In May, the Kentish country lanes are full of froth and fizz. They are overflowing with hawthorn blossom and the cow parsley. It reminds me of filling a champagne flute and seeing if it overflows.
I love my drive to work. I feel like I am absorbing the effervescence I see all around.
It is not just the lanes that are full of this airy quality. This is my wild flower patch, created just over a year ago.
We have planted four apple trees here (one is hiding). Last year I planted plug plants of wild flowers, and I tried both seed bombs (clay balls rolled with seed) and the more traditional seed mix. It is difficult to tell which was most successful, though I think the plug plants and the seed mix did better than the seed balls. You can see that we now have a more diverse mix of species, compared to the mown grass in the foreground.
I am pleased to see one of my favourite wild flowers making it to the second year. This is red campion.
I also added a few spring bulbs in the autumn. There were crocuses and narcissi first, then chionodoxa (glory of the snow) and snakeshead fritilliaries, which have just gone over. Now there is camassia, looking lovely with red dead nettle.
And a new one for me, ‘Drooping star of Bethlehem’, Ornithogalum nutans.
I like the slightly chaotic mix of textures in this wildflower patch. There are feathery things, spiky things, grassy things. Meadows are teeming with textures, colours, shape, sounds and movement. There is a constant buzz and waggle of bees, a wavering of stalks as insects and bugs crawl up and down them, and the occasional flit of a butterfly skimming the surface.
Now that I have spent some time in my mini meadow, I am alive to similar areas of mixed textures in the rest of the garden. These tulips are tangled up with geums and cerinthe along the front wall of the house.
Cerinthe major ‘Purpurescens’ only needs to be sown once. It will gently self-seed every subsequent year. The purple flowers are cupped by glaucous purple-blue bracts. The purple colour seems to leach from the flower down the bracts, giving a really intriguing effect. Cerinthe is lovely with tulips, and with orange flowers like geums. The very best thing of all is that bees love cerinthe. Whenever I am close to it, all I can hear is happy bees dancing and jiggling in cerinthe-induced delight.
This is another combination I am enjoying. This is a perennial wallflower, Erysimum ‘Apricot Twist’. Behind is the perennial cornflower Centaurea montana. You can see I have a bit of a thing for purple and orange. They are opposite one another on the colour wheel, and so seem to intensify one another. You can read more about using the colour wheel to plan a garden colour scheme here.
Another part of the garden which is texture-rich is the bright border.
Euphorbia palustris is shines out with its lime green inflorescences.
I almost need sunglasses to look at it.
Tulip ‘Ballerina’ can hold her own next to it. Tulips and euphorbias make the best combination.
As the tulips go over, the euphorbia will look equally fabulous with the purple alliums.
Euphorbia griffithii ‘Fireglow’ is possibly my favourite euphorbia.
This is one of the most handsome plants over a long period. It starts off this bright orange-vermillion, but will soften through the summer to a burnt amber, and then warm apricot, before being set aflame again in the autumn.
And third in my trio of euphorbias, here is Euphorbia amygdaloides ‘Purpurea’.
This is similar to the very badly behaved Euphorbia amygdaloides var. robbiae (Mrs Robb’s Bonnet) which I have had to eject from the border. It is beautiful, but it likes dry shade a little too much, and invades the personal space of all other plants. The purple-leaved form is less vigorous and more respectful of others. It has the added bonus of delicious beetroot-coloured foliage. The inflorescences appear to hover over the plant, like little flying saucers.
The other delight in the bright border is the peony foliage, which is just bursting from the earth and growing an inch a day right now.
The tulips are on their way out. It has been a slow-fast-slow tulip season. They were really slow to come out, keeping their unripe-but-interesting phase a long time. We then had a glorious Easter weekend, and they opened to the sun so wide that I thought they were going to go over. Then temperatures cooled again, and they have had a long and prosperous maturity.
Cathy from Rambling in the Garden is so right: you really do appreciate flowers all the more for bringing a handful inside and living intimately with them for a week. It has been a joy to watch these already advanced tulips mature even further.
Their colours have deepened, their veining and feathering has become more pronounced and intricate, their textures have become satiny, with a metallic sheen.
I thought I couldn’t love Tulip ‘Slawa’ any more than I already do, and then she went and deepened her orange edges to a sort of rose-plum colour. ‘Slawa’ is absolutely my favourite tulip of 2019. (You can see more about ‘Slawa’ in this post here).
There will be more froth and fizz in May. I am thinking about a post about geums, but I may get distracted by lupins. There is so much happening I can barely keep up…
Oh! I also wrote a post for Shelly Johnson’s site, Love is Stronger. The post will be published this weekend or next, and is called ‘Gardening as Self-Love’. I would love it if you take a look at Shelly’s site. She is a philosopher! She is clear-thinking, balanced and reasonable, and we all need more of that in our lives. Her posts are thought-provoking and delightful, in equal measure.
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