The International Steam Pages

The Best Garden in Mitcheldean? (May 2015)
Azaleas and Rhododendrons

This page is part of a series of garden blogs from 2015. Click here for the index.

For me, May provides a breathing space to tidy up, to get involved in what I call 'hidden gardening', the unheralded tasks that give the perfect backdrop to the Summer flowers. Hence you won't see pictures of the forsythia being cut back immediately after flowering, the hawthorn border hedge being trimmed and the lawns getting their weekly cuts, let alone me two metres up a 'Hedgemate' platform reducing the Leylandii hedges on both sides to manageable proportions. In most cases the result is yet another huge burn in the incinerator which I have volunteered to move out of sight to the top of the garden. For Yuehong, it was time to lift the hyacinths and most of the tulips and to vanish into the greenhouse with its innumerable seed trays.

Normally, I don't get to the upper garden enough. In May, the incentive is to enjoy the bluebells which cover nearly half of it. In the uncontrollable top flowerbed, the Euphorbia is a wonder.

Up top there's this invasive bush, part of which I have tamed and transplanted as a hedge, this is the original which has a mass of white flowers at this time of year. The second is a pink weigela which we inherited. With next door's leylandii gone, it was a mass of blossom. Like forsythia it needs cutting back heavily after flowering or it will outgrow its allocated space.

A year or two back, Yuehong planted a couple of allium bulbs in front of the house, this was their first year in flower but we can't match the massed arrays you see outside stately homes. Our bargain hebes give us mixed the results, mostly the greener ones are thriving and this one was magnificent. The multicoloured ones look miserable as do those which had the misfortune to be planted low down the steps where the soil is totally crap.

We have read that clematis is a fussy plant. We'd have to agree, we've lost about half of them over the years but those that survive are out of control with masses of blooms.

Yuehong started to decorate the front, the pansies grew from plugs over the winter in the greenhouse, the nemesia are from the family run nursery in Bromsash. Behind our bargain rhododendrons seem comfortable and need a couple more years to grow a little, as do the camellias.


In the meantime, close up they are magnificent, whether it be as a whole plant or a single bloom.

I have a great affection for azaleas, for much of the year they give the impression of struggling to survive and then suddenly the whole plant is a mass of colour. The rockery (first picture) is the best place for them as it's well drained. but they will outgrow it and I am slowly persuading some to colonise a front flower bed. 

This was the front garden as June approached. The roses and fuchsias are just foliage plants and the dahlias and begonias are still tucked up in the flower bed. The hanging baskets are still safely in the greenhouse...

Click here for the next installment.

Rob and Yuehong Dickinson