The transition from spring to summer is probably the best time in a garden and however unpredictable the weather may be. Rosemary Verey reflects and explains how to plan for an even better next year.
How lucky we are in England to have a true spring, happening slowly so we can enjoy each treasure as it comes through in the garden.
This year April showers lasting an hour or two continued well into May. I am always amazed at how the flowers accept this with equanimity and quickly raise their heads when the sun dries their petals. Looking back through my diaries a typical entry for now reads: ‘morning wet, then the wind changed and the sun shone all afternoon,’
More than at any other time of the year the garden changes daily. To enjoy it fully go out every morning, if you have time, and evening when you return from work. Everywhere new stems are pushing up, new leaves unfolding and new buds opening.
Normally the daffodils are over by mid-May and despite the weather this was the case this year. At Barnsley, where they grow in borders, we leave them so they build up and expand every year. I think tying the stems into bundles is hideous and you don’t have to wait forever before cutting them down. RHS Trials at Wisley showed that you can do this six weeks after peak flowering without damaging future flowering.
While these spring joys are fresh in your mind this is the time to note down changes and additions you want to make so that in the autumn, when you are planting new bulbs, you haven’t forgotten. I have noticed that my double daffodils ‘White Lion‘ and ‘Mount Hood’ have both reduced in numbers and I have made a note to replenish them.
There were gaps as well so I have noted in the same place to ‘plant more crocuses down the middle of the beds and clumps of Iris reticulata in the corners, to bring the garden to life in early-spring.’
I find red tulips difficult to place. They are too strident close to the gentle colours of spring blossoms. At Barnsley we restrict them to under the laburnum walk where they have flowered for years.
The late My Hoog of Van Tubergens in Holland recommended the Darwin hybrid ‘T. Apeldoorn’, and advised planting each bulb very deeply. I have supplemented with another tulip, ‘London’. He also sent us 200 Allium aflatunense to synchronise with the laburnum and we added wisteria (influenced by the garden designer Russell Page) to harmonise with the mauve and yellow. And so this is the composition of one of the garden’s best-known features, at its best right now from the middle of May through to early-June.
In another part of the garden the rock rose path is in full colour by the end of May. The path is a prominent feature in front of the house, dividing lawns and beds and lined with dark yews. Compared to the carefully composed shades of yellow and mauve in the laburnum walk, I am always excited by the explosion of the rock roses into reds and oranges – clashing colours can be vibrant and pleasing.
And soon we’ll be into rose season. I greatly enjoyed the new roses that the leading grower David Austin launched on his stand at Chelsea. They are all fragrant and ‘Malvern Hills’ is a climber with luxuriant rich double yellow flowers. ‘William Shakespeare’ (pictured above) honours the man of the millennium and is irresistible crimson turning to purple. More notes to make for future orders, but good things are always worth waiting for and you must remember how much gardening is in the mind, thinking, planning.