May Gardener 2015

RHS Wisley butterfly exhibition in tropical glasshouse

The wonderful month of May in my view cannot be better.  It can be the most exciting time in Spring as just about everything is growing or daring to emerge after the long winter.

Plant families worth exploring

If you have a selection of plants that are growing well in your garden environment it may be worth researching the plant family. Many plants have similar characteristics such as being woody or herbaceous, foliage, fragrance, flowering length, hardiness and soil preference such as acidic or limey and shade or sun position.

Here is a selection of some families you might try looking at through books, websites or of course your own tried and tested garden experience.

NB don’t worry about differing science-botanical  names for the same family.

Pea family (Leguminaceae or Fabaceae)

Good mostly long flowering plants, many with very attractive ornamental foliage and some very fragrant, most very hardy.  (Beware though, some seeds are poisonous !)

Sweet peas, Coronilla,  Lupins,  Broom, Cytisis, Genista, Wysteria Laburnum, Robinia and of course vegetable peas all belong to this important  family.

Foxglove Family (Scrophulariaceae or Plantagenaceae)

Many ornamental and hardy plants.  Good flowering with long tubular flowers, very attractive to pollinators.

Foxgloves,  Penstemon, Veronica, Verbascum, Antirrhinum and moisture loving Mimulus all belong to this family.

Rose family (Rosaceae)

Contains a wide range of hardy, ornamental plants, many fragrant.

Ornamental and fruiting Apple, Pear, Plum, Cherry.  Many Berry shrubs, Strawberries, Cotoneaster (very good for pollinators ), Chaenomeles, Pyracantha, Kerria, Spiraea Sorbaria, Potentilla, Geum as well as, of course, maybe the best of all, the huge variety of Roses.

Honeysuckle family (Caprifoliaceae)

Again, a wide range of tough, woody, many hardy, and very fragrant long flowering plants.

Viburnum, Abelia, Honeysuckle (shrubs and climbers), Sambucus, Weigela, Leycesteria,  Snowberry  and many more are all in this family.

Bell flower family  (Campanulaceae)

Many long flowering plants which are excellent for summer borders, containers and hanging baskets.

Lobelia, Campanula

Daisy family  (Asteraceae)

One of the must haves from Spring through summer into late Autumn.  Many long flowering plants, a mixture of perennials and annuals (some tender so treat as annuals.)

Helianthemums (rockery perennial) Heliopsis (border perennial) Helianthus (annual and perennial sunflower) Heleniums (sneezewort), Cosmos, Gaillardia, Rudbekia,  Aster  Doronicum and some  tender annual south African cape daisies (Osteospermum) and not forgetting reliable hardy Erigeron.

Other families

Search around over this Summer and see what plants you like, then make a note and find what family the plants are.  Compare with any of the plant families that may be growing well in your garden and give them a go.

May jobs to do.

  • Plant vegetables out, but check the location is well prepared and rotate the vegetable position from last year to avoid generating pathogens.
  • Sow swiss chard, beans, leeks, sweetcorn, corgettes brassicas etc. Protect marrows and courgettes from possible frost.
  • Sow hardy annuals (easy) for long flowering, put tallest at back of the garden. Any soil will do.
  • Clematis can be planted, choose pre July flowering or post July flowering on new growth but keep well watered and roots covered up against the sun.

Have a truly wonderful May and dare I say the weather is promising !!