Autumn cuttings

Is it too late to take cuttings of plants that are unlikely to survive the winter? Most of the research I’ve done online suggests that I should have got my cuttings act together earlier in the year, but I’m not convinced.

The vibrant black-eyed susan vine (Thunbergia alata)

The vibrant black-eyed susan vine (Thunbergia alata)

This eye-catching black-eyed Susan vine (Thunbergia alata) is a low-maintenance rapid-growing climber that has brought a touch of the exotic to my patio this year. Unfortunately, it is not frost hardy, and I don’t have room to bring it indoors over the winter, so I am attempting to propagate it via cuttings this autumn.

Softwood (herbaceous) stem cuttings are usually taken during the main growing season of the plant, in spring or early summer, but there is enough growth in my vine to make me think some autumn cuttings may be successful.

How to take stem cuttings

Black-eyed susan stem cutting

Black-eyed Susan stem cutting

  1. Select a section of healthy growth, and cut the stem at an angle 3–6 inches below a leaf node
  2. Cut off any leaves on the lower half of the stem so that the stem is bare for potting, and trim the cutting down to just a few leaves
  3. Place the cutting in your potting medium or, as in the case of my black-eyed Susan cuttings, in a glass of water to take root before potting them on
Stem cuttings in water

I’m leaving my cuttings in water first to take root, before potting on in compost

I’m hopeful that I’ll have a modicum of success with these, because the Argyranthemum cuttings that I took in November 2 years ago made it through the winter to produce several healthy new plants.

If you’re taking cuttings at the moment, and have any tips for success, please let me know!

 

 

 

Pear rust

Take my advice: if you see signs of disease on a plant, act on it straight away before it gets worse. Last month I noticed individual bright orange spots on several leaves on my conference pear tree … and I ignored them.

Orange-red spots on leaves: first sign of pear rust

Orange-red spots on upper surface of leaves: first sign of pear rust

One month later, I realised that almost a third of all the leaves on the tree were sporting this season’s colour – rusty orange-red!

Pear rust on leaves, but the fruit is unaffected

Orange spot is the new black spot – but the fruit is unaffected

On closer inspection I found some rather gruesome brown, gall-like growths on the corresponding lower side of each leaf, with alien hair-like projections.

Pear rust: warty gall on the underside of the leaves with hair-like projections

Ew! Warty gall on the underside of the leaves with hair-like projections

With the help of Mr Google, it wasn’t difficult to identify: European pear rust, caused by the fungus Gymnosporangium sabinae.

Breaking pear rust’s life cycle

Apparently, fungal rusts need a living host at all times to survive, so the life cycle of this particular nasty requires two host plants. This summer/autumn, my pear tree has played host to the fungus. Normally, it would then release spores from the underside of the leaves and restart the party on a neighbouring juniper tree. Being evergreen, the juniper would harbour the fungus though the winter, releasing spores in summer to reinfect my pear tree.

I can only hope that by painstakingly removing all the infected leaves (yes, I got on a ladder and cut off and binned every last one of the little blighters) that I have broken the cycle, but of course I may have been too late and spores may already have been released. If the culprit juniper is infected again, then my tree might well get reinfected next year and so the cycle will continue. As it is unlikely that I will be able to track down the culprit juniper, I will have to be more vigilant next year and tackle any infection as soon as it materialises.

The consequences

If left unchecked, heavy infections can reduce the yield of fruit, and I have had noticeably fewer pears this year. More worryingly, the infection can cause cankers in the bark (isolated dead areas), which can make the tree more susceptible to bacteria, fungus and insect attack.

The solution

There is no suitable fungicide available to home gardeners if you want to consume the fruit off your tree. And why have a pear tree if you’re not going to eat the pears?!

So all you can really do is try to break the cycle of  infection by removing as many of the infected leaves as possible and putting them straight in the dustbin or burning them. I appreciate that if you have a huge old pear tree this might not be practical (mine is only 4 years old).

