I’m writing this with a head like cotton wool brought on by lack of sleep through the heat and too much pollen in the air. Some matchsticks would be useful for my heavily laden eyes but the sunlight shining like a spotlight on my favourite plants and the warmth inducing them to flower makes it impossible not to venture out into the garden. It feels like we’ve bypassed spring altogether and gone from an April and early May that felt more like November straight to the height of summer. Just over a week ago I was still wearing jumpers and two pairs of socks with my wellies but after a week of temperatures into the eighties I even ditched my ubiquitous footwear one day, in favour of flip flops, on a trip to the plot.
Plants that were held, almost in suspended animation by the cold spell have suddenly come to life and the soggy, miserable garden of April has been forgotten as geraniums, roses and irises all start to bloom. My Dicentra spectabilis alba have never flowered for as long, with the first flowers appearing in March and still their delicate arching stems dangle their heart-like blooms.
The first Iris flowers appeared today; they were planted for the first time last autumn so I’ve never seen them in flower. Of course, I can’t find the label anywhere so apologies for a lack of name.
I love this little plant, Chaerophyllum hirsutum ‘Roseum’. It was a holiday purchase, as many of my plants are; holidays aren’t complete unless I’ve tracked down a nursery and we return with a back seat full of new members of my garden family. I don’t know if Chaerophyllum has a common name, Chaerophyllum is a bit of a mouthful but its flowers are like a pink cow parsley so that’s what it’s known as in my garden. Its leaves are delicate and fern-like, with an apple scent, although I’m not sure I’d describe it as so. The plant grows to about 60cm tall and likes partial shade with it’s roots kept moist.
I have quite a lot of self-seeded Aquilegias dotted about in a variety of colours, ‘White Star’ is the only named variety though. It’s creamy white flowers are beautiful but my one gripe with the hybrid versions is their tendency to flop. Large flower heads are only really any good if the plant can support them.
Another new addition last autumn was Centaurea montana ‘Alba’. These flowers with their shaggy petals particularly the bluey-purple varieties, always remind of those plasma balls you put your hands on, that then zing with electricity. I love white flowers which lighten up shady parts of my garden, especially at night when they seem to glow.
Most of my purple alliums appear to have succumbed to my wet soil conditions but these white alliums don’t seem quite so fussy.
Late spring and early summer have to be my most favourite time for plants, I think because I love the quintessential English cottage garden look, with plants tumbling everywhere and this is when these plants are at their best. They look fresh; the heat of summer has yet to fade the colour of petals and time has not stolen the youthfulness of the leaves. I have attempted to create my own English cottage garden albeit in Wales but I’m sometimes reluctant to share my garden with others.
My own perfectionism means that, whilst I can appreciate individual plants and sometimes plant combinations I am often thinking about the alliums I should have planted last autumn that would now be creating a colour contrast in the white and blue border, which is just a little to blue and white for my liking. There’s always one part of the garden that doesn’t quite work which I find infuriating or the border where I didn’t buy enough bulbs to create the look that was in my head. My garden is fairly small, as well, and to capture sections of it without features such as satellite dishes on neighbours’ houses or the washing line posts intruding is difficult. The great thing about gardening though is there is always next year and whilst my garden is small and not quite perfectly formed it still is my little patch of plant loveliness shining in the May sunshine.