Early May is a beautiful time with tulips in the borders and pots; and orchard blossoms under planted with blue camassias. Cowslips are also in flower here and buttercups are just starting. The ornamental cherries make a fantastic show.

Tree peonies are gorgeous too, all to fleeting but when in bloom they are exquisite. There are many in the formal garden borders but we also have several maturing specimens beneath the white stemmed Himalayan birch. The combination is breath taking.

May is also a wonderful time for the alliums below the arches which provide a super show along with the foxgloves, peonies, poppies and iris through May and into June. One end of the arches is fronted with laburnum with various pink and white wisterias adding to the scene, along with several honeysuckles.

White Clematis montana grandiflora also climbs over one of the arches. The exact timing varies from year to year depending on the season. The wisterias often last until end May.

Other clematis montanas provide a wonderful show…tops being Clematis Willie, Blue Eclipse, and Francis Rivis plus C. montana ‘Broughton Star’ with its dusky pink semi double flowers which look wonderful against the stone walls in the courtyard. Clematis montana ‘Mayleen’, ‘Jacqui’ and ‘Elizabeth’ provide a beautiful show elsewhere.

Early Chinese roses flower in May including the shrub rose yellow ‘Canary Bird’. But the stars are Rosa Banksiae lutea and white normalis which clothe the house walls…normalis is exceptional for its soft perfume. By the very end of May Rosa ‘Gertrude Jekyll’ flowers on the courtyard walls and ‘Mme Isaac’ is full of blooms besides the kitchen…both good for my rose petal cakes. Other scented May flowering plants include silver leaved Eleagnus Quicksilver, lilacs and by the end of the month the honeysuckles are beginning to flower.

We recently visited the famous Tree Peony Festival at Luoyang, China which has increased our enthusiam and in 2015 we created a dedicated bed of tree peonies and herbaceous peonies besides the drive with red, pink and white flowers all with the dark maroon blotch. Since then we have created yet another peony border close by, planting intersectional peonies, also known as Itohs. They have been so promising in 2017 that we have now planted even more….such is our enthusiasm for this very special new category of peony with stunning flowers and neat, elegant foliage.

Of all the Intersectional peonies Bartzella is one of the best known and prettiest yellows. While Julia Rose is certainly a memorable coral.

Herbaceous perennial honesty, Lunaria rediviva ,hesperis, geraniums, geums, poppies and aquilegias will all be in full bloom. The ferns will be in fresh wonderful statuesque growth while hostas in hanging baskets will again making a good display. This is such a marvellous time of year. The early growth and fresh leaves of trees, hedging and grasses will all be magical. The formal garden always looks exciting at this time of year with the hornbeam in new leaf and lavender in fresh growth together a symphony of greens. The Rothko garden will look dramatic with its glossy dark leaves.