Pear rust: bin or burn the affected leaves

Bin or burn the affected leaves

Fastidiously clear all the dropped leaves from under the tree as well. If your tree has got canker, then you’ll need to cut it out of the bark. I’m hoping I won’t get to that stage!

A healthy tree will fight off infection more effectively, so I will also be clearing around the base of my tree, and giving it some TLC over the next few months, including a good autumn mulch, a winter wash and an early spring feed. I will, of course, also ensure that it gets plenty of water, as we’ve had an exceptionally dry October so far. I’ll also be pruning the tree this winter to avoid overcrowding in the crown and improve the airflow through the branches.

Report your pear rust

Unfortunately, there has been a steady increase in pear rust in the UK over the past 10 years. In order to get a better picture of distribution, the RHS is asking anyone who comes across the disease to report it via its online survey.

If you’ve had a problem with pear rust, please let me know, especially if you have any extra tips for tackling it. Let’s hope next year brings less rust and more pears!

Beat the glut: 2 great beetroot recipes

Beetroot is really easy to grow. No matter how new you are to veg growing, it’s a sure thing. But then what do you do with all those beets?

Fresh from the veg plot: beetroot glut

Fresh from the veg plot: beetroot glut

My personal favourite is roasted beetroot and goat cheese salad, but as the autumn nights start to draw in, here are two easy peasy ways to get creative with your beetroot glut.

Spiced sweet and sour pickled beetroot

Thank you to my neighbour, Alison, for putting me on to this one. This light pickle is sweet and rich, and is the perfect accompaniment to all sorts of foods (fish, cold meats, cheeses, salad …).

Ingredients
1 kg raw beetroot
200g caster sugar
300mL white wine vinegar
200mL cold water
2 star anise
3 cloves
2 bay leaves
2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 tbsp olive oil

Heat your oven to 180C/160C fan/gas 4. Trim the leaves and most of the stalks off the beetroot, leaving a stump of stalk on each.

Wash and trim your beetroot before cooking

Wash and trim your beetroot before cooking

Wrap each beetroot in tinfoil and place on a baking tray. Roast for 1 hour 15 minutes or until the point of a sharp knife inserts easily into the beet. Leave to cool.

Peel the beets (and get very stained hands), and chop them into large bite-size pieces. Pack the chunks into sterilized jars.

Chop your oooked beetroot into chunks

Chop your cooked beetroot into chunks

For the pickling juice, tip the sugar, white wine vinegar, water, spices and bay leaves into a large saucepan and bring to the boil. Then simmer gently, stirring until all the sugar has dissolved, for 2 minutes. Turn off the heat and add the balsamic vinegar.

Carefully pour the spiced vinegar over the beetroot in the jars (you might have a bit left over). Leave the pickle to cool uncovered, then pour the olive oil over the top and seal the jars.

Et voila! Pickled beetroot. Simples!

Et voila! Pickled beetroot. Simples!

Officially you are only supposed to keep this in the fridge for up to a month, but mine lasted at least 2 months last year with no problems. And as a bonus, when we’d eaten all the beetroot, I mixed the leftover pickling juice with a little olive oil for a fantastic vinaigrette salad dressing.

Beetroot brownies

Forget carrot cake this autumn, try this instead. You won’t regret it.

Ingredients
500g raw beetroot
100g unsalted butter
200g bar plain chocolate (70% cocoa)
1 tsp vanilla extract
250g caster sugar
3 eggs
100g plain flour
25g cocoa powder

Cook and chop the beetroot as per the recipe above. Chop the chocolate and butter up roughly and blend with the warm chopped beets in a food processor. The chocolate and butter will melt as you blend.

Blend the beets, butter and chocolate until it is smooth red and velvety

Blend the beets, butter and chocolate until it is smooth red and velvety

Beat the sugar and eggs together in a large bowl until thick, pale and foamy. Spoon the beetroot mixture into the bowl (it doesn’t look pretty at this stage, but stay with it!), then use a large metal spoon to fold it in. Try to keep as much air in the mixture as you can.

