The darling buds of May

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

What a wonderful month! What we would always want May to be like.

After a slow spring, at last the trees burst into leaf and there is colour all over the gardens as flowers come into bloom. May has throughout the centuries been celebrated by writers and artists. Shakespeare capturing the mood in his Sonnet 118 with that memorable line about the darling buds of May. And a more recent poet Philip Larkin almost 500 years later gave us a poem called Trees, about the trees coming into leaf like something  almost being said

Blossom on the Bramley  apple tree



One of the most eagerly awaited  opening of flower buds comes from meconopsis Sheldonian hybrid



Viburnums opulus sterile and sargentii onondaga flowering well at the back of the Paddock Pond


Lunaria alba  variegata much admired and easy if left to self sow. 


For the gardener it is also a very busy month with so much to do, especially after the effects of  the bad weather in the earlier part of the year. Added to this because of 3 months of chemotherapy I got seriously behind with all the many jobs that need to be done before the better weather arrives. It has been difficult to find the time to prepare my News Item for the month so more pictures than text in this edition.



Very settled conditions on the whole with 15 days of unbroken sunshine and 5 rain days. Changeable on only 8 days. Max 26C on 28th; Min 2C on 18th and 7 other days below 5C. 

The sky at 4.50 pm prefacing another fine day.



 An attempt to capture a crescent moon that went rather wrong. It looks more like the man in the moon!!



Garden Update

Plenty of lawn mowing to do, plant watering every day in the tunnels and greenhouse and sowing later seed and pricking out and potting on in the nursery.



The vegetable garden is growing away well now with good germination rates and the later planted potatoes are now up so avoided the worst of the colder nights. It was necessary however to cover with fleece some of  the more sensitive plants across the gardens and to keep the heaters going in the protected areas. Shrubs flowering well  but roses are exceptionally slow partly as the result of being pruned too late and not having been fertilised which in past has made a big difference to an earlier flush of flowers,

All shrubs have done very well and are flowering better than I ever thought when we had those esterly winds and cold weather in early spring. Choisya ternata is smothered with blossom and a fine scent



A hawthorn in the bounday hedge  topped with a clematis montana looking like a birds nest as it refuses to cascade down the tree



When the two colours do occasionally come together it is a pleasing combination


Fortunately we did have some help in the garden when a friend Matt came for a couple of days to get on top of the weeding which became an urgent task with such vigorous growth in all the fine weather. Pests and diseases need treatment with whitefly in the tunnels particulary troublesome on pelargoniums and tomatoes. Black spot on some of the roses. We have even had for the first time lily beetle. This year at last I am going to use natural defenders instead of chemical means to control the worst of the pests. Agralan has a very good range of defenders for all type of pests, many of which have no alternative and  effective means of control For more info go to

Taking all the pelargoniums out of the tunnel creates air movement around the plants and ocasional spraying with fine jets of water also helps. 



What's looking good?

Most herbaceous plants, hostas in particular were unaffected by the colder nights and the distinct absence of slugs. Hostas have always been a  passion of ours having started over 40 years ago with just one plant (hosta albo marginata) we inherited from the previous owner. There is such a wide choice nowadays (it is estimated that currently there are something in the region of 5000 registered cultivars available)  that it is difficult and expensive to keep on top of the newer introductions, many of which can be similar to each other.




 One of the older cultivars is "Wogons  Boy"


 Hosta albo marginata, a division of the original plant in the garden mixing well with ranunculus aconitifolius Flore Pleno. Commonly know as bachelors buttons, fair maids of Kent or France. Take your pick or stick with the Latin!



Another happy blending of the same hosta in a different part of the garden with Spanish bluebells and Welsh poppies


 A superb medium sized hosta is  "Lakeside Love Affaire" From a top American nursery bearing the Lakeside name


 Last month I wrote about the Atragene Group of Spring flowering Clematis. C. Koreana is longer flowering and has larger flowers than other members of this Group. No cultivar name for this one as it came from seed I obtained from the seed distribution of the British Clematis Society and is now up to 10 feet tall


 The stream border in The Paddock Garden. In the foreground is the imposing form of maianthemum racemosum


 In the shade border of the Paddock Garden is a planting of Euphorbia palustris, one of the few members of the genus that will grow in moist shade backed up by rodgersia "Irish Bronze"


