May- May Day mayday

Published: 28 May 2021

Last update: 28 May 2021

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This blog post is written by Chris Flynn, Head Gardener Chris Flynn Head Gardener
Weeding the shrub beds at Dyffryn Gardens

At the risk of being lambasted for speaking too soon, it finally looks like the weather is on the change! After a cold April and an incredibly wet May, the garden is finally starting to wake up. As well as welcoming back the survivors we begin to count the cost of waterlogged root zones.

Today has almost been brilliant sunshine all day, just the odd bit of liquid sunshine about! The breeze that has been up for most of the day is beginning to subside and it’s afternoons like this that you really begin to feel hopeful again in the garden. After three weeks away I had been expecting to see a garden bursting into life as is typical for May, but instead returned to a very soggy garden with a big collection of sulking plants. Given the conditions that they’ve been put through this winter, who could blame them for being a bit slow to get going. There are a few things that I don’t think will get going at all this year, so will be cleared out for planting something new. The Exotics and Mediterranean Gardens seem to have gone through the most change. As a lot of this planting is on the edge of hardiness anyway, we’re always pushing our luck a bit and sometimes that luck runs out. Despite our relatively mild winters the wet at the rootzones seems to be catching up with a few things so we’ll need to take a look at some extra measures this year and maybe a rethink in some cases. All part of the joys of horticulture.

A few things that are starting to come back include the Senna marilandica that was planted out last year and is now budding up. Also budding up is the reputedly and now personally proven hardy, Cobaea pringlei, a stunning white version of the more frequently seen annual purple Cobaea scandens. Hopefully there’ll be a few more pleasant surprises to come as things warm up.

I get asked a lot about weeds at the moment, they are bountiful and very difficult to ignore. As a restoration garden, one of the key challenges that we have is that we’ve had a long period of varying fortunes and lack the consistency of approach that keeps the worst of the weeds at bay. A quick hoe regularly and often should suffice in most cases and should comfortably deal with the annual weeds that can build up after a period of absence. When you’re on our sort of scale and things hang in the balance between the gardener’s success and the rampaging banks of perennial weed, it doesn’t take a lot for that balancing act to falter. In our case we fell and landed hard.

Honestly, there is no quick fix. You just have to keep going knowing that in time you recover the ground that has been lost and you’ll gradually beat back the weeds again. It’s also a good time to review your practices and work on making sure that beds are well stocked to cast shade and out compete the weeds, to hoe off regularly and often to catch things early and to get mulching to further promote good growth in your desirable plants and smother the others.

The passion is still there, and the efforts are not waning, but we have been set back a fair bit. It will take time to get back to where we were in terms of our presentation, but in amongst it those essential jobs that have seen the gardens progress in spite of all the changes will shape the Dyffryn of the future.

Keep calm, carry on and always take time to enjoy your garden.