Gently fold in the sifted flour and cocoa powder next, until you have a smooth batter. Pour the mixture into a pre-lined 20cm x 30cm tray bake or roasting tin and bake for 25 minutes or until it has risen all over with a small quiver under the centre of the crust when you shake the pan.

Cool in the tin, then cut into squares.

Beetroot brownies

Yum!

Let me know what you think, and I’d love to know your favourite beetroot recipes too. I’m sure I’ll have another glut to deal with next year.

How to avoid gardener’s back pain

What do you have planned this bank holiday weekend? If, like me, you are revelling in the thought of 3 days pottering in the garden then, also like me, you may be concerned that by Tuesday morning you will be reaching for the painkillers, booking a session with an osteopath and shuffling into work like an 80 year old.

Digging in the garden

A few simple rules

I’m the world’s worst for throwing myself with unbridled enthusiasm at the garden on days off and weekends, and then suffering for it afterwards. But it doesn’t need to hurt. All you have to do is follow a few simple rules.

1. Gardening should be viewed like any other exercise. Warm up before you start gardening by gently stretching your muscles.

2. Try not to lift heavy objects. If you have to, remember to bend your knees and keep your back straight. Pick up the object with both hands and make sure you lift close to your body as you straighten your knees. Put your wheelbarrow to good use to move heavy items around the garden.

3. Don’t bend forward from the waist (I get told off for this one all the time!). When weeding or dead heading near to the ground, bend your knees, keep your neck in a normal position and your back as straight as possible. If you are going to be down there for more than 5 minutes, kneel on a pad.

Bend your knees when you are weeding

Bend your knees when you are weeding

4.  Don’t spend more than #15greenmins on any one task.

The #15greenmins rule

Work out what you want to achieve in the time available to you, and draw up a quick timetable on a piece of paper, splitting each hour into three manageable 15-minute time slots, with a 5-minute break in between each one – how many hours you spend in the garden is up to you!

Set yourself a different task in each slot to avoid repeating the same action for more than 15 minutes at a time.

Example #15greenmins timetable

Example #15greenmins timetable

Set an alarm on your watch or phone for each 15-minute session, and take a 5-minute break when it goes off. Stretch, relax and drink some water. A few gentle back bends are good for stretching the spine, and neck and shoulder rolls will help loosen any tension in your upper body.

By avoiding prolonged repetitive actions you will avoid stressing your joints and ligaments, and at the end of the weekend you will  be able to stand upright to admire your achievements – without wincing!

Set attainable goals!

Be realistic. I know what it’s like. The weekend stretches before you in all its gloriousness, the sun is shining and in your mind you envisage pruning all your shrubs, dead heading all your annuals and weeding every border … after you’ve mowed the lawns and watered all the pots of course.

It’s supposed to be fun – not torture – so enjoy your time in the garden. As for what you can’t achieve this weekend, well there’s still the rest of the week to go at, 15 minutes of green at a time!

Let me know if this helps!

Garden therapy

Hello visitors. My apologies; it’s been a while! A hectic work schedule and family commitments haven’t kept me away from my ’15 minutes of green’ completely this year, but they have stopped me from blogging about it. But I’m back, and pleased to report that, despite my best efforts, my garden continues to flourish, providing me with the perfect therapy for the stressed out mess I have been in danger of becoming.

Stress busting amongst the tulips earlier this year

Stress busting amongst the tulips earlier this year

Those of us fortunate enough to have our own gardens are well aware of the sense of well being we get from spending time amongst our borders. Ask most gardeners why we enjoy gardening and we’ll tell you “it makes me feel good”. I don’t know why, but pottering about with a pair of secateurs, or planning where I’m going to move the next unsuspecting perennial, is strangely relaxing.

Gardening offers the obvious benefits of physical exercise, sunshine (when it makes an appearance) and fresh air, but more importantly gardening is good therapy for our mental health too!

