May Flowers: Thank You October-Through-April Showers
Each month yields its own little surprises in my garden. In May, I welcome visitors in bloom, bough, petal and seedpod, returning from a season of rest, only to burst on the scene like waving flags, sprite sparklers, lavish crowns and pulpy jewelry. And since it’s one more cup of coffee before I hit the flower fields, greenhouse and orchard, let me wax on about some of my May garden beauties and a few of their attributes. Who knows, you may be so inclined to invite them into your garden.
This particular lilac is a late bloomer, bursting on the scene as the grand finale of the lilac season. The compact bush is a reliable bloomer, well-mannered grower and impressive producer of floral perfume. Planted near my front door, “Miss Kim” welcomes guests (and this host) with a kiss of fragrance and beauty.
This sweet little guy is a hardier form of gladiola and one who whispers rather than shouts in the garden. While not particularly long blooming, its appearance still brightens and dots the garden with wands of pink for at least two weeks. The bulbs tend to naturalize and spread in a noninvasive way here in the Pacific Northwest.
Honeysuckle vines sometimes get a bad rap, often labeled as aggressive growers. This particular honeysuckle, Serotina, seems to be very well behaved and a favorite of my local hummingbirds. I think the red exterior petals are the hummer equivalent of a stop sign. The vines can be easily managed and trimmed into a shrub of sorts or maintained on a trellis or pillar; and the fragrance is heady and wonderful on a warm summer night. In the fall, red berries form and attract songbirds to the vine for a quick snack.
I like big blooms, there’s no denyin’ (Tom’s garden rap). Roses are such a treasure: gorgeous to look at and fragrant to boot, at least the ones I select to plant here. As a practitioner of rose tough love, I remove any rose bushes that don’t thrive, since I don’t spray a drop of anything on them. I go for the pretty and the tough, it’s a combo that keeps pesticides out of my garden and soil. Jubilee Celebration, a new addition, pulls out all the stops: big blooms, fragrance, disease resistance, great cut flower, and repeat blooming. What’s not to like?
Northwest native Lewisia boasts a floral color range almost other worldly. The diminutive rock plant goes unnoticed until the blooms appear, and then it has your full and undivided attention. It needs a sunny location and excellent drainage to thrive, but other than that Meriwether Lewis’ namesake is a keeper.
Another one of my favorite roses, Madame Alfred Carriere sets the standard for the perfect garden rose: vigorous, nearly thornless, fragrant, repeat growing and a lovely cut flower. It does get black spot and mildew but in time seems to brush it off and reach for the sky. This noisette rose is lovely rambling up through the branches of small trees .
Medlar is a fruit you won’t likely see in the produce aisle of your local grocery. A mainstay of medieval French and English gardens, the medlar’s mere appearance suggests (and rightfully so) that it is something special. I was smitten the first time I saw the tree in bloom on a walk through the University of Washington Arboretum in Seattle. A well-behaved tree of small to moderate size, it delivers on all counts: flowers, fruit and fall foliage, much like another favorite of mine, the fruiting quince. The fruit hangs on the tree like nodding caramels, remaining well after leaf drop.
I’m a recent devotee of the vines called Clematis. Known for their dramatic blooms and distinctive characteristics, clematis seem the perfect partner for the garden fence, pergola or arbor. Starry Night is a cultivar that will put stars in your eyes (and garden).
Large white Calla lilies are a mainstay in many a coastal northwest garden. The flowers tower regally above the tropical-looking foliage, and are exemplary cut flowers. I’ve tried other varieties, but Zantedeschia aethiopica is the only one really hardy in our zone 8 climate.
Buddy would say, “hi,” but I hate to disturb his morning meditation and quiet time.