Home Gardening May Flowers: What’s Blooming in My Garden

May Flowers: What’s Blooming in My Garden

May Flowers: What’s Blooming in My Garden

May Flowers: Thank You October-Through-April Showers

farmhouse and maple
In the shade and embrace of the Big Leaf Maple

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.

Lilac "Miss Kim"
Lilac “Miss Kim” (Syringa pubescens subsp. patula ‘Miss Kim’)

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.

Gladiola Byzantium
Byzantine gladiolus (Gladiolus communis subsp. byzantinus)

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 serrotina
Woodbine or Honeysuckle (Lonicera periclymenum ‘Serotina’ )

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.

Jubilee celebration
David Austin Rose “Jubilee Celebration”

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?

Lewisia cotyledon
Lewisia Cotyledon

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.

Madame Alfred Carriere Rose
Rose “Madame Alfred Carriere”

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 blossoms
Medlar (Mespilus germanica) flower
2009_10_24_medlar_apples 002
Medlar fruit

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.

Starry Nights Clematis may flowers
Clematis “Starry Night”

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).

three calla lilies
Calla Lily (Zantedeschia aethiopica)

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.

bulldog zen
Bulldog Zen

Buddy would say, “hi,” but I hate to disturb his morning meditation and quiet time.



  1. I will never tire of photos from your garden… floral and vegetable. I only wish I had Vashon’s climate! And I will never tire of Buddy (he really fills out that chair seat!).

    • Thank you Eileen, I could say the same for your garden and handsome French four-legged friend. I’ve spent the day in the greenhouse weeding and planting, and rototilled the front fields. Hopefully my planting schedule can beat the weeds’ timeline to sprout all over again. 😉

  2. I would so love some of those roses! Do you have them behind a deer fence? Our herd here on south Bainbridge would just love those as a tasty appetizer. I’m always planting the same ol’ same ol’ , endless repeating of the tried and true plants that our deer don’t really like.
    Zen master Buddy, so peaceful.

    • Hi Chris, yes those roses are behind fences, alligator-stocked moats, machine-gun turrets, and electric barbed wire fences, and still I find a munch or chew from a deer once in awhile. I feel your pain!

  3. Wait, I thought you lived on Vashon — that looks like Eden!!! I miss the island blooms, Tom, but having moved I miss you even more. Thanks for sharing.

    • Ah Greg, I sure miss you and Caitlin and Miss Flora. Do let me know the next time you all are back on the island, and a little advanced notice could put a pie in the mix. Cheers and well wishes! Tom

  4. Oh, how I admire the way nature has away of creating the most wondrous gifts of beauty. Pristine gardens are delightful but the joy of finding hidden treasures of plants artfully displayed in a manner one would never dare to creature going by structured rules sings to my heart.

    I love the freedom and wildness that nature folic with in your garden.

    PS If Buddy is in anyway like my Furry Gang, he probably is mediating on what is on the menu!

  5. Wow, gorgeous flowers Tom! Love the clematis – one I have not seen before. What a contented expression Buddy has…he looks like one happy relaxed puppy!

  6. A wealth of information and beautiful photographs. Thanks, Tom! I’m debating what to put in in my newly dug up front garden that faces the street. The “Miss Kim” lilac would seem to be a great choice. I remember the fragrant honeysuckle growing up over my grandfather’s watershed. It grows here in Montreal, but, unfortunately, sans the lovely scent. Many thanks for the delightful stroll through your spring garden!

    • Sandra, I’ll put my vote in for Miss Kim Lilac if for nothing more than fragrance. For two weeks, she graced my garden with perfume from a fairy tale. This shrub truly produces a scent that wafts and travels from bough to nose. It has a USDA hardiness of down to zone 4. And as for honeysuckle, from what I’ve read Lonicera periclymenum varieties have the strongest fragrance. Good Luck and so nice to hear from you.


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