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ENJOYING THE RUSH OF MAY
POT'S GROWING ON? 26/05/23
How glorious it is to look out the window on the otherness of daylight at 9.30pm. I notice it more here because the dark around our remote Yorkshire home in winter is true dark without street lamps, unlike the twenty years of constant glow from electricity I’d grown used to in the city. Now I understand the feeling of approaching midsummer night’s dream.
This year spring, at first so damp and cold, seems to have happened all at once in the last fortnight with such a rush of grasses, cow parsley and buttercups. I can barely comprehend the volume of plant mass, almost feeling the trees flap their leaves open in a timelapse. Two weeks ago there were a hundred or so buttercups in the meadow and this week the yellow can be seen from across the valley.
What a beautiful plant meadow buttercup is, Ranunculis acris. I’m glad my younger self chose it for Wild about Weeds, how right I was back then. Tall and elegant stems holding bright dots of yellow above beautiful fine leaves. It is the pinnacle of buttercup.
May in the valley is another world, full of dense leafy scrub and airy tall stems, as though I’ve walked into one of the sci-fi novels I devoured in my twenties. In which life forms rustled through the impassable grasses and vines on unknown lands. Yet the planet I find myself on is ours, frogs leap into the pond as I pass, roe stags bark from the woods, the hollow Cuckoo and the high pitched Curlew echoing their calls from hills, from another time.
This week I was lucky to visit the Chelsea Flower Show in London (read 11 things I spotted here), though I hated being torn from May’s rush of changes in the valley. I have to give full credit to the RHS and everyone involved, they have gone to great lengths to focus on wildlife and environmentally friendly gardening. As a platform for debate and education, it is an important one. Nursery stands are a highlight, they offer the purest love of plants from the people who adore them the most and grow them the best. I was delighted to see so many designers including plants featured in Wild about Weeds in all manner of ways, from Californian poppy and purple toadflax in formal beds, to dandelions and herb Robert in wildlife gardens.
And yet, I don’t love Chelsea as I used to love it, perhaps I have gone too many times. For all the effort and beautiful designs, it was missing the one thing I am looking for in garden design: permanence. Permanence in design from plant communities and technical solving of real world issues is the biggest design and horticulture innovation of our time and it will be for years to come. It is at the heart of the wild way. How can a temporary show hope to capture it? Like knowing only the photo of a person. But it is what it is, Chelsea is a place to meet and discuss and think, we all have other platforms to share examples of permanent design.
Chelsea is a reminder for me to share with you another tip to reduce maintenance in the garden. The Chelsea chop, don’t feel you have to do it! The Chelsea chop is a technique where you cut back some perennials by a third to a half to either delay flowering or to make the plants stockier, preventing flopping. I used to do this for Hylotelephium (Sedums) and Asters, then one day I decided not to bother.
Instead, since we moved, I stopped using plants where the chop was essential and replaced them with varieties that either flowered when I wanted them to or didn’t flop. Easy peasy. In the above photo is a mess of new bed in the vortex using plants that could be chopped but won’t be because they’re strong enough to stand up and chosen to flower when I’d like. Of course, don’t do this if you enjoy the task!
Have a wonderful weekend, join me outside walking among the cow parsley, the UK’s unassuming superbloom. What wildflowers do you see? What wildlife do you spot?
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