May flowers are springing up

Round & About


At last spring is in the air and summer is coming. We should be mindful of climate issues but not let it put us off gardening forever

May and June are often thought of as a difficult time as often there is a lot of foliage and not many flowers. I am often asked how do I fill this gap…?

Go Shopping!

I think we all deserve a treat after the horrendous weather extremes we have been dealt. We can’t choose plants will survive every eventuality we can only do our best. If May is a time when your garden is very green there is nothing like a trip to the garden centre. If the plants are hardened off and used to the outdoors they will be on sale outdoors. If they are in flower when you buy them you would assume they will flower at the same time next year. Don’t be tempted to buy plants sold undercover and put them straight into your garden, they need to be acclimatised to the outside first. You will need to do a bit of research so it’s not totally impulsive!

Plant Choices

Most flowering plants can be describe as five minute wonders or those that reward us for a longer period of time. Irises and Aquilegias I would not be without along with many alpines but they don’t last long. Erysimum ‘Bowles Mauve’ is a perennial wallflower that flowers for the whole of the summer. It tends to only live for a few years but not expensive to replace. Hardy Fushsias and Roses are also reliable bloomers all summer long as is Geranium ‘Rozanne’. It’s important to know the proper name of the plant and ‘what it does’. It is also essential to know your soil pH and if it likes sun, shade, sandy soil, wet soil etc etc. Luckily these days there are very educational label. Bedding plants are available now but be aware there can still be frosts in May!

Jobs to do now

It’s very important to weed and mulch but not excessively, a lot of ‘weeds’ are beneficial to wildlife and don’t discount the beauty of flowers. Consider leaving red and white dead nettle and dandelions as well as nettles in some areas of your garden. Planting is great at this time of the year but remember how important it is to learn how to water properly. So many plants are lost in the first season due to lack of water.

The Chelsea chop

This is something you can do at the end of May to encourage more flowers on some perennials like Helianthis, Helenium, Lynchis and many others. It can also encourage them to become sturdier and self supporting.

Looking forward

We should probably be buying more plants in season and enjoying them for as long as we can. Learn about your soil and how to improve it. Courses and workshops can create confidence and are great fun. Learn how different plants can contribute to your outdoor space.

CGS Courses

Please ask for details as I am running pruning courses throughout spring and autumn. Each plant has a different requirement and learning about pruning techniques is addictive! I can also come and teach you in your own garden.


Irises in February?

Cherry Butler


Winter and spring

The iris in flower during the winter months is iris unguicularis. It’s low-growing, pale mauve and even scented! During February and March the delightful Iris reticulata and Iris danfordiae come into their own in an array of mauves, blues, creams and yellows. It’s a miniature bulb so perfect for the rock garden or containers. There are many new hybrids available on the market.

Summer into autumn

Iris germanica or the bearded iris is probably the most widely recognised but often in the wrong place. They grow from rhizomes which they enjoy being baked in the sun on poor sandy soil. The range of colours is infinite! Cultivars like Cruise to Autumn, Autumn Princess and Autumn Circus as their name suggests can flower much later in the year so look out for them to extend the season.

Irises in the wet?

The yellow flag iris I. pseudacorus is a familiar sight grown as a marginal in ponds. I. sibirica can be grown in the bog garden. Both make large clumps and can be divided readily.

Surely not shade too?

Yes a few irises will grow wild in woodlands and hedgerows, notably I. foetidissima with its pale flowers followed by bright orange berries. Often called the stinking iris as when you cut it back the leaves are somewhat pungent!

Consultancy & Cathie’s Garden Army

I can spend half a day in your garden identifying your plants and teaching you how to look after them. I can advise also on planting projects and design as well as helping you with tasks such as pruning. If you have lost control of your garden completely we are here to help! A qualified team of can transform your garden in a day following a consultancy.

RHS courses

New for February small and exclusive groups for dedicated students! Email [email protected], visit and follow Cathie’s Gardening School on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.