Camassia, May 2005

Above: Blue Camassia, May 2005

Garden diary: April

30 May 2001

I'm trying to spend as much time as possible out in the garden, as this is my favourite time of year. All is growth, and nothing seems to sleep for long. As I'm writing this, at 9.50 pm, here in Yorkshire, blackbirds are still around and not yet roosting.

One female blackbird appeared to be enthusiastically looking for nesting sites earlier on today, and started to build a nest in the Clematis montana over our back door - only a few metres away from me as I write this. She took in a few beakfuls of nesting material - time will tell whether she occupies the nest she builds, as they do seem to build nests they don't always use. She was harassed at one point by the male blackbird who has a nest full of hatched young a little further down the garden - he appeared to be chasing her off.

Everything's growing so fast, so there are tasks to do out there, but more important for me at this time of year is to keep looking at it, so as not to miss anything.

There are many things flowering now. Highlights include the first bloom on the climbing rose Mme Alfred Carriere - too high up to smell, until today when I had to get the ladders out to tie in some new growth, so, though in a rather uncomfortable and precarious position (leaning off my ladder dangerously) I could smell the first rose. Worth it.

Looking forward to the rest of the buds opening, along with Paul's Lemon Pillar, intertwined with 'Madame Alfred' (as I call her) on the arch.

Alliums are opening - 'Purple Sensation' is in bloom now, and alongside it are a few other types of allium whose tightly-packed flowerbuds are just beginning to split open. I'm impressed always with what hides inside, but nothing in my garden is as amazing as the alliums, as they unpack themselves from tiny tight buds.

The Clematis montana are fabulous - particularly on the side of the wall that meets the pavement of the neighbouring street.

Today we were out there doing our regular 'civic duty' gardening - cutting back the ivy, Clematis montana, climbing rose, forsythia and laurel that separate the garden from the pavement alongside it. Dull work, in that you can produce 8 bags full of stuff to go into the 'green waste' at the local tip, but when you look at what you've cut back it doesn't seem to have made any difference . . .

Glad though, really. My garden creeps over into the street, as it should, in its exuberance at this time of year. I know I've got no more chance of controlling this properly than I have of controlling time itself. And if my neighbours expect that it will all be cut back level with the wall, in a neat straight line, they'll have a long wait . . . .

19 May 2001

Since last writing, we had a few days of hot weather (hot for northern England, anyway). The plants responded with sudden growth, and flowers that were in bud in the morning were open by the afternoon.

Particularly fine new arrivals on the garden scene are the Camassia (Camassia leichtlinii 'Caerulea'), with a beautiful shape, and a fabulous blue flower. These don't flower for long, and perhaps because of that I appreciate them each day they are in bloom at this time of the year.

Woodland Corner is wild and wonderful, with the bark path fast disappearing under the plants flopping over it. I think I'll have to divide up some of the plants in this corner ready for next spring, as several things have become so well-established they're in danger of swamping everything else. This is perhaps the first year I've had enough plants established enough for me to have to think about this - so this must be progress in some way (!)

There are blackbirds and their fledglings running amok all over the garden, and even coming in to the house to steal the cat food from right under the nose of Spike the cat.

The apple tree has blossom on it this year in abundance, as the blossom on the Morello cherry starts to fade. The Rowan tree is also about to flower. All this interest above head height is good after the flatness of winter, where everything beautiful seemed to be happening close to the ground.

The swifts screech in greater numbers in the sky overhead, so after planting out and foliar feeds and propping up the sweet peas and weeding and all the other jobs I spend fine evenings leaving all on the ground to look after itself, while looking at the blossom and watching the swifts.

8 May 2001

On the evening of May 1st, on cue, the first swifts arrived. I was engrossed in my planting, but heard that familiar screeching call high in the air. Not musical like a robin's song, but a fine sound I always look forward to hearing in the first week in May.

In the garden some things go well, some don't go so well. I've known for a while that there are many disappointments in gardening as well as all the pleasures, but just recently have been reminded of this rather too often! The blue Clematis macropetala and C. alpina have failed to flower, their buds stripped off, by sparrows I think (though not sure about this). The grass seed hasn't grown, my favourite large-flowered clematis ('The President') has collapsed from clematis wilt, there are vine weevil larvae turning up all over the place . . .

There is such satisfaction, after finding pots of fuchsia cuttings have had their roots eaten by vine weevil larvae, in tipping out the contents for the blackbird, who is expert at finding the small white grubs, which it then feeds to its young short-tailed fledgling.

The spring garden wouldn't be complete without at least one young blackbird. This year the blackbird I've been feeding all winter has nested somewhere nearby and is now in the garden daily with one young bird he is feeding.

I've not tried the chemical treatments for vine weevil (and won't be doing). I used the nematode treatment a couple of years ago, and I wish I'd used it each year, as I think then the population wouldn't have built up.

It's not all problems, of course. There are buds forming on the roses, and on my Solanum crispum 'Glasnevin', and the Clematis montana are covered in buds, and have draped themselves all over the trellises and trees that host them.

After many months of only bare branches in the 'top tier' of my garden, the highlight just now is the Morello cherry tree, a large and well-established specimen, full of white blossom. There's also a rowan tree in the garden, covered in buds about to open. The leaves on this tree and the others will soon form canopies overhead, and make the garden feel private once more.

This year I have more tulips, having bought more last autumn. These are mainly Apricot Beauty, now open and very beautiful, and also Queen of the Night, just about to open.

The herbaceous perennials are filling out, some seeming to grow visibly by the hour. I'm looking forward to warmer days, longer evenings, and all that Clematis montana coming into flower.

Back to May highlights and diaries


Clematis - The President, May 

Above: Clematis "The President", May 2002

Garden diary: June