Out of control

For some gardeners, the buzz comes from the satisfaction of achieving neat geometric shapes or a perfectly striped lawn, but I confess that I have never, nor will ever, have that level of control over my herbaceous borders (although I do occasionally get stripes on the lawn, courtesy of my husband’s mowing prowess).

For me, it is the knowledge that I can’t control everything in my garden that makes it such a therapeutic release from all the other tensions of daily living. Yes, I have learned over the years that as much as I may try to coax plants to grow where and how I want them to, nature has an uncanny way of rearranging things … and nature always knows best!

Golden marjoram growing through burgundy Berberis – what a great colour combination!

Golden marjoram growing through burgundy Berberis – what a great colour combination!

Enjoy the unexpected

I love strolling around the edges of my borders to see what is bursting into bloom, and enjoy finding unexpected surprises.

This summer, some of the more in-your-face blooms have been simply stunning …

Phlox in summer

I’ve had these phlox for a few years now, but this is the best they have ever looked

… but I get just as much pleasure from this tiny sedum giving it’s all at the edge of the patio.

An alpine sedum giving it's all

An alpine sedum, dripping with flowers

In other beds that have got completely out of control, hidden gems such as my Geranium ‘Ann Folkard’  have emerged.

Geranium Ann Folkard peeking through the border

The magenta flowers of a sprawling Geranium ‘Ann Folkard’ peep through the borders past day lilies, Spiraea and Smoke bush (Cotinus)

At first I was dismayed that one of my clematis had taken a detour from the fence I intended to train it up, but it actually looks pretty good entwined in the leaves of roses that have long since flowered.

Clematis with a mind of its own

Clematis with a mind of its own

Overcrowding in other areas has forced thyme and lavender to sprawl out either side of a path in a way that simply makes me smile.

Lavender and Thyme is at its best this time of year

Lavender and thyme are at their best this time of year

Tranquil chaos

I don’t know quite how to put into words all the ways my garden brings me pleasure. How do I describe the joy of picking the first strawberries from my vegetable patch before the slugs have got hold of them, the excitement of picking juicy stems of rhubarb (and then finding out how delicious it is with vanilla ice cream!), or the sheer contentment of watching a newly fledged chaffinch discover the wonders of my pond? If you’re a gardener, then I probably don’t need to, because you’ve had your own special garden moments too!

Summer garden

The world would be a better place if everyone had access to garden therapy

Yes, my garden may be chaotic right now, but in a world where mad men are far too regularly making the news with trucks and guns and knives, I am happy with my own brand of  tranquil chaos. It keeps me sane!

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Sparrowhawk attack

Earlier today my usually quiet front garden resembled a scene from Hitchcock’s horror film, The Birds, as dozens upon dozens of rooks and jackdaws circled above my house. The noise was astounding and the sight quite phenomenal, if not a little surreal. I was baffled as to what was going on, until I honed in on a panicked squawking emanating from the ivy beneath my beech hedge, where a sparrowhawk was locked in a violent tussle with … a jackdaw!

Sparrowhawk vs jackdaw

Sparrowhawk vs jackdaw

Given our extremely healthy population of blue tits and house sparrows, we are used to seeing the occasional sparrowhawk pop in for a ‘snack’, but I have never seen them tackle anything bigger. I was impressed, especially as I was pretty sure the sparrowhawk had the upper hand.

The jackdaw was still making a horrendous noise – it was far from dead – and the mob above was maintaining its rowdy protest too. But the sparrowhawk had it well pinned down.

Sparrowhawk covers her 'kill' having brought down a jackdaw

The sparrowhawk appeared to have things under control …

Plucking

… she even started plucking out the jackdaw’s breast feathers

Until she spotted me. Thanks to my paparazzi-style intrusion, this was one hearty lunch she didn’t get to tuck in to, because in the few seconds that she focused on me, the jackdaw started fighting back.

Jackdaw vs sparrowhawk

Fighting talk

In fact, in a flash, it completely turned the tables and had the sparrowhawk pinned on her back. Talons locked, they tumbled across the lawn before both taking off into the sky.

