There is an exponential moment that happens at the beginning of May. A coming together of energy that is altogether bigger than anything we can garden. A bluebell wood hovering and luminous or the brilliant carpet of wild garlic that make the woods their own. It is a particular feeling to be part of this energy if you put the time aside to do so. To pause and feel the surge.
To achieve the same experience in a garden is something to strive for. A feeling of immersion where the sum of the parts is greater than the components. A generosity that stops you in your rush or diversions, because the very nature of the moment is that it will be fleeting, and probably just the once. The light falling a certain way, the particularities of the year or just chancing to be there when it all comes together.
We have the advantage here at Hillside to key into the roll of the landscape that surrounds us. The generosity of the meadows and their influence are brought close and they flush one time after another with dandelion, first flower and now silvery seedheads, then hawksbit and the glossiness of my favourite buttercup, Ranunculus acris, teetering tall already and stepping away into the distance.
Behind the house I have planted loosely and into the meadows with a number of trees and small shrubs that will fill and flush to heighten May abundance. Lilacs, that in time will become voluminous in the rough banks behind the barn. All singles so they feel more part of the fields than the garden and ranging from white through primrose to deep ruby violet. There is a small path that the cattle have made in the past that we also use to make our way up the steep bank and one day this little track will pass under an arc of lilac so you can enter into their world when they are at their best. Perfumed and more flower than foliage for a fortnight.
The crab apples are central to the rush from spring to summer. Walking daily as we do on our morning circuit with the dog on the other side of the valley, the ten years in their limbs now means they register at a distance. They cloud with blossom, the branches in the group now touching. Your eye moves from here easily to the apple orchard and in turn the first of the hawthorns, taking May as their common name and the month and the hedgerows by storm.
On a more intimate scale and to build a quiet intensity, I am looking to make companion plantings that collide and complement in their timing. The equivalent of the stitchwort amongst the bluebells, the unfurling croziers of lime green fern amongst the white of the wild garlic. So, under the Malus transitoria we have Narcissus poeticus, the pheasant’s eye daffodil and the last to flower here. They appear with perfect timing, the buds flashing white as the crabs flush pink and then tilting open to full flower as the blossom fills the branches. The coupling has taken a while to find and it is a reminder of the power of two. A coming together that invites you to slow for a minute and be present right here and right now.
Words: Dan Pearson | Photographs: Huw Morgan
Published 7 May 2022