I’d like to take you on a late spring garden tour, because May is such a beautiful month in the garden.
And I have some recommendations for good garden plants for small or middle-sized gardens in late spring.
Although there are fewer flowers in my late spring garden than in June, I think the freshness of the emerging foliage really compensates for that. I also think that the winter structure of the topiary and trees is still very important. The bright green is euphorbia and Smyrnium perfoliatum, the blue-green is artemisia and the long leaves are a mix of day lilies and alliums.
The last tulips
There are some wonderful late tulips for the late spring garden. They bridge the gap between the daffodils and the roses. Many will go on flowering until the end of May, depending what the weather is.
‘Ballerina’ are one of the most long lasting, reliable and fragrant tulips I have ever encountered. They are usually orange, but this year these Ballerina tulips have popped up with a stripe. I think it looks great. I have asked fellow gardeners on Twitter what they think it is. They say that it may be trying to revert to a yellow tulip it was originally bred from.
These outrageously striped and frilled tulips have weathered the recent storms in the garden and have been flowering for weeks. This is ‘Estella Rijnveld’. Quite tall, so don’t use for pots, but it has come back reliably for two years in succession here.
Bright acid greens
One of the best things about the late spring garden is the bright acid greens from emerging foliage and from plants like euphorbia.
If you don’t care for euphorbia’s stinging sap, then consider Smyrnium perfoliatum. It’s a biennial which self-sows around my garden, but disappears completely from July onwards.
The bright citrussy yellow-green is Smyrnium perfoliatum, which has self seeded around the red leaves of Continus coggyria ‘Grace.’
The last of the fruit tree blossom
Fruit tree blossom is almost over by May but this Malus hupehensis crab apple is later flowering than most. Wonderfully upright and vase-shaped so an excellent tree for smaller gardens. There’s lots of light underneath – even the roses continue to grow under its canopy.
Add something unusual…
I genuinely think that this Clematis ‘Recta’ is very unusual, as I haven’t seen it in any other gardens. Though feel free to tell me it was very fashionable twenty years ago and is now outdated…
It pops up in a purple-black mound in May, then suddenly explodes into a froth of white flowers in June. These surge across the border, covering several yards. I cut it down to the ground in late autumn but otherwise it doesn’t seem to need any other care.
Clematis ‘Recta’ in a black purple mound. It was planted by my predecessor, but I added the large peony frame to support it. Long tendrils with white flowers drape themselves over the frame.
This is cerinthe which I grew from seed around 8 years ago, and which has self-seeded happily in my May garden ever since. It’s out before most of the annuals, loved by bees, and just looks after itself. Very fashionable at Chelsea about ten years ago, I gather, but has sunk back into obscurity since. A beautiful May flower. See this post for more about flowers that self seed successfully.
Time to prune evergreen hedges – or not!
We always cut the evergreen hedge at the ‘wrong’ time of year because the birds are nesting in it in May, which is when you’re supposed to cut it. (It’s a Leylandii cypress but it’s kept under control).
Add some structure for a late spring garden
The topiary holm oaks are trimmed (by an expert) in the autumn, so they are still crisp in May. They are such a good foil to the fresh green foliage. And I am also very grateful that this Angelica angelica has self-seeded itself to reflect their outlines.
Shop my favourite gardening books, products and tools
I’m often asked for recommendations so I’ve put together some lists of gardening books, tools and other products I use myself on the Middlesized Garden Amazon store. Links to Amazon are affiliate which means I get a small fee if you buy, but I only recommend the products I buy and use myself. And it doesn’t affect the price you pay.
For example, if you’ve recently started growing your own veg and fruit, then here is the list of the grow your own books that have really helped me grow delicious beans, spinach, salad and more. And I am not a natural veg grower – if I can do it, anyone can!
Pin to remember late spring garden plants
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