May 2022 Newsletter
At last – the merry month of May!
May is a wonderful month in the garden. It’s the start of summer, or perhaps the end of spring, and your garden will be full to bursting with fresh young leaves in so many shades of green. Each day brings the welcome sight of new flowers opening so that the garden looks young and fresh, with everything growing extra fast.
There’s the excitement and beauty of apple blossom, of bluebells making their colourful impact, of Rhododendrons coming gradually into flower, and the slightly-scented Clematis Montana appearing in so many glorious colours, often there will be something new every day. But it’s also a very busy month with longer evenings and hopefully brighter days giving us the motivation and time to tidy up spring flowering plants and choose decorative summer plants for beds and borders.
Containers and hanging baskets need to be planted out too, just keep a weather eye open for any late frosts; and there are plenty of vegetables to sow and grow. A busy time indeed!
Some May Plant Highlights
Rhododendrons are evergreen and available in a vast range of sizes and flower colours, like pinks, magentas, purples, apricots and creamy white. They need a well- drained, hummus-rich acid soil in dappled shade where the soil stays nice and damp; the ‘Sumner’ variety looks fantastic when grown with Japanese acers, hostas and ferns with some low-growing brunnera or pulmonaria in front.
If soil conditions are not suitable you could try dwarf rhododendrons, or rhodo Yakushimanum, a compact plant with attractive foliage, good for growing in pots with some ericaceous compost, which will give the acid soil that’s needed. There are now even deciduous rhododendrons available, with flowers in striking yellow and orange shades, with some varieties scented, very good for autumn colour with the leaves turning to rich yellows and golds.
Popular climbing plants include Clematis Montana Rubens, easy to grow, with its single flowers in shades of pink, which look striking against the bronze-tinted young foliage. Or try the early flowering honeysuckle, Lonicera Belgica, with its fragrant yellow, white and red flowers, good for growing up trees, fencing and trellis. It needs moist fertile soil with its roots in the shade.
Honeysuckle can also be grown with other plants such as hawthorn, beech, hornbeam and dog rose in a mixed hedge. It’s worth bearing in mind that most climbers, originating as they do from woodland environments, enjoy a cool root run with roots in the shade.
Other May shrub highlights include Choisya Ternata, Berberis Darwinii, Cytissus, Pieris, Ribes, Viburnum, or else try the Sambucus Black Lace, with glorious dark leaves and summer clusters of pink flowers followed by black berries.
Paeonies are grown for their large, brightly coloured showy flowers and attractive dissected foliage with some scented varieties now available. They are long-lived plants, ideal for mixed herbaceous or shrub borders. For height try the tree Paeonia, with large, crumpled, tissue paper flowers and interesting foliage after the flowers go over, which can be approx. 4ft (1.2m) in height.
More wonderful plants for May
Alpine or rockery plants, many with contrasting leaf shapes and early flowers, make for a wonderful group of plants to grow in a container. Select a shallow container and for good drainage mix 20% horticultural grit with Multipurpose compost or John Innes No. 3. Choose compact plants with differing leaf shapes and flower colours, with a few trailing kinds round the edge, and finish off with a top dressing of gravel or slate chippings for a natural look.
Creating that warm, summer feeling
For a dazzling, brilliant summer display, now is the time to plant up tubs, containers and hanging baskets. These plants will be growing for the next 4 or 5 months so always use new potting compost for maximum nutrition from the soil. The fun part is choosing the plants, and everyone has their own colour preferences and preferred planting style.
Perhaps try a formal style using just one type of flower, or planting in single colours, using say, pelargoniums, for a striking look. Or try pastel themes using pinks, blues and mauves with some silver foliage as contrast.
Or for a hot feel, orange, red and purple! Calibrachoa ‘million bells’ as seen in the main image, above, makes for a superbly cheerful hanging basket.
For a Mediterranean feel, use tubs planted up with olives and citrus, or a mixture of lavenders and herbs such as thyme and oregano in a pot on the patio. All these go well with tubs of zonal pelargoniums, with ivy-leaved geraniums cascading over the edges, for months of summer appeal.
For hanging baskets, choose bushy and trailing plants with something taller in the middle.
Our expert’s top tips
Tall summer herbaceous plants are starting to grow well, so now is the time to provide plant supports for plants such as delphiniums, lupins and dahlias, using twigs or wire grids with interlocking metal supports, or trumpet-shaped and circular plant supports in black or in a natural rust colour. These will all become hidden by leaves as the plants grow.
Tie in climbing roses, laying the stems horizontally along the fence, trellis or wall where they are growing, this will help produce flowers along the whole stem rather than just at the tip.
Plant out your sweetpeas now, they come in so many gorgeous colours, some highly scented, great for picking for the house later on.
Continue deadheading and feeding spring flowering bulbs. Tomato feed is good for this. Don’t cut back the foliage until it dies back naturally which allows some of the goodness to be fed back into the bulb for next year.
Attracting wildlife to the garden
You could try creating a small water feature. If space is limited, even a large plastic bowl is enough space for a dwarf waterlily plus a few smaller marginal plants and an oxygenating plant. You could also try Sarracenia, for an interesting plant which grows into a natural fly-catcher!
Herbs and Vegetables
Make regular sowings of lettuce, sowing little and often. May is the time to sow mainstream vegetables such as swede, beetroot, carrots, autumn cabbage, perpetual spinach (this doesn’t run to seed), swiss chard, turnips, peas and broad beans. Sown now, they will take all season to reach maturity, so now is perfect timing.
Marrows, squashes, pumpkins and courgettes are also planted now, they enjoy a rich moist soil. If they dry out, in summer they will be prone to mildew. When planting these, dig a hole 12” (130cm) square and deep. and fill with garden compost, manure or soil improver. Cover with good garden soil, creating a mound approximately 6” (15cm) high, so when you plant your vegetable plants, the roots go down looking for moisture, but water doesn’t sit round the collar of the plant, so preventing any rot from forming.
Plant out sweetcorn and beans. Climbing beans look good when grown with sweet peas for added interest! Lastly, plant out tomatoes in a warm, sunny spot.
For lawn care
Feed established lawns, remove any weeds and start mowing weekly and if you can, try and finish sowing any bare patches early in the month.
It’s a good idea to take pictures of your garden as plants unfurl and grow, as this makes a good reference point for next year and will help with new ideas, as a garden never stays the same. It’s constantly evolving, there’s always something changing and always something to do.
It may seem like a lot of work to do in the garden, with all this planting, sowing and mowing, but rest assured you will be rewarded for all your efforts and hard work over a long summer period in which to enjoy it all.
And if all the choice seems completely overwhelming or if you just don’t know where to start, please do remember the plant team here at Van Hage are only too happy to help with colours, ideas and inspiration.
We’re looking forward to your visit!
The Van Hage team