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Flower Power: May often brings surprises to the garden

We are moving quickly through the spring months; growth is accelerating and will reach its peak by the end of May, writes Jackie Power…

April had contrasting weather – moving from raw cold to summer temperatures within a few days. May can be warm – although the month often has surprises!

Blackfly and greenfly (aphids) were active early on many plants (due to a mild winter allowing insects to survive). Aphid infestation causes damage and disfigurement to new leaves/buds, and weakens plants making them susceptible to diseases. Use a spray (hose pipe or bottle) on a ‘mist or shower’ setting to clear aphids from the plant, being careful not to cause damage.  Repeat the process over several days. This should be enough to clear the aphids but if this proves time consuming or too many plants are affected try a proprietary organic spray such as Pyrol Bug and Larvae killer. It also controls other pests and so is useful to have. This product can be found at

May is a stunning month; growth is fresh and vibrant like at no other time in the year. The variety of plants in flower is astonishing; it is the main month for Rhododendrons and Azaleas. Jasmine has a profusion of white flowers with a heady, sweet (some say sickly) perfume.

Lilac has fragrant purple or white flowers – lasting not much more than a week. Horse chestnut is producing upright creamy white/pink flowers. Elder is already in bloom; other notable plants are the climbing shrub Wisteria, with clusters of purple or blue (often) scented flowers. The Foxglove tree – relatively rare and exotic looking due to its astonishing large purple-pink scented flowers. There is also lily of the valley, Broom and Ceonothus; many of these flowers can be seen in gardens, parks and open spaces!

Gardening tasks for May; allow foliage on spring flowering bulbs to die down naturally, resist the temptation to cut back leaves. Add a liquid feed around the bulbs to help build reserves for next year’s growth. Prune spring flowering shrubs if needed (Kerria, Choisya, Japanese quince) after they have bloomed. Rain fall has been low during the past few months and so regular watering is needed; especially for newly planted shrubs and trees. Also, pots and window boxes will need frequent watering – right through to the autumn months.


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