Camassia, May 2005

Above: Blue Camassia, May 2005

Garden diary: April

26 May 2004

It's all big and green out there. The garden is filling out with lush and abundant growth. May is always full of brilliant green, but maybe in the last few years I haven't been able to appreciate it because other things were happening that weren't so good. This year I've made a point of noticing just how exuberant it all looks - the plants in my garden, and the trees on the streets all around. In May the horse chestnut trees and the hawthorn have been blossoming and the hedges and ditches are full of cow parsley and the woods are full of bluebells and it's all scented and green and gorgeous.

I don't have horse chestnut trees, hawthorn or cow parsley in my garden, and woodland corner's few bluebells don't exactly qualify as a "bluebell wood", but I can't let May go by without mentioning these natural wonders.

Closer to home, in my small garden, Clematis 'President' is glorious, in a purple haze, and nearby in a different shade of purple (nearer to magenta, I reckon) is Allium 'Purple Sensation'. Indeed there are alliums everywhere, popping up. Every late summer/autumn I buy more, because I've never been convinced that last year's will bloom again, but they always seem to, so now I have alliums all over. Mainly 'Purple Sensation' and Allium christophii, which is slightly later to flower. The Geranium tuberosum has been flowering throughout May, and the Camassia made its brief and beautiful appearance, while the buds fatten on the peony and the delphiniums.

Solanum crispum 'Glasnevin' is in full flower on the boundary, where I'm pleased to see that the shrubs and climbers are knitting together nicely to provide good cover, disguising the brick wall. Further up the wall a rampant jasmine and a winter-flowering clematis compete with a crazily exuberant akebia, all of them clambering happily over the well-established ivy. The week before last some young men playing football in the street lost their ball in there. I looked several times, got the ladders out and prodded the mass of greenery, but couldn't catch a glimpse of it. Perhaps it will emerge when pruning takes place later.

Back on the ground, I've been staking the plants that would otherwise flop around, reseeding the bare patches on the mini-lawn, topping up the slate chippings on the path in the middle of the garden and the limestone chippings inside the brick circle. There are a few parts of the brick paths that have crumbled during the last winter and a couple of bricks need replacing. The sand and cement has now been purchased, but might be standing about in the shed for a while before there's sufficient motivation to actually mix it together and get on with the job.

But never mind these tedious tasks. The roses are blooming, hurrah! In the last week, Mme Alfred Carriere has opened, around the window of the recently-refurbished bathroom.

Aphids and other pests, and the first lily beetle

The buds of many of the roses have been covered in aphids, which I've been trying to squash with my fingers on the buds I could reach, as I could never go back to using pesticides. I was pleased to see the sparrows eating the aphids. If sparrows like them, I guess we shouldn't be spraying the aphids with powerful chemicals.

I tend to just put up with most of the pests in my garden, and use only manual non-toxic methods if I do have to get rid of them. As I've observed more of the natural processes over the years here, I realise that however annoying snails, slugs and various creepy-crawlies are, we're causing more damage to the planet as a whole than any of them.

After neglecting snail collecting in the last year or two, I've been wandering a few nights this spring, collecting the very visible snails that appear from the undergrowth on damp nights. The first lot were liberated in a hedge by the nearby river (though I did have concerns that my behaviour might draw unwanted attention in the current climate of fear and suspicion, as I furtled about in the hedge bottom).

Last week saw a landmark pest event. The first lily beetle I've ever seen, climbing up my Lilium longiflorum. I'd been alerted to the threat of lily beetle attack by my friend Lynn, who had found one on her lilies in her garden a mile or two away from mine, only last week. I wasn't looking forward to finding one, as I knew I'd have to squash it, and I'm never very happy about that kind of thing. It's even more difficult when you've taken its picture first. But I didn't think I could release it into the wild by the river, like I did the snails.

Lily beetle, May 2004

The arrival of the swifts

The swifts arrived in early May, late afternoon on a Saturday. Just like in other years, I heard them first - their screaming call, high above, and looked up to see the familiar shape of their streamlined bodies in flight. They arrive with such joy. I know I shouldn't put human emotions onto other creatures, but it sounds like joy to me. Or excitement, at least. It's a sign of summer, the arrival of the swifts.

I didn't know about swifts until I had this garden. My partner's father, George, pointed them out to me, the first summer we were here, their exuberance and joyful call. George died in the summer of 2002. When the swifts arrive in May, I always think of him.

Back to May highlights and diaries


Clematis - The President, May 

Above: Clematis "The President", May 2002

Garden diary: June