Posted by: christinelaennec | May 8, 2015

Early May

This is a delicious time of year, I think.  For a long time in my life, May was the season of exams and stress (either studying or marking).  I often felt I wasn’t quite able to take in the beauty around me.  I very much hope that next year the Dafter will be well enough to sit her Higher Art exam, so I am keen to make the most of springtime now.

Rainbow over the park during my evening walk.  Early May, 2015, Glasgow.

Rainbow over the park during my evening walk. Early May, 2015, Glasgow.

Katharine Stewart’s May 3rd essay describes a trip she took from her home near Loch Ness to the West coast.  She wrote:  “There’s always a feeling of growth in the west and of kindness, kindness in the air and in the people.  Frost and snow don’t linger.  The prevailing wind is soft and brings welcome rain.” (A Garden in the Hills, p. 66)

I agree with her about the kindness of the people in this part of the world.  So many people smile at you, or stop to talk.  And the rainy weather has its own soft beauty.

Evening rain shower in the park.  Glasgow, 5 May 2015.

Evening rain shower in the park. Glasgow, 5 May 2015.

She writes of visiting a Victorian garden on the shores of Loch Broom, which “for 45 years, from about 1940, lay unattended”.  So the restoration would have been underway for a decade when she went in about 1994.

“We followed the path and pushed open an enormous door.  It was like entering the realm of the secret garden of childhood days.  The lilac was in bloom.  There were rhododendrons of colours that took the breath away, trees that had overgrown into the most fantastic shapes and small, unexpected patches of plants among the rocks.  Paths led in all directions.  We followed one to the shore, lured by the scent of salt water and seaweed, then back by mysterious ways to the vegetable plots.  Here seaweed was mulching strawberries!  I grew the tatties, one year, on a bed of seaweed.  They throve magnificently!  Then we came on a real surprise – asparagus!  The balm of the west was at work.” (66-67)

Tulips and narcissi in the back garden, late April.

Tulips and narcissi in the back garden, late April.

She doesn’t name the garden she visited, except to say they went there instead of their usual destination, the famous Inverewe gardens.  Could the secret garden have been Leckmelm?

On May 8th, back home in Abriachan, she set about planting her potatoes.  “In they go… with a blessing on their heads.  They are Kerr’s pinks.  I’ve never found one I like better.  Sometimes I wonder who this Kerr was and how he grew his pink potato.” (67)  I don’t often eat potatoes because I have found they (and peppers and tomatoes) make my incipient arthritis flare up.  But I agree that Kerr’s pinks are very nice.  Wikipedia tells me they were created by J. Henry in Aberdeenshire, in 1907.  But it sheds no light on why they are called after Kerr. (“This potato-related article is a stub.”)

Michael had some raised beds in our garden in Aberdeen, but having downsized very much, we (I) concentrate on growing flowers.  This was something my father could never understand – why would you grow something you couldn’t eat?!  Well, the pleasure I get from my flowers is very great.  And I am fortunate to be able to leave the vegetable-growing to the experts.

In the front garden, Shirley tulips and forget-me-not.  Early May.

In the front garden, Shirley tulips and forget-me-nots. Early May.

Katharine Stewart wrote, “At this time of the year if you turn your back on one bit of the garden for five minutes or more it goes completely out of hand.  You wonder if there will ever be a time when you can walk round appreciating everything without seeing something – an outcrop of weeds, an unpruned bush – that urgently needs doing.” (p. 69)  Although my garden is quite small, I have the same sense of things happening even faster than overnight.  For instance, the rowan tree that we planted last autumn.  One day there were fat buds, and then the next day there were tiny green leaves and blossoms:

Our new rowan tree in leaf.  Early May, Glasgow.

Our new rowan tree in leaf. Early May, Glasgow.

I have written before about the magic of the beech hedges.  One minute they are covered in dead leaves that have clung on stubbornly through all winter storms, and then in the twinkling of an eye, the dead leaves have gone and new leaves have come out:

Beech hedge, both copper and green beech.  Behind, trees leafing out.  Early May, Glasgow.

Beech hedge, both copper and green beech. Behind, trees leafing out. Early May, Glasgow.

