In the garden – May 2014

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Overall a warm spring and May will generally bring warm weather, the ground can dry out quickly so do keep an eye on the water needs of plants that you have just planted; in general, and however drought resistant plants are, they will still need watering during the first summer to make sure that they develop a good root system during their first year in the garden.

When watering it is better to water less often but making sure that water penetrates the soil, you want roots to go deeply rather than developing a surface rooting system. A deep rooting system means that plants will be less susceptible to wind rock, drought and winter cold whereas the opposite is the case if your plants have shallow root systems. For many plants it is helpful to create a small depression around the base of the plant to help direct the water to the plant’s roots. May is often one of the busiest months in the garden as we are still planting but also trying to keep up with weeding, grass cutting etc

During May think about the following:

– If you have a lawn this is a good time to repair any gaps in the lawn and to fertilise the lawn before summer
– Watch out for red lily beetles
– Prune spring flowering shrubs after flowering
– Spring flowering bulbs can be lifted and divided after flowering
– Give shrubs a handful of slow release fertiliser (engrais à liberation lente)
– As the weather warms up less helpful animal life in the garden gets active – keep an eye out for damage by slugs, snails, insects etc and take appropriate action
– Give some attention to plants which you grow in pots or troughs for the balcony or terrace and have been protecting over winter. They may need repotting or, if not, it is a good idea to remove the top layer of soil in the pot and add some new soil enriched with medium release fertiliser
– Planting in general – May is still a good time for planting, try to get most planting done by the end of the month. Remember to try and plan for colour and interest in the garden later in the year as well as buying plants which look lovely now. Check also on drought tolerance and winter hardiness of plants that you are interested in buying. Try and improve the soil where you plant, many local soils are a limy clay that can be improved by the addition of some organic material and some clean sand and/or gravel for better soil structure and drainage (never use builder’s sand which has poor texture and often contains chemical impurities). Water in well. Provide stakes or other support if necessary.
– Clip evergreen hedges

The lovely Mexican Orange Blossom or Choisya ternata (see picture) is usually in flower in May. This is an evergreen shrub with glossy, aromatic foliage that forms an attractive dome shape of about 1m50 height with similar spread. It has scented flowers and usually flowers in the spring and again in the autumn and will sometimes flower at other times depending on the weather. It appreciates some additional watering during the summer months and likes sun or half shade. You may also find Choisya Aztec Pearl for sale, this is similar but the foliage is more finely dissected. Choisya Sundance is a form with golden foliage although I find that this fails to look at it’s best in the intense light of the Languedoc.

Don’t forget that at La Petite Pépinière de Caunes we shall be holding our Open Weekend on the 31st May and 1st June 2014, the programme will be similar to previous years – more details here.

For further information contact Gill Pound at La Petite Pépinière de Caunes (shrubs and perennials, ornamental grasses, unusual plants and plants for dry climates), 21, Avenue de la Montagne Noire, 11160, Caunes-Minervois. Tel: 04 68 78 43 81.
Gill@lapetitepepiniere.com www.lapetitepepiniere.com

Many of you will be aware that during our advertised opening hours we are not exactly swamped with visitors and more and more of our sales are for specific projects and orders  ….  so, we are going to restrict our regular opening times to one weekend a month but will still always be available at any time for you to come and visit the garden, talk plants (and maybe even buy one) by appointment – just email or phone to organise a time.  Regular opening times for the next few months will be 9/10/11 May, 6/7/8 June, after that we will review how things have gone.