Gardener's ramblings: May

Open white flowera in an old English shape with a lovely scent in the gardens at National Trust Stowe, Buckinghamshire
Published : 15 May 2018 Last update : 24 May 2018

I want you to close your eyes and think of your favourite garden…think of the smells you remember as you wander round and how you felt as you enjoyed the surrounding plants and flowers as you walked. It’s at this time of year that I think you can truly appreciate your own garden and others that you enjoy visiting.

This is the first month that the weather (hopefully) really starts to warm up. The first few roses, shrubs and some herbaceous plants start to flower to give a wonderful scent on the breeze as you walk past.  For me the Scotch Rose (Rosa spinosissima), Mock Orange (Philadelphus coronarius) and Lilac (Syringa vulgaris) are wonderful at this time of year – they’re wonderfully fragrant.  

A scattering of uplifting Lilacs
Purple flowers with a long head throughout buses at Stowe are lilacs
A scattering of uplifting Lilacs

It’s the ‘watching everything appearing’ after a long dormant sleep through winter that I enjoy the most. I find gardening and being within a garden good for the soul and extremely therapeutic and I don’t think I am alone in this. More and more people enjoy the peace and tranquillity of a garden and being able to leave their everyday problems behind as they enter a garden and start to relax. This in turn for some may result in them wanting to take up gardening themselves at home or indeed volunteer at the garden they visited to help. From my point of view I’m very passionate about the work that I do here at Stowe and enjoy it so much. This includes everything (even the weeding) and also the history of the garden I work in and will happily talk to any visitor that enquires about the history of the area that I’m working in, I sometimes find it hard to stop talking! We must all realise just how important gardens and indeed all outdoor places are for people and their mental wellbeing. After just half an hour outside with the warmth of the sun on me as I work in the garden or just being in the garden I can feel any stresses or strains slip away.

Visitor at Stowe Landscape Gardens, Buckinghamshire
Stowe Landscape Gardens, Buckinghamshire.
Visitor at Stowe Landscape Gardens, Buckinghamshire

At this time of year I have only just started mowing the finer grass areas as it has been too wet to cut and the smell of the first cut is great as it finally means that summer can’t be far away. This also means I’ve been able to edge the beds within Sleeping Wood and Venus giving both areas a bit of a smarter finish. The new grass paths that have been put in within the newly restored area in Labyrinth have now started to grow and it won’t be long before I can give its first cut. It’s the first cut of a newly grassed area that you must be careful with as you don’t want to cut it too short as this can mess up the growth. The mower should be set on nearly its highest cut just to take the tips of the blades of grass off so that it encourages more root growth and allows the grass to knit together below the soil.

I’ll also be doing a lot of weeding around the newly planted areas within the Labyrinth as it is important for newly planted trees and shrubs to get a good chance of growing and not be swamped with weeds that can slow their growth.  All new plantings within their first year should also be kept a close eye on as they require more water than other established plants as their roots haven’t been able to grow big enough to enable them to get enough water from the soil round them, so keep an eye on them for any signs of stress from lack of water for the first year. I’m also patiently waiting to put out my more tender plants as it’s a difficult time of year to judge if it’s got warm enough overnight not to have frost so young plants don’t get burned.  If you‘ve put out plants that are tender and it’s going to be frosty overnight you can always protect them with a bit of netting or fleece over the top which should stop them catching the frost. 

At this time of year there are so many jobs to do be doing in the garden but above all don’t forget to really enjoy your garden either when you’re working in it or just sitting down to enjoy it.

Happy gardening