June 12, 2022 by Molly L Knits

May 2022 Garden Journal — Molly L Knits

  • Location: Southern Ontario, Canada
  • Zone: 5b
Clockwise from top left: ‘Angelique’ tulip, ‘Kunyun’ Darwin hybrid tulips and ‘Hillside’ daffodils.

May 6, 2022

Here’s how I know it’s been a highly unusual spring: we’re headed out of town for the weekend and are leaving everything outside and uncovered, without a care in the world.

Since it’s Mother’s Day weekend, we put together a little bouquet for my mother--the first ever from our garden! For lack of obvious foliage options, we added chives.

I am definitely planting more of these daffodils next year—sold as ‘White Favourite,’ but apparently the variety is actually called ‘Easter Born.’ They open with soft yellows in the middle but quickly turn all white.

May 12, 2022

I'm really starting to be amazed by the pattern of budding on our returning plants. I never guessed that my partner’s favourite heucherella would already have defined, unmistakable clusters of buds by mid-May, especially after that slow, cool first half of spring. The garden phlox (Phlox paniculata) is putting on height quickly, and of course the second-year hollyhock leaves are already enormous.

On the other side of things, the ‘Royal Candles’ veronica is surprising me with how much its growth isn't full speed ahead despite an early start. The Delphinium grandiflorum, similarly, burst out of the ground early but has since seemed content to stay petite.

A reliable spring plant: our blue columbine (Aquilegia caerulea), budding very happily.

The most fun category is "did it make it?": the Gaura lindheimeri, a very unexpected survivor, is growing fast and furious; the bluebeard, star of the main garden and reportedly a zone 6 minimum, is putting out new shoots and leaves; and the hardy hibiscus, which I wasn't worried about but did want to see return, is just now barely revealing its new growth.

The Siberian iris, of which we planted eight and had one unhappy survivor, has burst to life with vigour this year — it’s putting up so many leaves you’d be forgiven for thinking all eight had in fact survived.

We seem to be looking at no further frosts; this heat is expected to be followed by some warm rain and then more hot days. I’m not sure the tomatoes or the dahlias will need to be brought back inside this season, or anything covered, which is pretty outside the norm for our region. It looks like our last frost was in April — considering our safe planting date is around Victoria Day, that’s highly odd.

May 14, 2022

We struck out on most of the perennials we're still looking for at the garden centres, although we certainly still had fun looking (and bought many, many annuals!)

We did find a clematis to plant with our new-this-year climbing rose, which has been growing fantastically since we planted it in mid-April. I was looking for ‘Royalty,’ Rhapsody' or ‘The President,’ and as we rounded the last corner of the last garden centre, my partner announced, "Look! It's The President!"— which certainly startled some fellow shoppers.

Despite the heat — and oh, man, it’s hot — it’s so motivating to rush through the big transformation chores, because the garden is certainly doing its part. Surrounded by the tulips and the blooms of the creeping phlox and the many, many muscari, it feels so necessary to simply push through.

A real mess in April, but with promise!

If we can install the extra pavers so there’s a lower patio instead of a catch-all walkway area; if we can cut the lattice to size to hide the under-deck storage; if we can move the extra mulch and unused pots under the deck; if we can, especially, shovel the compost onto the garden and store the big compost box until our next experiment with it — after all of that, then won’t the yard be glorious!

May 15, 2022

We did SO MUCH this weekend (and in miserable heat!), but man, has it paid off. I'm genuinely amazed by how much we've transformed the yard — and how successfully — in the past month. Our decision to remove the shed (which, although small, took up nearly 5% of our yard) opened up such fantastic possibilities, and we've followed through with them: moving the pavers to make a lower patio; putting up lattice to hide the under-deck area; cleaning out and organizing under the deck; reclaiming the space allotted to the compost box (pending future compost-box ideas). It also gave us a place to put a Rose of Sharon (Hibiscus syriacus) that just wasn’t working elsewhere in the yard, and give it pride of place.

Earlier in the year, there was our decision to buy a sofa for the deck, which bumped the old deck chairs down and helped inspire the lower patio concept — and even earlier than that was last year's addition of a bench to the main garden.

