Look down to see an abundance of colour

There are some interesting things happening at ground level at the moment.

By The Newsroom
Saturday, 21st May 2016, 9:01 am
Tulips are important for May display.
Tulips are important for May display.

Part the mass of spear-shaped leaves on Arisarum proboscidium and you’ll find the most unusual flowers.

The main body is brownish-purple and white, tapering into a long, thin, curling attachment, resembling an animal’s tail. No wonder it’s commonly called the mouse plant.

Violets and tiny viola flowers in an array of colours, including everyone’s favourite, the heartsease, they’re all blooming too.

This is certainly the month for saxifrage. Low mounds of green foliage are topped by pink and white blooms throughout the garden, and the time is right to introduce more.

First, find a spot where they’re already flourishing, in our case two places – on an East-facing raised bed and the periphery of a pond. A few plants of Saxifraga ‘Highlander’ were introduced last week, white, red and rose shades.

Walking along the mixed border reminds us how important tulips are for May display, the reds and whites blending beautifully with red and pale green-barked dogwoods, whose leaves are just emerging.

Cornus ‘Elegantissima’ is an old favourite and well-named when you get up close; green and cream leaves set against a background of red bark.

Primula denticulata, yellow doronicum and bluebells are showing no signs of fading. The latter appear in slightly different forms and colours for us, probably because pot-grown winter hyacinths have been planted outdoors after flowering. They’ve naturalised alongside bluebell groups and bees have intervened. Now there are large and small blooms, blues, whites, and shades in between.

Fruit and vegetable plants have responded well to the dressing of blood, fish and bone sprinkled on the surface and hoed gently into the soil.

Rows of strawberries are standing like soldiers on parade. They comprise four varieties – ‘Christine’, ‘Flamenco’, ‘Sweetheart’ and ‘Malwina’, the latter on its last chance to perform well after a disappointing three years. We never keep individual plants longer than four summers anyway, but with so many varieties available it’s reasonable to try something different.

This is why ‘Corona’, ‘Cambridge Favourite’ and ‘Florence’ are growing on in pots, ready for a possible change-over.

Potatoes planted over Easter weekend have shoots just emerging, a testament to how cold the soil in this garden has been, I guess.

Peas sown directly into the land five weeks ago are appearing at last. The replacement batch, raised in pots, are planted alongside and stand 10cm tall. But we have had slow starts before and always caught up eventually so there’s no need to panic.

One group of plants that always seems to prosper, whatever the weather, is weeds. How you tackle them depends upon the type and where they’re growing.

If only they were all as straightforward as the annuals. Half an hour’s hoeing on a hot day, leave them in the sun to dry out, then rake up for composting – preferably without seeds on board.