The black plague circling over the roof swiftly dissipated too. Nothing like a bit of gore and mayhem to liven up a Thursday lunchtime!

The sparrowhawk is a small bird of prey, well adapted to hunting birds in confined spaces, like my front garden! This was a female, as she had a brown back and wings. The females are larger than the males, which have a bluish-grey back and wings and orange-brown bars underneath.

The magnificent sparrowhawk (Accipiter nissus)

The magnificent sparrowhawk (Accipiter nissus)

On your marks …

… get set, grow! This month is when I start to get back out in the garden and scare myself silly at how much there is to do. Yes, it’s that time of year when everything starts to get going again – the spring bulbs, the perennials, the weeds!

Tete-a-tete narcissus

The emergence of tete-a-tete narcissi tells me its time to get gardening again

It’s all crying out for a tidy up. Now is the time to cut back the remnants of winter growth, stop the weeds in their tracks and start sowing for the year ahead.

But there’s only so much I can do at any one time, so rather than go with my first impulse – all out panic! – I remind myself of the 15 minutes of green philosophy. I can do anything for 15 minutes, and with 15 minutes of green every day (plus a few 15+ sessions when time allows) I will coax my garden back to splendour.

Spring border in desperate need of a tidy up

Desperately seeking a tidy up

I started on what I call my perennial border; basically, the border that gives me the most grief but can also bring the most joy. I removed the dead leaves and stalks from the sedums, day lilies and anemones, dug out as much of the ground elder as I could, which creeps in from under the hawthorn hedge, and added a few bucketfuls of garden compost and leaf mould.

Tidy herbaceous border

What a transformation, and oh so very satisfying 🙂

It looks a bit bare at the moment, but I’m always amazed how quickly it fills in once the perennials get growing. So that’s one good job done!

That just leaves the raspberry canes to chop down, the herb bed to tidy, the vegetable beds to hoe, the fruit trees to top dress, the seeds to sow, the ……. deep breath! 15 minutes at a time, remember.

To help me (and maybe you too), I’ve made a checklist for March and used the 15 minutes of green logo to indicate which of the jobs can be done 15 minutes at at time. Check out the #15greenmins tab at the top of the page and click on March for more information and a checklist that you can print out.

It’s time to get out and grow, 15 minutes at a time!

“Will flower until frost”

With the wind and rain and noticeable drop in temperature, the garden has started to take on a rather dishevelled, limp-around-the-edges persona. The last of the summer-flowering perennials have all but shrivelled and the dampness of heavy dews lingers late into seemingly endless grey, overcast mornings. So thank goodness for those autumnal gems that “will flower until frost”.

The rich jewel tones of the autumn borders

Eye-popping autumn borders

Yes, there are still plenty of perennials and shrubs brightening the darkest corners, even in early November. Here are some of my favourites …

The colours of sunset

Pollen-rich Rudbeckia and Gaillardia splash the borders with the colours of sunset

The elegant Japanese anemone

The elegance of the Japanese anemone

Sedum splendour

Sedum splendour

Long-lived golden nasturtiums brighten gloomy corners

Long-lived golden nasturtiums brighten gloomy corners

Rich jewel tones of aster and cyclamen

Rich jewel tones of aster and cyclamen

Autumn fruit and leaf colour: Berberis berries and the changing leaves of Virginia Creeper

Autumn fruit and leaf colour: Berberis berries and the changing leaves of Virginia Creeper

So enjoy the last of the autumnal colours – in a week or so they will be all but gone.

Marigold mania

This year I opted for the work-intensive option of growing my own annuals: marigolds, salvia, nasturtiums and cosmos. On the up side, I ended up with plenty of bedding plants, which is good news for the bees and butterflies … and the slugs have enjoyed them too! On the other hand, it involved a lot of extra effort.

For the most part, I bought the seeds fresh this year; all except the marigold seeds, which I collected from last year’s plants and stored over winter. Some seeds require special treatment before sowing (e.g. scratching the seed coat, or freezing to break dormancy), but most annuals can be scattered thinly, covered in a fine layer of compost, kept moist and left to get on with things.

