Gardeners cuttings from Sissinghurst Castle Garden

Irises in the garden during May

May is a wonderful time in the garden, when the delicacy and freshness of spring and fullness of summer blend into one.

The last of the spring flowering bulbs provide us a beautiful closing act, along with wallflowers and sweet rocket which punch out scent and colour. Everything grows taller, seemingly by the day, and the borders become full of lush, bright foliage. As the early summer plants begin to flower it feels like nothing can hold it back. Summer, with all its vibrancy and colour and glory is coming.

As the last danger of frost passes we begin to plant out tender plants. Some are annuals which have been grown from seed at our nursery and others perennial, which we have overwintered in one of our glasshouses. The permanent, hardy plants require a lot of care at this time too. Staking is an important task that must be kept on top of. Timing is crucial so that the stakes are not visible, but are in place before the plant needs them. Here we use hazel sticks that we collected and processed over winter. We manage two hazel coppices just for this purpose.

The garden has a large amount of group 3 clematis, the viticella type. These are cut back to about a foot from the ground in winter and flower on new growth in high-summer. These are growing rapidly in May and a weekly task is tying in the stems to their walls and supports. We train them to spread across, instead of straight up the walls. This provides better coverage of flowers over the entire wall.

May is not just about things to come; now they have finished their performance the early spring flowering plants need tidied. Hellebores are deadheaded so that seed is not cast. They produce copious seed and

the new plants do not come true to type. Deadheading saves weeding out hundreds of seedlings and keeps the display pure. Daffodils and tulips must also be deadheaded as by removing the immature seed pods, energy is put back into the bulb, rather than the seed. This helps to improve flowering the following year.

There are many plants that delight us with their flowers in May. The Rosa banksiae ‘Lutea’ cloths the tower in buttery yellow, the wisterias pour their exuberant display over the Moat Walk wall, and bearded irises thrust up skyward flowers of tussled velvet, at once both delicate and bold. This month we have decided to especially celebrate irises. We are curating a small exhibition dedicated to them in the Gatehouse.

Vita and Harold adored irises and they are a plant that we all passionately grow here. We hope that you can visit our exhibition to learn about and feel inspired to grow these beautiful flowers which Harold and Vita, loved so much.

We all wish you an inspiring and enjoyable visit to the garden and enjoy the beauty that May has to offer here at Sissinghurst.