The late spring garden tour of the Middlesized Garden

May 3rd, 2020
Posted In: Garden style & living, Gardening know how

I’d like to take you on a late spring garden tour, because May is such a beautiful month in the garden.

And I have some recommendations for good garden plants for small or middle-sized gardens in late spring.

Topiary and emerging foliage in the May garden

Although there are fewer flowers in my late spring garden than in June, I think the freshness of the emerging foliage really compensates for that. I also think that the winter structure of the topiary and trees is still very important. The bright green is euphorbia and Smyrnium perfoliatum, the blue-green is artemisia and the long leaves are a mix of day lilies and alliums.

The last tulips

There are some wonderful late tulips for the late spring garden. They bridge the gap between the daffodils and the roses. Many will go on flowering until the end of May, depending what the weather is.

late tulips for the May garden

‘Ballerina’ are one of the most long lasting, reliable and fragrant tulips I have ever encountered. They are usually orange, but this year these Ballerina tulips have popped up with a stripe. I think it looks great. I have asked fellow gardeners on Twitter what they think it is. They say that it may be trying to revert to a yellow tulip it was originally bred from.

Estella Rijnveld in the May garden

These outrageously striped and frilled tulips have weathered the recent storms in the garden and have been flowering for weeks. This is ‘Estella Rijnveld’. Quite tall, so don’t use for pots, but it has come back reliably for two years in succession here.

Bright acid greens

One of the best things about the late spring garden is the bright acid greens from emerging foliage and from plants like euphorbia.

If you don’t care for euphorbia’s stinging sap, then consider Smyrnium perfoliatum. It’s a biennial which self-sows around my garden, but disappears completely from July onwards.

Smynium perfoliatum in the May garden

The bright citrussy yellow-green is Smyrnium perfoliatum, which has self seeded around the red leaves of Continus coggyria ‘Grace.’

The last of the fruit tree blossom

Crab apple Malus hupehensis

Fruit tree blossom is almost over by May but this Malus hupehensis crab apple is later flowering than most. Wonderfully upright and vase-shaped so an excellent tree for smaller gardens. There’s lots of light underneath – even the roses continue to grow under its canopy.

Add something unusual…

I genuinely think that this Clematis ‘Recta’ is very unusual, as I haven’t seen it in any other gardens. Though feel free to tell me it was very fashionable twenty years ago and is now outdated…

It pops up in a purple-black mound in May, then suddenly explodes into a froth of white flowers in June. These surge across the border, covering several yards. I cut it down to the ground in late autumn but otherwise it doesn’t seem to need any other care.

Clematis 'Recta'

Clematis ‘Recta’ in a black purple mound. It was planted by my predecessor, but I added the large peony frame to support it. Long tendrils with white flowers drape themselves over the frame.

Self seeded cerinthe

This is cerinthe which I grew from seed around 8 years ago, and which has self-seeded happily in my May garden ever since. It’s out before most of the annuals, loved by bees, and just looks after itself. Very fashionable at Chelsea about ten years ago, I gather, but has sunk back into obscurity since. A beautiful May flower. See this post for more about flowers that self seed successfully. 

Time to prune evergreen hedges – or not!

Cypress hedge and shed

We always cut the evergreen hedge at the ‘wrong’ time of year because the birds are nesting in it in May, which is when you’re supposed to cut it. (It’s a Leylandii cypress but it’s kept under control).

Add some structure for a late spring garden

Angelica self seeded

The topiary holm oaks are trimmed (by an expert) in the autumn, so they are still crisp in May. They are such a good foil to the fresh green foliage. And I am also very grateful that this Angelica angelica has self-seeded itself to reflect their outlines.

See more of the garden in video

I think you can see more of a garden in video. So there are longer shots of these plants, plus some May gardening jobs, in the Middlesized Garden May garden tour video.

Shop my favourite gardening books, products and tools

I’m often asked for recommendations so I’ve put together some lists of gardening books, tools and other products I use myself on the Middlesized Garden Amazon store. Links to Amazon are affiliate which means I get a small fee if you buy, but I only recommend the products I buy and use myself. And it doesn’t affect the price you pay.

For example, if you’ve recently started growing your own veg and fruit, then here is the list of the grow your own books that have really helped me grow delicious beans, spinach, salad and more. And I am not a natural veg grower – if I can do it, anyone can!

Pin to remember late spring garden plants

And do join us for tips, ideas and inspiration for your garden by following the blog or subscribing to the Middlesized Garden YouTube channel.





10 comments on "The late spring garden tour of the Middlesized Garden"

  1. You have an amazing garden! One day I will get my yard looking, hopefully, close to that! Thank you for sharing!

  2. Sathya Srini says:

    Your garden is beautiful indeed. The tulips are beautiful and I am mesmerised by Clematis Recta and the planting combination around it.

  3. Gilly Summers says:

    The long flowering tulips are amazing. Do you always lift the bulbs and replant or is it ok to leave them in the ground ?

    1. The tulips in this post have all been in the ground for at least two years, and I plant them quite deep, around 12″ if I can. That seems to help them come back and stops the squirrels getting at them.

  4. Lorelei Hunt says:

    Your garden is looking lovely and I share you liking for using foliage for colour. I’m midway through replanting a section of my garden – I love euphorbia and thought about adding artemisia to the mix but found this hard to control in another part of the garden. This is the variegated form though – are the blue ones better behaved?
    Thank you for keeping up the postings – it’s very cheery to see something looking like ‘normal’ life!

    1. Thank you! The blue artemisia certainly likes to stroll round the garden and establish itself in various spots, but I don’t mind pulling it up if necessary because I think the foliage is lovely.

  5. Noah Burns says:

    You have really a great garden. I like the way you have given the structure to your garden. It is really lovely design. I think your Pinterest pin needs better colour sheds.

    1. Thank you – and yes, I think you’re right about that Pinterest pin.

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