May went by so fast with not a lot happening in the garden. Thanks to the cold spring, many plants were a couple of weeks behind their usual emerging and/or flowering time. It was only when I compared mid-April with mid-May that I could could reassure myself of some progress.
|Back garden mid-May|
Most of the growth was foliage, but some of that was handsome enough to compensate for the delayed flowering. Among the most attractive leaves were those on Dicentra spectabilis 'Valentine', a particularly nice bleeding heart,
Japanese painted fern (Athyrium niponicum var. pictum)
a little Spirea, whose name I can't remember,
and young leaves of Podophyllum 'Spotty Dotty'.
In the sunnier spots were more contrasting leaf textures: Phlox 'Starfire'
and Paeonia obovata 'Alba'
My little willows are always a pleasure with their downy silver foliage,
and this year Salix helvetica surprised me with an array of curious bristly flowers.
My largest shade garden also had some interesting foliage contrasts.
In the background are two favourites: Hydrangea serrata 'Kumasaki' with Hosta 'American Halo' at its feet.
|Hosta 'American Halo'|
Once May got well underway, a host of plants suddenly caught up and flowered.
Royal Azalea, (Rhododendron schlippenbachii), my one and only rhodo had a flurry of sugar pink blooms.
Underneath it I've planted Tiarella 'Spring Symphony' whose altogether different flowers are the exact same shades.
This Tiarella has a reputation for spreading enthusiastically, but so far that's all right with me in this very shady bed.
A delicate Epimedium that I'd planted near these two not only disagreed with them, but struggled to be noticed. I moved it against the dark grey wall in the back garden which gives it the kind of backdrop it needs and, yes, I did notice it more in its new location.
Another modest plant in similar colours is Fritillaria affinis. I keep hoping it will spread, but so far, I only get this one slender stem every year..
More showy neighbours were waiting in the wings. Around mid-May, bleeding hearts, both white and red, unfurled strings of their strange little flowers,
Paeonia mlokosewitchii, commonly known as "Molly the Witch", opened and shone in any shaft of sunlight,
and even my still-tiny Enkianthus 'Red Bells' surprised me with a few shy flowers, partially hidden by the leaves.
Brunnera 'Langtrees', which is primarily a foliage plant, produced its annual sprinkling of forget-me-not blue flowers,
while its whiter cousin 'Jack Frost was more sparing.
Meanwhile, on the more vibrant front, my favourite tulip 'Ballerina' was at its elegant best.
I'll be moving it now that I've installed a friend's Disanthus cercidifolius over its head, throwing it suddenly into too much shade. The Disanthus gives much-needed height to that side of the front garden.
I love the shape of its leaves and am looking forward to their brilliant fall colours. Meanwhile 'Ballerina will be moved further forward in to more sunlight.
The Disanthus also complements and contrasts in leaf shape and colour with the Cornus alternifolia 'Argentea' that faces it across the front path.
Right at the end of the month, Rosa pimpinellifolia, always my first rose to bloom, suddenly covered itself with arching sprays of strongly-scented, pale yellow flowers that instantly attracted every bee in the neighbourhood.