It's time for your alpines to shine, says Suzie Hanson, head gardener at Brodsworth Hall
PUBLISHED: 00:00 28 April 2014
May can be a rewarding and busy time in the garden. By now, summer should be well and truly on its way and plants that have been dormant are coming back to life.
The perennial plants are now well on their way, so don’t forget to check your plant supports to enable them to grow long and strong. Even the relatively low maintenance method of netting needs checking for holes or sagging, and the odd stem may need poking back in the right direction. This is especially important on early flowering plants with heavy blooms like peonies as, without supports, the flower heads will bend and become damaged.
Here at Brodsworth, May is the month that our alpine bed shines. This bed was first constructed back in the late 19th century on an ideally situated south-facing bank just below the summer house. After several decades of neglect it was finally restored to its former glory in 2008 and now contains 200 different species of alpine plants from North America and Europe.
Alpines are sometimes unfairly labelled as difficult or unreliable but, whilst this is true of some, many thrive in the British garden given the right aspect and soil. The little bit of extra work of adding pea gravel to keep the roots dry and allow drainage is worth it when early summer arrives and the fantastic floral display begins.
As the name suggests, alpines are generally native to mountainous regions. The climate in these areas is usually very cold but dry in the winter and very bright and dry in the summer with high winds all year round. Alpines have evolved in these conditions and this is why they thrive in loose, gravelly soil in a breezy, south-facing location. In their natural setting they tend to get most of their water in one go when the snow melts in April and May, hence the early summer flowering period many of them have.
Many gardeners don’t have the space to dedicate room to an alpine display but, fortunately, the compact nature of many alpines makes them the ideal plant for a pot or, even better, a nice stone trough.
In the rest of the garden we are making use of warm dry days to keep the weeds under control by regularly hoeing through the shrub beds. The lawns are growing rapidly so weekly mowing is also high on the agenda especially now we have set up permanent croquet lawns for visitors to enjoy.
Away from basic maintenance, there are also many more jobs on the list for May. The bedding change over in the flower garden takes place at the end of this month. If you have a sheltered garden and your bedding is to be planted out in a nice warm spot you should be okay to plant summer bedding in the last week of May. But keep an eye on the long range forecasts for frost or overnight temperatures below 5°c, which might mean you need to cover your new plants to protect them, as they will still be fairly vulnerable.
At Brodsworth, 10,000 spring bedding plants and 7,000 bulbs will be removed and replaced with 12,000 summer bedding plants for this season’s floral display. This year we are marking the centenary of the First World War with poppy shapes and all the flags of the UK. And to celebrate Le Grand Depart of the Tour de France taking place in Yorkshire, we will have lots of yellow and gold marigolds.
All that remains now is for us to keep our fingers crossed for a good summer. If spring is anything to go by, we are in for a good one. n
Brodsworth Hall is a beautiful country house surrounded by a collection of grand gardens in miniature, lovingly restored to their Victorian splendour.
For more information contact
Brodsworth Hall & Gardens
Brodsworth, Doncaster, DN5 7XJ
Facebook page BrodsworthHall