Sowing seeds

And that’s what I did. In May, I scattered my seeds  fairly haphazardly in seed trays full of ‘seed and potting’ compost, sprinkled a little compost over the top of them, labelled them and left them in the conservatory area of my kitchen to germinate.

Waiting for germination - seed trays

The easy bit … seed trays full of seed doing its thing

That was the easy bit! Germination was phenomenally successful – first two ‘seed leaves’ for each plant, swiftly followed by several ‘true leaves’. The seedlings were ready to prick out a couple of weeks after the true leaves appeared and a decent root system had been put down.

An abundance of marigold seedlings ready for pricking out

An abundance of marigold seedlings ready for pricking out

Pricking out

Pricking out is, without a doubt, my least favourite gardening job. It is sooooo time consuming. I am not a patient person, so the process of teasing out each individual seedling and its roots, carefully lifting each individual plant from its neighbours – being careful to hold onto the leaves, not the stem! – then replanting each seedling in a module or small pot, firming it in with more compost, and of course watering it in, is something I find quite tortuous.

Yet somehow I got through it, filling countless modules and pots with fragile seedlings.

Planting seedlings into modules - a slow and laborious process

Planting seedlings into modules …

Pricking out marigolds into small pots

… and pots

Growing on marigolds

… and more pots!

Growing on

Then I waited. While a watched kettle never boils, a watched marigold does seem to shoot up pretty quickly. I kept the seedlings well watered and warm, and within a month  I had lots of lovely bedding plants ready to plant out.

Blooming marigolds, ready to plant out

Blooming marigolds, ready to plant out

In fact, I’m still planting them out now, plugging the last few gaps at the front of my borders.

Marigolds in situ, adding a much-needed splash of summer colour throughout the garden

Marigolds in situ, adding a much-needed splash of summer colour throughout the garden

So was it worth it? Hmmm … probably!

A ringlet on one of my homegrown marigolds

A ringlet on one of my homegrown marigolds

Hanging tomatoes

I’m still cramming the vegetables and annuals into the garden. As I haven’t got a greenhouse, and I’m rapidly running out of space – and pots – on the patio, some of the tomatoes have gone into hanging baskets.

There are plenty of bush-type varieties with shallow root systems that do well in hanging baskets. I’m trying Tumbling Tom (yellow) and Tiny Tim (red), one plant per basket, hung south facing at the back of the house.

Yellow Tumbling Tom tomatoes in hanging basket

Yellow Tumbling Tom tomatoes in hanging basket

The baskets are pre-lined so I haven’t had to faff around with liners or moss. I put a small plastic saucer and several used tea bags at the bottom of each basket to help retain water, and firmed each tomato plant in with plenty of all-round garden compost and a few growmore granules.

A small saucer and used tea bags, placed at the bottom of the basket to help retain water

A small saucer and used tea bags, placed at the bottom of the basket to help retain water

I haven’t bothered with water-retaining granules, as there are no holes in the liner so the water shouldn’t drain away too quickly.

Because of the habit of these trailing plants, they require very little maintenance, so I won’t need to do anything else now, other than regular watering, plus weekly feeding when the tomatoes start to develop.

Tumbling Tom tomato planted in hanging basket

Now we wait …

Huffing hedgehogs

I was walking around the garden last night. It’s amazing how much unseen activity there is after dark: plenty of rustling in the borders, small rodents no doubt, or perhaps a few larger ones! Then I heard the ‘huffing’, a loud persistent raspy panting or puffing. Which could only mean one thing … we have hedgehogs back in residence.

Hedgehog in garden

And here’s the proof. Erinaceous europaeus!

It has been several years since we have seen any hedgehogs in the garden. Our cosy straw-filled hedgehog boxes have gone unused for the past two winters, so I was thrilled to find they were back.

