The May Garden at Aberglasney
May is a truly wonderful month in any garden with the freshness of spring as well as the promise of summer. With it comes warmer temperatures which signal the time to start getting ready for the summer to come. I always feel that many gardens look at their best in May with the spring flowers in full colour, strong growth from the herbaceous plants and bright, new, unblemished leaves on the trees and shrubs. However, it is also a month when gardeners need to be on the lookout for any warnings of late frosts.
In our own garden as I write this at the end of April the trees and shrubs are coming into full leaf and some are already showing signs of flower. The early Cherry has now finished and its flower has been replaced by a lovely Crab Apple, Malus ‘Evereste’, there are flower buds on the Mountain Ash, Sorbus aucuparia, a few pink flowers on the purple-leaved Cherry, Prunus ‘Royal Burgundy’, white flower buds showing on the flowering Dogwood, Cornus ‘Stellar Pink’, lovely heart-shaped, reddish leaves on the Cercidiphyllum japonicum and still many white flowers on the Magnolia stellata ‘Royal Star’. In addition the Japanese Maples are now in full leaf with various leaf shapes and colours ranging from acid green to deep purple. As for the shrubs the Camellia x williamsii ‘Anticipation’ still has some flowers and has been joined by flowering currants, Ribes sanguineum, and the lovely white, scented flowers of Viburnum x burkwoodii ‘Compact Beauty’. The beds and borders are filled with a mixture of frothy, blue Forget-me-nots, Myosotis sylvatica, and Brunnera, taller white and pink-purple Honesty, Lunaria annua, pink Red Campion, Silene dioica, the pinks of early Geraniums and in the pond the wonderful bright yellow flowers of Marsh Marigold, Caltha palustris.
I started the Aberglasney blogs in the glorious month of June of 2021 but I have to say that I am ending the twelve months of visits in an equally glorious month. The May garden at Aberglasney is truly a delight to behold especially for a lover of tulips. They are to be found all over the gardens in virtually all colours and in a great variety of flower shapes. I am told that 40,000 bulbs were planted last autumn and looking at the May garden this is not hard to believe! The display begins at the entrance bed with its sea of blue Forget-me-nots with orange-yellow and purple tulips bursting through it. In the Cloister Garden the beds around the edge are planted in a more soothing palette with mainly pink and white tulips coming through the Forget-me-nots.
The bulbs in the grassy areas between the gravel paths have now finished and the eye is drawn to the view through the arch and over the walls to the pool and woodland beyond.
The views from the upper walkway above the cloister are even better with the Upper Walled Garden on one side and the pool, woodland and out buildings on another.
The Upper Walled Garden is a wonderful sight at this time of year, the bare soil of the winter now being completely covered by new, fresh growth and the promise of much more to come. At first glance it is the blue of Camassia and the yellow of Tree Lupin, Lupinus arboreus, which catch the eye but there is so much more to enjoy on closer inspection. The early purple growth of the bronze Fennel, Foeniculum vulgare ‘Purpureum’, Cow Parsley, Anthriscus sylvestris ‘Ravenswing’ and Cimicifuga, Bugbane, the acid greens and yellows of Euphorbia, the blue-green leaves of Thalictrum, the early signs of the delights to come from Peony flowers and foliage and dotted throughout the colourful heads of yet more tulips. The walls are also full of interest from the larger wall shrubs such as the splendid Clematis montana to the smaller, but no less beautiful, plants growing out of the walls.
Through the opening in the west wall the view into the Lower Walled Garden is dominated by the spectacular Crab Apple Tunnel on the far side. Here the Malus sargentii is in full flower and all its glory. There is also much to admire in the edge and central beds with more Camassia, Forget-me-nots and fruit blossom in all directions.
In the meadows on the woodland edge beyond the Lower Walled Garden the grass is full of flower from Snakeshead Fritillaries, Fritillaria meleagris, yellow Dandelion, Tanaxacum officinalis, Wild Garlic or Ramsons, Allium ursinum and Bluebells, Hyacinthoides non-scipta as well as some lovely Crab Apples in full flower.
In the woodlands themselves the Wild Garlic and Bluebells dominate and the emerging stems of Gunnera manicata are very impressive, as are the yellow Skunk Cabbage along the stream.
