May is reckoned to be Cluny’s most glorious month. There are many plants in bloom and the wild bluebells and wood anemones add to the ambience as do the fantastic scents and wonderful birdsong. Cluny is a peaceful place so take your time going around and enjoy the atmosphere.


The first candelabra primulas flower in early May. The most prolific and found growing even in the gravel, is the orange-yellow P. chungensis. Slightly later comes the majestic purple P. pulverulenta along with naturally occurring hybrids of both primulas in orange, pink and pale purple. By the middle of the month P. japonica (crimson) and P. bulleyana (orange) are beginning to appear while smaller primulas, often beautifully scented, including munroi (3 forms), waltonii, ioessa, alpicola, palmata and latisecta flower in profusion from mid-May onwards. Examples of these and other plants are also in pots on the gravel.


There are approximately 18 varieties of white, red or maroon Trilliums (Wake Robin, Wood Lily) in the garden easily recognised by their 3 leaves, 3 sepals and 3 petals. In early May there is a striking double form, small clumps are positioned throughout. All Trilliums take many years to reach the large clump sizes you will see here. Stalks of last year’s Cardiocrinum giganteum (giant Himalayan Lily) can still be seen with their Venus Flytrap-like seed heads. The stalks of the bulbs to flower this year are already growing quickly and have noticeable large glossy greeny-brown heart-shaped leaves. You will see many at different age stages particularly between numbers 2 & 3.


The larger flowered species borne on single stalks in a rich blue is Meconopsis grandis and its hybrids which begin flowering in early May. Later on M. baileyi (formerly betonicifolia) with its beautiful nodding heads in various hues of blue, and also pure white, grows happily in deep leaf mould throughout the garden. Also in early May, delicate dusky pink Meconopsis x cookei flowers in pots on the gravel and also in the bed before No 2. 


There are many gloriously scented ornamental apples and cherries all over the garden. Look out for Prunus serrula tibetica (Tibetan cherry) with its red peeling bark. Adding to the scents, are numerous lilacs (Syringa) and azaleas. Many rhododendrons & azaleas bloom in May along with the closely related Enkianthus, which bears pendant racemes of mainly pink bell-shaped flowers. The acers (Japanese Maples) with their beautiful fresh green leaves have small but delicate flowers while glorious Magnolias (M. wilsonii overlooks the entrance panel) and Tree Paeonias (P. delavayi) grow well in the shelter of the house.  The striking climber Actinidia kolomitka with its variegated green, white and pink leaves grows on the far end of the house wall. Many species of Clematis can be found sprawling over shrubs throughout the garden.


There are of course lots of other plants to enjoy but some favourites include the Actaeas (Baneberry), Geraniums, Thalictrums (meadow rue), Polemonium (Jacob’s Ladder) and a number of species and hybrid Aquilegias (Columbine, Granny’s Bonnet), A. flabellata is a particularly attractive blue & white low-growing species. Interesting less common plants include Disporon smithii (Largeflower fairybells) and Uvularia grandiflorum (Merrybells). The Arisaemas (Cobra lilies), with their amazing spathes and long tongues are literally rising out of the ground all over the garden but you have to look for them as they are well camouflaged!  Paeonia veitchii & woodwardii, mauve single-flower herbaceous perennials, grow around the woodland edge. Amongst the wonderfully scented plants is Smilacema racemosa, similar to Solomon’s Seal. A large clump overhangs the path between Nos 17 & 18 and right next to it are the flowers of Darmera peltata (Indian rhubarb) whose umbrella leaves appear in June.        


The birds are very busy singing, building nests and incubating eggs. Some early breeders like the Mistle Thrush are already feeding young by early May. Migrant species like Blackcaps and Willow Warblers fill the garden with their lovely songs. At least one pair of Great Spotted Woodpeckers is nesting in the garden and we have Treecreepers, Siskins, Bullfinches, Nuthatches, Goldcrests and Goldfinches to watch for. The Jackdaws are in a few of the chimneys as well as some of the more dense conifers while the nest boxes are mainly occupied by Great and Blue Tits. Don’t miss the Red Squirrels feeding at the bird feeders at the first ‘Big Tree’ (No 4 – 5) or around the car park area. They can often be seen in other parts of the garden racing up and down the larger trees. They are presently moulting into their summer coats. Please let us know if you don’t see any. Keep a look out for our resident stoats. We are hoping for a very much warmer May and the appearance of more butterflies and other insects. Please tell us about any wildlife you might see. 


In the potting area, pricking out seedlings and potting on are the main activities. Weeding, as ever, continues but selectively, to try to keep a harmony between wild flowers and garden plants. Ground cover plants such as Dicentra eximia, Chrysosplenium (Golden Saxifrage) and the graceful foliage of Shuttlecock ferns lessen the weeding task as well as providing carpets of colour.