May: After a ton of work, a cohesive garden begins to emerge

It feels like more and more we’ve returned to the important first principles of garden planning: what is the human use of this garden? Not just to stand around looking at plants, but to sit and lie down and relax and read and listen to the bubble of the fountain and the songs of the birds in the hedge.

I'm picturing, a few years from now, when the serviceberry is getting tall and the lilac hedge has grown in and the whole yard starts to feel more private and verdant. It will be an entirely different experience than it is now, but the skeleton of that will be what we've created over the last 15 months, from digging the main garden out right up to today's exhausting, heat-addled patio expansion.

May 16, 2022

Walking outside with the dog this morning before work gave me my first real look at the transformed yard.

Still a work in progress in May, but what an improvement!

And it's SO WONDERFUL. It looks so cozy and welcoming and intentional. The big empty patches of dirt around the Rose of Sharon (where the shed once was) and to a lesser extent in the circle garden and back-fence strip of border aren't quite ready for prime time, but with the tulips out and all the containers planted and the main garden really starting to shine? The overall effect is just wonderful.

I planted a bunch of leftover seeds in the Rose of Sharon area today, because why not? Birdsfoot trefoil (Lotus corniculatus), blue columbine (Aquilegia coerulea), China asters (Callistephus chinensis), sulphur cosmos (Cosmos sulphureus), some larkspur (Delphinium consolida) that likely won’t germinate given the heat, some leftover globe gilia (Gilia capitata) and cornflower (Centaurea cyanus). Mostly I just want to have something growing this year to buy us time to plan that area for next spring, since we were expecting to have a big shed there, instead!

Common lilac (Syringa vulgaris.)

May 17, 2022

A week of heat plus a day of rain has kicked the whole garden into high gear. I can almost see the plants growing, it’s incredible. I’m particularly wowed by the swamp milkweed, which emerged late but seems to gain an inch a day; I can’t wait until the caterpillars start munching on it!

Swamp milkweed (Asclepias incarnata), six days apart. No, really: six days! Grows incredibly fast.

May 21, 2022

We had a flash thunderstorm — nearly a hurricane for ten minutes of brief interruption from plenty of sun. No harm to the garden; the final woodland phlox (Phlox divaricata) blooms were knocked off, so I’ve cut those to the ground as is apparently the recommended post-flowering care for them.

The May garden remains an incredible joy. The first of the many, many weigela buds has opened, along with the first few tiny blooms of the heucherella flower spikes. One of the astilbe has put up its buds as well, which was a lovely surprise! I wouldn’t have guessed those would be starting yet.

‘Pink Fizz’ heucherella with ‘Royal Purple’ smoke bush (Cotinus coggygria), and some fading muscari.

Along with the weigela and the heucherella, the alliums and the columbine are about to burst into life; sometimes I think the anticipation of a bud is actually more pleasing for me than the enjoyment of the bloomed flower.

May 23, 2022

Of the three dahlias I planted in the main garden, one has finally, beautifully sprouted! I’ve been driving myself up the wall worrying about these guys; I have definitely learned my lesson. Next year I’m starting them inside under lights and putting off planting them out until they’re big and gorgeous! (Of course, next year we probably won’t have such an unusually early last frost, so I won’t be so tempted to take risks.)

The design of the main bed this year will be reasonably forgiving if I only end up with one happy dahlia instead of three, and one happy one may allow me to have three happy ones next year if I can keep the tubers happy over winter. I’m just grateful to have the one healthy sprout after a lot of fretting!

We’re going to have to protect the weigela, it seems; one of our cats has fallen deeply in love with it, and it’s a tough love. We’ve lost a lot of buds and leaves from the top of the plant already — looks like a chicken-wire box is going to be necessary!

‘Purple Sensation’ allium.

May 25, 2022

The final perennials for the main garden have been delivered and are in the ground. Now it’s just a matter of time and growth. I can’t wait to see what this garden will look like in August — and, especially, next May!

‘Songbird Blue Jay’ columbine (Aquilegia caerulea) in full bloom.