I quickly threw a few hedgehog treats onto the lawn in the vicinity of the activity (we actually still had some hedgehog biscuits left over from the days when they were coming in regularly – see below), and low and behold a hedgehog emerged. After all that huffing, he (or she) was hungry!

The huffing happens when two hedgehogs meet, and is part of a hedgehog’s courtship behaviour, where they huff and circle each other. So we can but hope for hoglets later this year. Watch this terrific piece of footage on YouTube of hedgehog courtship behaviour to see and hear the huffing behaviour for yourself!

Feeding hedgehogs

Hedgehog numbers in the UK have declined by more than a third over the past decade and they are now on the endangered species list. So if you find them in your garden, look after them!

Hedgehogs are insectivores; over 70% of their natural diet comprises beetles and other insects, worms and a tiny number of slugs and snails, but you can supplement their evening dinner with:

  • Meat-flavoured tinned cat or dog food (chicken in jelly is the best – no fish flavours or meat in gravy!)
  • Specific tinned or dry hedgehog food, available from garden centres and pet shops
  • Cat biscuits (but not fish flavoured)
  • Cooked meat leftovers – chopped up finely as they have tiny teeth and cannot chew or tear big pieces
  • Chopped or crushed peanuts (the sort you put out for the birds – not salted!), dried mealworms and sunflower hearts
  • Sultanas and raisins

Do not give them:

  • Bread or milk – they can’t digest them!
  • Salty meats such as bacon or corned beef

Make sure you:

  • Provide a source of water – they drink a lot!
  • Provide a sloping exit out of ponds so they can get out if they fall in.

For more information on hedgehogs go to The British Hedgehog Preservation SocietyThe Mammal SocietyPrickles Hedgehog Rescue or Tiggywinkles Wildlife Hospital.

Do you have hedgehogs in your garden? I’d love to hear from you. Leave a comment below or let me know on Twitter @15greenmins

Memories of May

As Rodgers and Hammerstein so succinctly put it, “June is bustin’ out all over”. Indeed, much of the garden is now a dazzling display of glorious technicolour. But this month has a lot to live up to. Let’s not forget the slightly more subtle splendours of May. Here are my highlights, re-lived in pictures.

Garden, early May

My garden in early May

Delicate tree blossom …

Apple tree blossom

A young apple tree smothered in delicate pink blossom, hinting at the abundant autumnal harvest to follow

Hawthorn tree covered in blossom

The only large tree in the garden, a mature hawthorn, smothered in frothy white blossom

Blue tit in hawthorn tree

Nesting blue tits made the most of an abundance of insects amongst the milky white petals

The last of the Spring bulbs …

Red tulips

Guaranteed to make an impact: vibrant red tulips

Bluebell

Rather less showy, but no less resplendent, bluebells added a touch of quietly under-stated class

New growth in shady areas …

Emerging hosta

Down at the shady end of the garden, hostas started sprouting …

Unfolding fern

… and ferns unfolded

The attractive early foliage of shrubs …

Pieris Forest Flame

The spirited new growth of Pieris ‘Forest Flame’ escaped the frosts this year

Cotinus smoke tree

The first leaves of this Cotinus ‘smoke tree’ glowed like embers in the Spring sunshine

In the vegetable garden …

Chives in flower

The chives were starting to bloom in the herb bed

Strawberry flowers

And there were signs of sweet things to come in the strawberry patch

In the pond …

Spring proliferation of lily pads

A proliferation of lily pads across the surface sheltered the fish from the attentions of a visiting heron

And last but by no means least, the Spring-flowering perennials …

Centaurea montana

Clumps of Centaurea montana (Great blue-bottle) were the first to emerge

Early perennials - lupin and geranium

Swiftly followed by glorious spires of lupins and ebullient mounds of Johnson’s Blue geraniums

Aquilegia

Up popped the self-seeding aquilegia, usually at the base of another perennial(!), but they were forgiven when their nodding granny bonnets began to emerge

Foxglove

And my absolute favourite, towering over the other border plants, a fanfare of trumpeting foxgloves to take us into June