Gardener’s Blog – May 2015

Now that the weather is brightening up, our talented gardeners are busy preparing for the summer months. It’s all about mowing, weeding and feeding to keep our gardens and glasshouses blooming.

May is a tricky month as the early sunshine can transform gardens into a luscious paradise but it’s also not uncommon to have late frosts. Senior Horticulturalist, Chris and the gardeners will be planting our bedding plants during Whitsun week (24th – 31st May) due to the warmer conditions.

The beddings plants are currently being grown in the nursery, and create a beautiful patchwork quilt effect. Before they are transferred, they will be hardened off to acclimatise. This year we have chosen geraniums and dragon wing begonia for the Terrace and cosmos for near the Bandstand. We’ll also be planting geraniums in hanging baskets, using moss collected from the American Bank.

Chris and her fellow gardeners will also be sowing the wildflower meadow as well as cutting conifer hedges once any fledgeling birds have flown. The gardens will also be getting aromatic as herbs are planted this month. There will be two types of parsley, two types of coriander, lovage and dill.

Our grass garden will be getting a spring makeover with dahlias, clary, cosmos, yellow cosmos, cornflower and Ammi. All of these plants will be attracting butterflies as they start to spread their wings this month. Speaking of our winged friends, our Butterfly House will be reopening its doors Saturday, May 23.

The gardens will receive 100s of pupas weekly that will house transforming caterpillars until they’re ready to emerge as beautiful butterflies. The pupas will be shipped to the gardens from the tropical climates of Africa, Philippines and America.

Senior Horticulturalist and Glasshouse Specialist, Wayne will be making the new additions to the gardens feel right at home. He will fill the house with plants and flowers that butterflies enjoy feeding on such as Buddleja (butterfly bush), Pentas, Cestrum and Lantana. Once the pupas have completed metamorphosis you will love seeing the butterflies bounce from sugar-water feeders and fresh fruit and occasionally landing on you.

Once they have settled in, Wayne and the gardeners will be able to give the new Plant Evolution Trail their full attention. The trail, that will include algae, mosses and ferns, will be wrapped around the Sub-Tropical House and is due to be completed in the summer.

As for jobs in your own gardens, it’s time to test the lawnmower, if you haven’t done so already. Grass thrives in the sunshine and will be growing rapidly. However, a weekly routine should keep that lawn in check. We’d recommend leaving grass slightly longer than desired on the first cut, to be trimmed back down the following week. In dry conditions, grass should be cut on a higher setting.

However, if you want a break from your own gardens, come and visit ours – there’s plenty to see! As well as our Butterfly House reopening and our new bedding plants, Chris and Wayne have each picked out a May highlight that visitors will enjoy.

Chris’ favourite plant this month is Ceanothus, which can be found in the Azalea Bank and near the Pavilion Tea Room. She used to look after the national collection of Ceanothus, so they are very close to her heart. They smell like cinnamon and can be made into tea, so make sure you give them a good sniff on your way past.

Wayne has chosen the Salpiglossis, which look like jewel-coloured trumpets. The petals have a velvet effect and seem to be one of the most popular plants in our glasshouses. Wayne is always being asked questions about them. They can be found in the Mediterranean House and the Barrel Arch. Remember to snap some photographs of your favourite plants this month and tweet them to @bhambotanicalgd.