Nearing the peak: 18th May

Our back garden has a very well developed Rhododendron and azalea them. The structure was put in by the previous owners but since then we’ve added quite a few ourselves. That means that May is a month where the back part of the garden reaches peak loveliness.*

So today a guide to the currently flowering Rhodies.

Let’s start with a couple of my favourites, and they’re favourites because of their scent as well as colour.

This luteum is now out in full. And has a lily like fragrance

Orange Rhododendron luteum variety

The bright orange contrasts beautifully with the “Astrid” variety next to it, which isn’t scented but has a gorgeous lush colour.

Astrid is the dark red colour next to the orange – I’m not sure what this variety is called
This blue variety, ramopo, also has blue tinted leaves, the flowers aren’t scented but the leaves and wood have an astringent herbal scent when rubbed. It’s very refreshing and wonde if it would repel insects.

Then we have the favourite I’ve mentioned before. Our wonderful polar bear Rhododendron – the fragrance is wonderful, but look as the silky billowing white flowers that open from pink buds. It’s a good 3m high and laden this year. Fantastic..

Rhododendron polar bear.

It’s neighbour, also a luteum has only one flower this year and I fear it will need to be replaced, but again a beautiful lily scent and I love the delicate petals.

A smaller orange luteum flower over beautiful bright green leaves

We have many Cunningham’s white in the garden. They are sometimes dismissed as EasyDendrons and you can (and should!) trim them like a hedge, they always spring back and are super reliable. I sometimes think they’re a little boring, but look at those delicate markings on the flower! And the dark green foliage really shows the contrast well. There’s a reason they’re popular.

A streak of Cunningham’s white flowers across a well pruned shrub.

Also white flowered and unscented is this wild form Rhododendron which has very attractive pink buds that open to white cup shaped flowers. The leaves are furry on the underside too. Also a favourite and not very commonly seen.

Furry leaf, pink buds, white cups shaped flowers. Check.

Helen Moser is another pretty common variety that is also at its peak now. As the flowers age they get very attractive markings inside developing. I assume some kind of landing strip for bees?

Helen Moser

We have several other pink azaleas but I don’t know what varieties they are. This one has very small leaves and builds a low shrub (1.5m high max) with an attractive structure too. No no

These are a deciduous azalea, we have a couple of them, just starting to open

The small leaves on this k√∂nigstein are also very attractive and now it’s covered in beautiful star shaped purple pink flowers.

Königstein azalea.
I also love the star shaped purple flowers on this one. It’s another standard variety that is pretty commonly seen. I think it’s the Rhododendron catawbiense species and is very tough.
This is a low growing variety in a darker corner which looks luminous at this time of year, I think it is called Connie

We have a number of very low – less than half a metre high Rhodies that are not really my favourites- I think they’re too low and don’t really add structure, but they’re smothered in flowers at this time of year:

I like this coral pink colour

The reds rather clash with the rest of the cool pinks and purples but they’re undeniably bold

Low growing red Azalea

This cool yellow was an enormous mound and got cut back hard a few years ago. It’s recovered very well (unlike some of our others), but the flowers are now starting to fade. This is an earlier flowering azalea.

The yellow flowers work well with both the red and the pink nearby.

There are several more coming into flower soon, and several that have ended. May is a fantastic month, but there’s so much to see and appreciate it can be a bit overwhelming.

Tomorrow I will cover the lilacs, also getting close to their peak!

*kinda. I think there’s always something beautiful to look at here and that’s sort of the point of this year’s attempt to write a diary.


Sweet Harvest

The first harvest of our new Victoria plum tree is finally ready. 

And it is as good as I had hoped, a sweet, slightly tart and beautifully juicy plum. It’s impossible to buy flavour like this and as with Proust’s Madeleines, it is a flavour that takes me straight back to childhood. 

To be entirely honest, we almost forgot about them. The tree is slightly hidden behind a high group of sunflowers and is not yet tall enough to be easily seen. However, luckily, we go there just in time. 
It’s not a big harvest this year, and there is an argument you should not let a tree fruit at all in the first few years to build strength, but we could not resist. 

We also plucked our first runner beans this morning, and I forgot to take photos but we harvested and ate our rather meager (but delicious) new potato crop yesterday. The potatoes were rather neglected at a crucial time as they were in a pot and allowed to dry out while we were on holiday. However, the runner beans have done extremely well and we have a very good crop developing. They are so decorative too. We’ve put up a trellis and they are growing up into the neighboring hibiscus. I would almost grow them just for the beautiful scarlet flowers and heart-shaped foliage. 

 I planted both of these crops with our youngest child, who has really shown an interest and a feel for gardening. It is such a joy to spend time in the garden with her, passing on the knowledge, the skills and the enjoyment via all the senses that the garden provides.

This year for her, the big discovery has been the fresh fig. I adore these and my lovely husband gave me a mature specimen in a pot as a Mother’s Day gift this year. The first figs have now started ripening, and though requiring some encouragement to try one at first, they are now a firm favourite of our children. It is such a wonderful and very funny thing to watch them first rejecting and then realizing how tasty a new kind of fruit is.

This time of year, harvest-time, is when the joy of growing your own fruit and vegetables really comes in.

Anyway, a wonderful way to start a Monday morning.