May began and the final tulips went in a flurry of dawn harvests and an insatiable lockdown demand for bunches of their of colourful petals, wrapped up in brown paper. Every tulip I had was sold in under two hours, in a mind blowing response for the need and desire for beauty in the time of Covid.
It was a month of early starts, long days, and late nights; an almighty juggle of sowing seeds and getting plants in the ground, of harvests and of packing and shipping, of taking your orders, and getting them to you overnight- I loved it. Evenings were spent harvesting, mornings were spent making bouquets, and afternoons were spent working on the land- it was the most concentrated sort of purpose I’ve ever found and I was grateful to be kept so busy in a time of uncertainty.
100’s of boxes filled with flowers went out to you and your loved ones up and down the country- every stem, every week was sold. You sent each other notes of love and joy, of compassion and longing. It was beautiful. I cried as a wrote out your words, and thought of your friends and family, and mine, and of all the worlds that had been turned upside down during the pandemic. The notes were so brimming with humanity, that it cemented the reasons why I work with flowers- they are more than just petals, they are symbols, great, big, beautiful exclamations. If we can’t say it with words, if we can’t be there in person, well, we can always say it with flowers.
And while the flowers flew out, the garden grew; the new growing space was finished by the middle of the month – it’s all done by hand here, with no access for vehicles, so it’s a shovelling into a barrow and trundling through the field kind of job. It took me 22 weeks in total (of snatching moments here and there between my other work) to get it done. My arms are now the strongest they’ve ever been, and I can feel every barrow load in my bones. In May I filled the beds up with the seedlings I’d been tending to in the yard, and every day they get a little bigger and stronger.
The peonies budded up- this is their first year! Three thin beds down the side of the cottage, were de-turfed and planted with peonies back at the end of January during one of the wildest and wettest winters we’ve had here- the heavy clay acting as a plug and the water slopping around a sticky basin. I added barrows of compost on top, and will continue to do so each year, in the hope this will help with the drainage. The peonies will take three years to mature and establish before I can even think about cutting from them- the loveliest thought is knowing they can live well past 100 years- a investment of great beauty is in the ground for all future tenders to this plot of land, and it’s a good feeling.
The permanent garden beds that line the front of the cottage to welcome you when you arrive, go through a great transformation in May. There are self-seeders in there that scatter themselves here there and anywhere, many of which were inherited from the botanically minded family here before, and at the end of December, when all is peaceful and there’s less emails and jobs to wrestle with, I slowly potter round moving the seedlings to where I’d like to see them bloom. I added the roses two years ago, and bit by bit have added phlomis for their winter skeletons, nepeta for their relentlessly sweet flowering, and evergreen structure with yew balls and pittosporum. It’s jammed packed with bulbs that I add to each winter, from muscari to alliums, via narcissus and tulips. There’s other treats in there, many grown from seed and cuttings- campanulas, astrantias, lavatera, and poppies- and then there’s the lupins. The stars of the show in May.
The ranunculus begun to pump out bloom after bloom, with ruffles and flecks, the picotee varieties stole my heart.
The roses began early and in earnest, exactly 12 days earlier than last year, and they began to sneak their way into your bouquet orders. Though they have a romantically short vase life, prone to scattering their across your floor- nothing beats a garden rose.
And then, right at the end of the month, when we were all desperate for rain, and the heat had ramped up to sweltering, the sweet peas showed up- and the dizzying glee of having them back in the garden again came rushing in.