April swept through, delivering a festival of blossom, Magnolias trumpeted with pomp and the confetti of cherry blossom held teasingly everywhere. The daffodils and tulips held on, whilst bluebells picked up the excitement and popped up everywhere. With each new day leaf bud appeared and soft lime growth unfolded to announce that spring was here. There were occasional mischievous frosts, but nothing so brutal as to discourage. With the arrival of May, everything in the garden clamours for our attention. The grass needs cutting, the bulbs need dead heading, the potatoes need earthing up and the borders offer space for spring planting. Bedding plants are everywhere and many can now be planted out, the less hardy items like busy lizzies and begonias will need to be watched (in case of late frost) but most things will recover from a cold nudge. There are plenty of new introductions to look out for and this year the demand for Sunflowers will be big, with some striking new introductions grabbing media attention. Most notable is a variety called ‘Lemon Cutie’, which is short, multi stemmed and Lemon in colour. When I first saw it I thought it was a spider chrysanthemum. Sunflowers have become very popular as a cut flower and many of the new introductions are shorter and multi-stemmed (and indeed multi-coloured) If you didn’t get to try them last year then do look out for hardy Gerberas too. I planted some and they performed right through until autumn. With so many bedding plants being offered in pots these days now is a good time to put together a hanging basket. With a bit of planning, you will have something to hang out the day after planting it.
There is plenty to play with in the vegetable garden too, with most summer vegetable plants available now. Everything from lettuce to kohl Rabi with cabbage, cauli and even sprouts on offer. Tenderer items are available too and in the days ahead you can be setting out beans, marrows, cucumbers and courgettes as well as tomatoes, aubergines and peppers. Have an eye to the night temperatures as late frosts can upset some of these plants. A bit of fleece will often be enough if the temperatures are dropping. Of course, if you have a greenhouse or conservatory the tenderer things will be fine.
And finally, keep sowing successions of salad crops and carrots.