rain, and a few days have started with some cloud, but it’s cleared. Daytime shade temperatures the same as with you! But then … … [D] Jonathan, we don’t talk about May 2015, do we?!

    1. Cathy Post author

      Aren’t you lucky! I know my mother in Perthshire is having wonderful weather at the moment – every time we speak she apologises for it!

  3. Chloris

    I thoroughly enjoyed the tour of your garden Cathy. It is all looking wonderful. I love your two- tone pergola. The banksiae rose is fabulous and much better suited to your climate than mine.
    Well we certainly got the rain last night accompanied by high winds, my garden looks flattened.
    I love all your irises, I think they should be flashy and flamboyant although I do grow some Cedric Morris ones too, which have a more subtle beauty. Have you thought of doing a bit of Iris hybridising? It’ s easy to do and great fun.
    I agree about Souvenir de la Malmaison, I have got rid of mine. We always seem to get rain when she is in bud and how disgusting those mouldy brown buds look.

    1. Cathy Post author

      Hello – funny, just replied to your other comment re the irises on your own blog! Yes, I think I will try it a little. It was something my grannie and great-aunt used to do in Canada (g auntie worked on gladioli, grannie on irises). Re SdlM. Mostly it is incredibly dry here in spring – this is the first wet May we’ve had. It’s lovely for the rest of the garden, but not for the roses (particularly SdlM). Usually there’s just a small disappointment with it, a small amount of badly timed rain, then prune the buds and it’s off and running to enjoy. So – one year in three maybe, I can lose myself in the shape of those superb flowers – I just can stop looking at them when they are perfect. So it’s worth it! Also I noticed that the wall where it is planted (facing south) sometimes gives some of the buds protection from rain, so they are ok.

  4. Tina

    Echoing Chloris, what a treat to tour your magnificent garden. The irises are beautiful and such a variety of them. The view looking down on the garden is beautiful, but I love the pathway shots–it really feels as if I’m walking though. Thanks for the tour–you live in a special place.

    1. Cathy Post author

      We do live in a special place, Tina. But we could do without this ‘special’ rain at the moment – it’s not normal for us!

  5. Christina

    What an enjoyable beginning to my day, a walk around your garden; your romantic style suits the lovely old walls perfectly. Our May has been just like yours- crazy weather. I find ‘Pierre di Ronsard just as bad for its buds never opening after rain not that that is usually a problem here. Like the idea of the two tone pergola, very clever. We’re forecast heavy rain again tomorrow and it’s a holiday here!

    1. Cathy Post author

      Oh dear Christina – bad news about Pierre de Ronsard. I seem to have picked two of the worst for the Iris Garden. And thanks for the kind words!

  6. Frogend_dweller

    This is my first look at your garden and I am quite overwhelmed. It’s beautiful and full of wonderful things. I love your vine pergola and your collection of irises is delicious.

    1. Cathy Post author

      Thanks so much for visiting. I’m overwhelmed at the moment to – what with all the rain, it is like a jungle out there. I’m glad I took my pictures when I did.

  7. rusty duck

    Your rain is making headlines over here. I do hope it stops soon! The garden is looking just fabulous though. I’ve also bought an Anchusa (with trepidation) so we’ll both see how we get on. The shade of blue is just too wonderful not to try.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s