 The attractive lace cap flowers of "Viburnum Sargentii Onondaga" one of a dozen cultivars of the genus in the gardens


Wildlife and countryside

There is continuing concern about the shortage of swallows, martins and swifts this spring and a string of correspondents have written to national newspapers to explore what has happened to them,  as with all the fine weather it would appear to have been an ideal time for summer migrants. There is however a silver lining as we have been lucky here for the first time in some years to have heard cuckoos regularly calling across the valley throughout the month. One bird we have seen plenty of is the goldfinch catching the yellow flashes of their wing markings as they fly quickly past us, which makes taking pictures difficult!

Wild flowers have loved the weather none more so than bluebells in woods and along road side verges mixing well with other native plant life especially stitchwort, bracken, wild garlic and buttercups and cow parsley or Queen Anne's lace which is also looking marvellous along road verges, particulary so this year. It has been suggested that the reason for such vigorous growth is the effect of exhaust gases from vehicles which contain high levels of nitrogen and various other chemical elements.

Wild Garlic



Roadside flowers near Cilgwyn Lodge




Bluebell woods overlooking the Lodge, one of many local woods near us.


As last year there is ample evidence across West Wales of the continuing impact of ash die back disease on native populations, which are now being compromised to such an extent that branches, which become brittle, are being shed beneath the infected trees, causing some concern that  where trees grow alongside a main road, they will become a danger to passing vehicles.

 Ash trees are the dominant tree of the Cothi Valley on the way towards Lampeter. It is very depressing to see so many trees large and small, laid low by this terrible disease




With little opportunity whilst having my treatment,  when it ended we couldn't wait to get out and about. We have gone garden visiting meeting up with friends or on a whim, notwithstanding that there are plenty of tasks to do at home! You do so miss the inspiration that garden visiting  can provide. And of course the chance to buy more plants, my passion for which never fades! Our first outing was with serious gardening friends, Peter and Carole, Liz and Paul and Bob and Annette. The venue was Singleton Botanic Garden in Swansea. I am embarassed to say that we had never previously visited in the 40 years we had worked in Swansea. The city has always had a reputation for supporting horticulture and this is clear to see from the planting in the gardens and the high standards of maintenance and colour scheming. It was tulip time when we visited. There are also hothouses filled with choice plants







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Just a mile away is Clyne Gardens a gift in perpetuity to the council by a wealthy land owner a member of the Glyn Vivian family who were major benefactors of the city over the years for the enjoyment of the people of Swansea  free of charge and open every day of the year. Dylan Thomas wrote his lines when Swansea was still an industrial City but deserved the epiteth of a lovely town and he should know because there are parks all over the city and he lived near one of the best, Cwmdonkin, and a source of some of his best poems and prose.  



Freddie the dog of Peter and Carole had fun chasing squirrels and even climbed a tree to get his prey, but failed!


 Malvern Spring Festival was one of the best we have been to: great nurseries better lay out, more places to sit and food courts everywhere. Also lots of fun features and a feel good atmosphere all over the showground.








One of the most engaging was a "garden" that had been knitted for charity by a host of volunteers!






 Two fantastic driftwood sculptures in a show garden that took 9 months each to make










Perrycroft Garden, Worcestershire an Arts and crafts house designed by C.F.A voysey who was a leading exponent of the style and built in 1895. The garden was  the venue of a coach trip run by our South Wales  Hardy Plant Society Group. They always pick some different places.  Superb views (on a clear day) of the nearby Malvern Hills. The garden is set at an odd angle and  immaculately maintained with  some unusual plants which put our collective knowledge to the test. Nothing hardy planters enjoy more than such a challenge!








 Yvonne one of our older members couldn't resist the temptation of the swing. 






 For more info go to


Thanks for reading and apologies there is so much content for you to read about. It has been such an exciting month!

Just one last item is a garden opening for the NGS by our friends Robert and Barry where we will be selling plants from Cilgwyn Lodge The garden is at Gelli Mydog Myddfai, Llandovery SA20 OjQ and is open on Sunday 10 June from 12- 5 pm, Signposted from Llandovery and Llangadog off the A40. Please do try to come along for cakes and wonderful views of upland countryside and the best lawns you will ever see!