AS we enter May, there is such a flush of new growth and colour in the garden, writes Olive Ryan in her weekly column.
The tulips continue to delight and provide a great colour addition to the garden, before the herbaceous layer emerges from its slumber to provide blousey blooms throughout the summer months.
Cherry blossoms have been great this year, with the dry and mild weather allowing them to show off their frilly flowers to best effect in different shades of white, pink and red. The flowers may be short-lived but there is also the autumn leaf colour to consider, making them a very garden-worthy plant, providing interest at several times of the year - and then there is also the lovely bark to consider, which can have lovely mahogany tones and distinctive rings around it.
As the leaves of deciduous hedging, shrubs and trees unfurl, it is worth taking the time to look at the combinations of different greens in the garden, and this changes rapidly over the next few weeks. Sycamore (Acer pseudoplatanus) has a red hue to its leaves as they emerge and this gradually changes to a dark green.
Green beech (Fagus sylvatica) are a bright lime as they emerge and darken to a deeper green, and all of these contrasting colours and textures of the leaves create a wonderful tapestry in the garden, more noticable at this time of year as the fresh foliage unfolds.
We are thirsty now also for foliage after the branches have remained bare for the last few months. It is a time we looked forward to in the short and dark winter days.
The swallows have returned, a little later than usual, and birds are busy feathering their nests, minding eggs and feeding young that have hatched out already.
There is great activity in the garden with new life appearing every day.
It is a time to be mindful of young plants going out into the soil and the perils of pests that are also multiplying now. Slugs will be on the look-out for soft new growth, so keep this in mind, and have the egg shells, tubs of beer or organic slug pellets to hand to avoid disappointment.
Birds too can cause damage, pulling out newly planted transplants, so best to net new plantings if this could be a problem. Using scarecrows or old CDs that reflect and move in the wind discourages birds.
What about considering ‘No Mow May’ this year, and leaving the lawn to flower in the coming weeks?
This will help provide pollen and nectar by letting dandelions and clover flower freely.
You could decide to mow a path through the lawn and let the rest flower and go to seed this summer, making a cut at summer’s end, and collecting the clippings for the compost heap, as removing the nutrients is key to encouraging flower in favour of grass.
Seeding some yellow rattle will also help to balance the competition from grass and produce pretty yellow flowers, the seed heads rattle when the seeds are ripe, hence the name.
Even if you cannot resist tidying up the lawn, maybe raise the height of the cut to allow some flowering so the resultant feasting by pollinators and birds can still happen.
The dandelion is one of the most dreaded weeds in the garden and one of the most useful early flowering plants for pollinators and birds. If left to flower and go to seed, it provides fodder for bumble bees, solitary bees and honey bees, hover flies and butterflies of all description. As well as small garden birds feeding on the seeds, finches, sparrows and tits can be seen foraging the seeds.
After a winter of watching birds feed on nuts and seeds from feeders in the garden, it is great to see them sourcing their own food that nature provides... if we allow it to and take it handy with the lawnmower!