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The Garden in May 2011
May 2nd Weston Park

We were at our first ever Plant Hunters' Fair at Weston Park today. Sunny, hot but gusty winds. Still it didn't stop the plant lovers turning out and over 2,400 people came along to browse the plants and explore the gardens and over 1000 acres of parkland.

May 3rd Centaurea Buds

We grow lots of Centaurea because we love the flowers (as do the bees and butterflies), ease of cultivation and their ability to fit into lots of planting styles.  

Almost as much as the flowers we love their flower buds. 

Here is Centaurea montana Gold Bullion with its golden leaves and royal blue flowers about the explode from the scaly buds. 


May 4th Centaurea and Bees

Just to prove my point above about bees loving Centaurea flowers today I snapped this Carder Bee on Centaurea montana Alba.


May 4th Even more Centaurea

Ok, I'm going on a bit about Centaurea at the moment, but with over 50 varieties in the garden there's something new every day at the moment.

Here is Centaurea pulcherrima. I just love those papery, silver buds. This is a low growing variety for the front of the border or large rockery. Although it looks like a hot, dry lover it was completely hardy through the last two winters.


May 5th Geranium phaeum

We love Geranium phaeum and we are building up a little collection (hopefully some more will be in our catalogue in the coming years).  Margaret Wilson is new to us this spring. She has marbled green and white leaves and these beautifully coloured flowers. 


May 9th Bee Heaven

I know we are "Special Perennials" but we do grow some shrubs as well! This is Lonicera (that's right its a Honeysuckle) involucrata and at the moment its full of the buzzing of bees hungry for its nectar. 

It makes a large deciduous shrubs but can be pruned back each year. The flowers start in April and go on until at least August. They are followed by black (inedible) berries loved by Blackbirds. 

We will be propagating some for sale next year.


May 13th What a winner

Everyone is after this flower: Centaurea Jordy. Unfortunately for us its slow to spread and doesn't create much to propagate from - just a dense central growth with lots of these lovely flowers.  Its taller than the similar montana varieties and looks stunning in the border.


May 13th Heronsbills

My Erodiums (Heronsbills) are looking good at the moment and enjoying the drought conditions, thriving in the dust-dry soil alongside our front driveway. I bought these unnamed but aren't they lovely. 


May 20th Alpine Centaurea

Not all Centaurea are large border plants. They are quite a few suitable for the rockery or alpine garden. This is Centaurea bagadensis which is tough and winter hardy despite its North African origins. 

Other good alpine types include: pulcherrima, rupestris and athoa

Give them all good drainage and divide in spring. 


May 25th Don't worry, bees happy!

On the BBC Chelsea Flower Show programme tonight the presenters talked about the importance of gardens to bees.  

We have a terrific population of all types of bee: bumble, honey and solitary bees.  There's no secret: just grow lots of flowers. The bees couldn't care less if they're native or foreign and will even tackle long trumpet flowers normally pollinated by humming birds by making hole at the back of the flower. 

You can provide nest sites but our bees nest in old vole holes and compost heaps.

Here are some Large Red-tailed Bumblebees on Salvia Caradonna today.


May 26th Don't worry, bees (still) happy!

Just had to include this photo (taken yesterday - raining today, hurrah). Lovely buff-tailed bumble bee on the vibrant Knautia macedonica flower. Lovely! 


May 27th Bug Watch

Cuckoo's Spit has been very common this spring. The "spit" (right) that forms in leaf joints, around stems and buds is the protective covering of the frog hopper (far right, uncovered). Its best to squash the blighters as they distort stems, buds and leaves and weaken plants. You can spray with a systemic insecticide if there's lots of it in your garden.

May 28th Astrantia

Astrantia are looking great at the moment and this solitary bee is loving the pollen and nectar on them.  

Someone asked me when the divide them. Like most plants with fibrous roots you can divide them up in spring or autumn but do give them a lot of TLC after division as they can take a long time to regrow their roots.


May 31st The only way is up

Our Maclayea microcarpa (Plume Poppy) is already getting quite tall - approaching 7 - 8 ft. Last year it made it to 14ft 6in. I think its got every chance of topping that this year.