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Walking Through May

Updated: Jan 24, 2023

At last we had some warmer days and the garden, which had seemed so behind, was actually carefully poised on the edge of bursting into leaf and colour.

During the last days of May, I gathered the final blooms for the 2021 tulip season. After such a slow beginning, they have been utterly beautiful and I have been harvesting tulips since the last week of March from the two boxes of Negrita and Foxtrot that I dragged into the polytunnel at the end of February. All those muddled hours spent planning for a successional harvest seem to have paid off and the cool Spring allowed the harvest to unfold at a manageable pace.

Next year I shall wait to plant Menton and Artist in January, if I can brave the cold, to give me a late harvest again next year. I may of course find I have the whole collection blooming within a couple of weeks and all my careful plans will be scattered to the winds.

An unexpected favourite this year has been Orange Princess which mingled beautifully with the fresh green leaves of silver birch and soft pussy willow that have been this Spring's foraging favourite from the bottom of the garden.

This hug of blooms includes Star of Parrots, which didn't make it to the collection for 2022. She is devastatingly beautiful, but the heads were so heavy, I found it very difficult to work with and too many heads snapped off as I was working with them. Definitely one to admire in the garden though.

Virichic, Unlce Tom, Artist and Verona have all made the list for 2022 along with, of course La Belle Époque. I hope I never tire of it's caramel, peachy tones. There are lots more varieties that I have added to my order, I'm very excited for next Spring already!

As we head into the early days of June, I have harvested the first of the outside alliums. and inside the polytunnel, the early flowering erysimum have been moved outside for the summer to make room inside for more orlaya, annual scabious and antirrhinum. The cerinthe has also finished and I must gather some of the seed to sow while it is fresh. I have already been picking orlaya for a few weeks from the polytunnel, along with overwintered stocks. Having a few alliums, hesperis and aquilegia tucked in the polytunnel gives me an earlier week of harvest before the outdoor grown ones come into flower.

Italian ranunculus and anemones that were planted last September were cleared early in May to make way for 'Malmaison' stocks and a second sowing of cornflowers. The August sown cornflowers and nigella suffered badly with mildew through the winter. The seedlings that survived have recovered and just this week have begun to flower. I am constantly refining the varieties that I grow for a good vase life, but they also need to be interesting varieties that are uniquely available from artisan growers. You simply will not find these varieties amongst the blooms that are available from any chain store. They give our unique gift bouquets and wedding flowers a natural vintage style.

We try hard to maintain a natural biosystem where pests are controlled as much as possible by encouraging their predators. I can’t tell you how excited I was to disturb a frog in the polytunnel where I found this bee asleep on a cold and uninspiring morning. The slow worms are on the move if we get a warm enough day, and I have found ‘evidence’ of a passing hedgehog. There are many shiny black beetles dawdling about and I try not to disturb them too much as they are probably on a very important and determined mission, even if it is at a very slow and measured pace. Much faster paced are the red squirrels that are, at last, frequenting the box of hazelnuts that we are refilling as fast as we can. I feel hugely privileged that, despite our three cats, the squirrels are now regular visitors.

....and the bluebells at the bottom of the garden!!

Considered an ancient woodland indicator species no one is allowed to tramp about at the bottom of the garden whilst the bluebells are in flower. Their perfume simply fills a warm May evening.

Thank you for joining me. Hopefully see you again at the end of June.

Libby x


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