Beyond the stream the ground appears to be carpeted with the early growth of Candelabra Primulas with deep pink being the predominant colour at the moment. Elsewhere on these moist slopes the larger plants are literally beginning to erupt from the earth- Hosta, Soloman’s Seal, Polygonatum, Astilbe, Ferns and Gunnera to name a few.
At the upper end of this section of the garden is another area of meadow which here is dominated by the blue spikes of Camassia and also the more delicate pink flowers of Lady’s Smock, Cardamine pratensis.
The seasonal bed by the pool is another planting of Forget-me-nots with purple and orange-yellow tulips which contrast well with the acid greens of Euphorbia and the new leaves on the Virginia Creeper, Parthenocissus, which smother the high walls. On the far side of the pool one of my favourite small trees, the Wedding Cake tree, Cornus controversa ‘ Variegata’ with its layered branches and variegated leaves is at its very best at this time of year.
Across the other side of the garden the Alpinum is also a real picture in May with so many plants to admire- the Pasque Flower, Pulsatilla vulgaris, Iberis sempervirens, Saxifraga and the strange dwarf tree which I have mentioned before now actually beginning to look like a Chestnut!
Just around the corner there are some lovely Magnolias still in flower including M. ‘Elizabeth’ and M. ‘Goldstar’.
There are also the later Daffodils in flower including many ‘Pheasant Eye’ varieties and a striking white Daffodil with beautiful pale yellow edges.
The nearby Rose Tunnel is full of growth and will come into its own in June and July but at the moment it is better named the Tulip Tunnel!
Further up the slope there are some of the early flowering Trilliums including a beautiful white variety. Nearby is an equally lovely pink Dicentra along with many Hellebores with their fading flowers colour.
Near the top of the small ravine a patch of blue-purple Ajuga, Bugle, catches the eye among groups of yellow Primroses and just across the path the first yellow, highly scented flowers can be seen on the impressive deciduous Azaleas.
Many other Rhododendrons are also adding their considerable flower power to this, the Asiatic Garden. However, in this part of the garden leaf shape and colour is just as important in my eyes and at this time of the year the Japanese Maples are simply stunning especially in the spring sunshine.
On the way back down the hill from the welcome bench at the top there are many other excellent flowering plants to enjoy- the white Exochorda x macrantha ‘The Bride’, a lovely white Viburnum and further down the path some early Peony flowers, the pink one with scent! There are also white flowered trees at the bottom of the slope and these are the earliest of the flowering Dogwoods, Cornus.
Finally the Ninfarium is always worth a visit particularly for Orchid lovers as the Orchid Society based at Aberglasney are continuously changing the displays as orchids in their care come into flower.
On the theme of plant societies which are based at Aberglasney I must mention Dragon Bonsai who meet most Sundays for workshops and displays and are always keen to welcome visitors and new members. They meet in the buildings near to the large greenhouse beyond the pool area.
From the Ninfarium most people make their way to the plant sales area which on our visit was full of new stock. Most is not grown at Aberglasney except in the autumn when sections of herbaceous plants are available bare rooted at very reasonable prices , however, the plants on sale are generally representative of those that can be seen growing in the different parts of the garden and can be taken home as a reminder of a visit.
I hope that you have enjoyed this and perhaps also the other eleven visits to the Aberglasney gardens which I started in June last year and that you have managed to make at least one visit to see the gardens for yourselves. It really is an atmospheric and inspiring place and has, I think, something for every gardener and every garden thanks in a large part to head gardener Joseph and his team who work very hard to keep the gardens looking their very best at what ever time of year it is.
This brings me neatly on to the jobs that we all need to be thinking about during May in our own gardens. A full list can be found in the blog archives for April 2019 (trust me, it is under April for some reason!) and the jobs that Teresa and I will be concentrating on in our garden are detailed in the May 2021 blog. These include protecting tender plants on cold nights, weeding, supporting growing plants, watering and the vegetable garden. You might also be interested in my blog in May 2020 on Planting in Containers. Also in June 2021 I listed all the blogs that I posted in 2020/2021 which covered a wide range of topics, some of which you might like to revisit.
For the next blog in June having finished the twelve months at Aberglasney I am going to concentrate more on plants which are generally associated with that month and for June that must include the wonderful Rose. This will tie in nicely with the Rose Festival which the Old Railway Line will be holding during the month, more on this in the June blog.
Until then keep well and enjoy your May gardens.