1 June 22

‘I adore the month of May at Furzey Gardens.  The longer days, combined with warmer weather and terrific downpours, kick-start a riot of growth.’

In this, the centenary year of Furzey Gardens, volunteer Catherine Brightwood will be writing a monthly blog to share her experience of working here.  Join her as she highlights some of her favourite plants and photographs throughout the coming year.

The Gardens have become so lush and have almost taken on a jungle-like quality.  The gunnera are flowering and continuing their race towards the sky.  All of the plants, trees and shrubs are in full leaf, creating a wonderful green oasis.

In the cottage garden, I was tasked with moving plants such as poppies, aquilegias and nasturtiums into the corners of the beds to make room for the dahlias to be planted.  Dahlias are such happy, generous flowers.  I can’t wait to see their summer display.  Mr. McGregor and Peter Rabbit appeared overnight in the beds of the cottage garden, so look out for them on your next visit.

Peter Rabbit in the cottage garden and gunnera flowers and leaves

The wonderful wisteria flowered this month.  We have several in the Garden but my favourite is the wisteria arch in front of Furzey House.  It has such a fairy-tale feel to it.  At the start of the month, the flowers were just forming, as the bluebells faded beneath.  By the end of the month, the long clusters of fragrant flowers were hanging down like jewelled tassels.

In keeping with the fairy-tale theme, I was entranced by the Enkianthus campanulatus.  This hardy shrub has masses of delicate, bell-shaped flowers hanging in clusters from the branches.  From a distance, you’d be forgiven for mistaking them for berries.  But get up close and the tiny flowers are amazing.  They are cream, with red veins and red tips to the petals.  They remind me of fairy hats.  In the sunshine, the tiny flowers were alive with bees.  The whole shrub was buzzing!

Wisteria and Enkianthus campanulatus

May was the month for our many rhododendrons to shine.  We have so many varieties in the gardens and I have taken hundreds of photographs of them.  I wish there was room to share more.  We have varieties with flowers in every colour you can imagine.  I feel as though you can almost hear them saying, “look at me!”  They are such show offs.  By comparison, I spotted the wonderfully demure common spotted orchid, nestled in the grass near the children’s play area.  They are so small and delicate, with intricate flowers in a dense spike.  Nature really is incredible.

Rhododendrons and common spotted orchid

May also brought the opening of the new Centenary Meadow and bridge.  I took a walk in the field with the alpacas and was dazzled by glossy buttercups against a brilliant blue sky.  I almost felt as though I was in France and quite fancied a picnic hamper with a baguette and a bottle of red wine.  Instead, I made do with my flask of tea.  I was thrilled to see the stunning irises that I planted last year, in a border in front of Furzey House, were flowering.  They are one of my all-time favourite flowers.

Centenary Meadow bright and Irises

One job which I love and hate in equal measure is removing the rapidly advancing tide of sticky weed (cleavers) which is also known as sticky willy.  Although it is much loved by wildlife, it is a real nuisance as it spreads so rapidly and quickly covers other plants with its rampant growth.  However, it is very satisfying to pull it up, fill the wheelbarrow and take it down to the compost heap.

My favourite job this month was to weed around the enchanting blue poppies (meconopsis) and make room to plant some candelabra primulas.  The meconopsis have large, blue, saucer-shaped flowers in summer.  Such a rich, true-blue flower is a rare garden treasure.  Blue Poppies have a reputation of being difficult to grow, so I was delighted to uncover several plants which had self-seeded from the parent plant.  I’m looking forward to photographing them for you when they flower.  Maybe you can try and find them if you visit in June?

Wheelbarrow of sticky weed (cleavers) and weeding around menconopsis poppies

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