Katharine Stewart writes about her patch of grass:  “I prefer to call it the ‘green’ …  Let it grow and it’s a meadow, a dampish meadow with lots of moss, wild flowers – eyebright, lady’s smock, lady’s mantle, self-heal, speedwell, stitchwort, hawkbit, bird’s foot trefoil, buttercups and daisies.  … Over the years it has given so much to the life of the house – picnics, night out in a ‘bivvy’ [bivouac] to catch the early sights and sounds, sunbathing and football games.  This year I shall cut a good patch in the middle for the ball games and leave wisde swathes round the edges for flowers.”

I love how perfectly she captures the meaning of a garden:  not something you look at from a path, but a place to play, rest, and just be.  The Dafter was appalled when we realised our new back lawn had no daisies!  What is the point of having a lawn if you can’t make daisy chains?  So winter before last I planted a number of the wildflowers Stewart names into the lawn.  I see the clover, birds-foot trefoil, lady’s bedstraw and two kinds of daisies are doing well.  I’m so pleased.

I wish you all a very enjoyable weekend, which hopefully will include some enjoyment of nature.  Check back here next week for my last Harris-related post, which will be a giveaway!



  1. Beautiful pictures. Love the one of the rainbow. i also place one of a rainbow today 😉

  2. I am with the dafter on this one, I love daisies in the lawn. Some striking photos.

  3. Definitely a delicious time of year where you are! I love May, too, but this year warm temps have encroached on the May-ness of everything. A little too warm yet for me! I planted some flowers this past weekend, myself. I love them!

  4. Beautiful photos of the rainbow and the park! Forget-me-nots are a favorite of mine. I’ve been mulling over the idea of not planting a veg garden this year, as the prediction for rain is slim to none for the summer, again, and my husband will be busy with farm goings on this summer and not able to help very much. I mentioned this to him, and he agree and said, “I’d rather you keep up with the flower gardens around the house.” That was all I needed to hear, as I my thoughts are exactly as you said …. “Well, the pleasure I get from my flowers is very great.” 🙂 I love being able to bring in flowers from the garden for the table, and not have to buy them from the market.
    Enjoyed your post!
    Have a nice weekend!

  5. I’ve always wondered what a Rowan tree looked like. Will you post more pics when it’s fully leafed out?

  6. Yes, there is a special kindness in this time of year…an unspoken agreement with those around me to celebrate the sunshine and flowers that are thriving around us and even look kindly on the rain showers that might produce rainbows. On the way home going East on Orient Drive toward Mt. Hood I have seen a massive lilac tree that is what I would guess to be at least 30′ tall. I put my windows down today while driving by it and was rewarded with the wonderful lilac fragrance~~~ 🙂 xx

  7. Clearly I am not alone in finding these pictures quite remarkable. The rainbow over the park and the evening rain shower in the park stand out brilliantly to me. You have captured a real magic which even looking at the photograph takes my breath away, but being there at the time must have been stunning.

  8. Hilariously anti-British gardening to be planting daisies and birds foot trefoil and the rest in your lawn! I’m sure it’s all the more beautiful for it.

  9. I love, like everyone commenting before, your wonderful photo of the rainbow/s. They are magical, I love to see a rainbow. I too love May in the garden however this year it’s not getting as much attention as it could do with, however I daresay it will recover when I get the time to tend to it again! I laughed at you planting daisies – most people would try to eradicate them not encourage them, but I know what Dafter means, they do look cute as a daisy chain! 😀 x

  10. Thank you everyone for your comments – I’m glad you liked the photographs. The weather here is the real star! I don’t mind going for a walk in such weather, because you just never know what vistas will open up.

    I’m also glad that people are enjoying the “anti-British”ness of planting daisies and clover. Yes indeed – although the wildflower lawn is becoming more of a thing in certain circles. Will we see it at Chelsea just yet, though?

    Gracie, that is some lilac tree. I adore lilacs, and have planted one in the last three gardens I’ve had (1994 to present) but have never stayed in a house long enough to see much in the way of blossom! I make the most of other people’s lilac plantings, though. And hopefully the people now living with my former gardens will enjoy the lilacs I planted there, when those trees get bigger.

    marksgran, I am always comforted by something the great Christopher Lloyd is reputed to have said: “The best time to do something in the garden is when you have time”. I know that isn’t strictly speaking always the case – there are wrong times to do some jobs – but so often it’s true!

  11. What a glorious rainbow! That photo captures the colors of May so well. And I love a gray sky with light flooding in. Have just purchased a few lavender plants, a sage plant, and some plants for my front pots. Work on the garden is progressing!

    • I think grey is really under-appreciated. It is such a valuable foil for brighter colours, and has so many different shades…

  12. […] Early May […]

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