The Darling Buds of May.


One of the many good things about having visitors come round the garden is that it forces you to do all those tidying up jobs you’ve been meaning to do. It’s been a busy time here – and a couple of weeks ago we were honoured to have the Fellows of the RHS come for a guided tour of the garden and a lunch in our West Barn. We were terrified to have such a prestigious group of people come to visit and were frantically tidying and preening everywhere – but there was no need to worry. The day was a huge success – the weather glorious and the gardens looked superb. They were such a friendly bunch – so appreciative and interested in everything. A jolly day was had by all.

Last week I was chatting to a visitor who wanted to know how to get rid of cow parsley that was invading her borders. I answered that I longed for that kind of invasive gift. No other plant from any corner of the world, however expensive, gives me as much pleasure as Anthriscus sylvestris – the glorious frothy cow parsley.

It is, I suppose, technically a weed but it is a most beautiful one and at Columbine we love it. We have it growing in our orchards, moat banks and under our pleached lime trees planted with some of my favourite tulips ‘Spring Green’ ‘Green Spirit’ and ‘White Triumphator’. It is a dreamy combination. Cow parsley is an umbellifer and a good thing to have – I try and encourage it as much as possible, as it attracts a range of beneficial insects such as hoverflies and ladybirds into the garden.

I think it’s so important to take time to enjoy spring as it unfurls in the garden. Everyday feels like a celebration and I relish every second. As I do so I am reminded of the poem ‘Spring’ by Christina Rossetti:

There is no time like Spring,
When life’s alive in everything,
Swallows speed their journey back,
Along the trackless track –
God guides their wing,
He spreads their table that they nothing lack,
Before the daisy grows a common flower,
Before the sun has power
To scorch the world up in his noontide hour.

At the beginning of the month Columbine ignites with tulips and at the other end of May it is full with the green growth of all the hedges and herbaceous perennials and sparked with colour from alliums and the first bearded irises. As I walk amongst the cow parsley and hawthorn blossom – I believe it is one of the most beautiful wonders I will see.