Monthly Gardening Tips - May 2022

This spring has produced a riot of prolonged and wonderful colour around Kew, helped by dry weather. I often think that this area is blessed with many trees and shrubs not seen elsewhere which may have been introduced directly or indirectly by Kew Gardens staff into their local dwellings' gardens over the past couple of hundred years. What do you think?

Many spring-flowering shrubs are best pruned after flowering if you want to keep them under control; by this I mean preventing subjects becoming topheavy and overshadowing other plants nearby. Think Forsythia which readily responds to even hard pruning in May after flowering and which always flowers on new growth produced the previous year. Ceanothus shrubs too. And Berberis.

Berberis darwiniiBerberis darwinii

Additional colour this sping has been many Photinias, usually P. ‘Red Robin’ but often with some variation in the new growth and the amount of white flowers that follow. Prune back after flowering to contain. Also look out for the brilliant new red growth of Pieris formosa 'Forest Flame' which requires only minimal pruning after flowering.

Photinia "Red Robin"Photinia "Red Robin"
Pieris formosa. This one North-facing aspect, but sheltered. ceanothus

Below is my Salvia x jamensis ‘Hot Lips.’ Ideally cut back by half each spring and, in a sunny position it will flower past Christmas. The foliage has a lovely aroma too .….. you can also use prunings as softwood cuttings.

Saliva before pruning
Saliva after pruning

Lawn weeds? For those wanting pristine lawns (assuming you don’t have children or dogs!) take care with your weed/feed/mosskill applications. Basically- read and follow the instructions, and with one eye on the weather forecast.

Summer bedding. Whilst it’s tempting, I prefer not to plant summer bedding out until after around 20th. May, due to the possibilty of late frosts. Before that you can prepare baskets, window boxes, pots and flower beds by removing old plants and rubbish, replacing drainage and compost or applying fertiliser, and watering it well in the day before re-planting. And after planting. Good luck.

Richard Ward