What’s in Bloom? May Garden Report

Tulip border featuring yellow and purple tulips

By Thea Hegland

Imagine masses of Tulips in a rainbow of colours amongst the dreamiest Cherry blossoms ever seen. Our Tulip collection, which is usually the star of the April garden, are finally now at their prime.  Many of the mid to late varieties are still in bud, just waiting to show all their gorgeous colours. We are experiencing a cooler spring and as a result, our spring show has been slow to start but is now turning out to be long and lingering. While each year does tend to be variable due to weather, this year has been significantly unusual. The cooler temperatures do actually have some advantages; flowers last longer, thus extending the show. Usually, the weather starts to warm up, days get sunnier and we are trying in vain to have a few Tulips left for Mother’s Day.

Cherry Blossoms and Tulips encompass The Star Pond

After all the spring bulbs have bedazzled us with their beauty, one tends to ponder the question “What happens with all our bulbs when they are done flowering for the season?” Soon all the Tulipa (Tulip), Hyacinthus (Hyacinth), and Narcissus (Daffodil) will be removed from the flower beds as we start planting our summer annuals. Many of the Narcissus (Daffodil) can be used in the background areas of The Gardens for next year whereas the Tulips are all recycled into our compost system. This has been our practice here for many years as we need to remove the bulbs from the flower beds in a timely fashion as the summer planting season begins. Unfortunately for the Tulips, this is before they have had the opportunity to die back naturally which is imperative to feed all the nutrients back into the bulb.  They simply just do not provide beautiful flowers the following year when they are prematurely pulled up, therefore, each year we order new bulbs to ensure we are able to provide the spectacular spring show that The Gardens are famous for.

Vibrant tulips in the Sunken Garden

The month of May, renowned for its emerald backdrop, showcases all the jewels of the mid-spring garden. The extensive Rhododendron collection here at The Gardens becomes one of the main highlights. These flowering beauties boast vibrant colours that range from soft pale pinks, bold reds, shades of purple and classic whites. Collected for more than a century, it is considered one of the largest and most diverse in the world, with over 300 varieties among the estimated 2000 shrubs located on the grounds. Many of the shrubs were planted over one hundred years ago by Jennie Butchart herself. Old handwritten nursery orders date back to the early 1900’s. Some of the oldest varieties that can be found throughout the grounds are beauties such as ‘Pink Pearl’ in soft pale pink fading to white and ‘Chevalier Felix de Sauvage’ a pretty pink bi-colour with burgundy markings both hybridized over 100 years ago in 1870 and 1892 respectively.

Pink shades of Rhododendrons

Reaching its peak now is the magnificent Davidia involucrata (Dove tree, Ghost tree, or Handkerchief tree) with creamy white bracts that simply cannot be ignored! The only members of its genus, this unusual tree derives from China. Legend has it, it was first discovered by a French missionary who sent the dried seed to France circa 1870. From there, it found its way into the hands of some of the most aspiring botanists in Europe. These trees can be found located along the pathways above the Sunken Garden as you approach The Concert Lawn.

Davidia involucrata  (Handkerchief tree)

And last but not least, our most famous flower, the elusive Meconopsis betonicifolia (Himalayan blue poppy) in the Japanese Garden will soon appear.

Meconopsis betonicifolia (Himalayan blue poppy)

Plants, trees, and shrubs that are currently blooming
  • Aesculus (Horse chesnut)
  • Anemone blanda (Windflower)
  • Allium
  • Aquilegia (Columbine)
  • Centaurea montana
  • Cercis chinensis (Chinese redbud)
  • Convallaria (Lily- of-the-valley)
  • Cornus florida
  • Cornus kousa (Korean dogwood)
  • Crataegus (Hawthorn)
  • Davidia involucrata (Dove tree)
  • Dicentra (Bleeding heart)
  • Disporum (Fairy bells)
  • Doronicum (Leopard’s bane)
  • Epimedium (Barren wort)
  • Gentiana (Gentain)
  • Geum
  • Globularia (Globe daisy)
  • Halesia (Snowdrop tree)
  • Hemerocallis (Daylily)
  • Hydrangea petiolaris (Climbing Hydrangea)
  • Iris
  • Laburnum (Golden chain tree)
  • Matthiola (Stock)
  • Meconopsis (Blue poppy)
  • Nectaroscordum
  • Pachystachys lutea (Lollipop plant)
  • Paeonia (Peony)
  • Paeonia lutea (Tree peony)
  • Pelargonium (Geranium)
  • Pericallis (Painted daisy)
  • Petasites
  • Polemonium (Jacob’s ladder)
  • Podophyllum (Mayapple)
  • Primula (Primrose)
  • Prostanthera rotundifolia (Mint bush)
  • Rheum
  • Rhododendron
  • Schizanthus (Butterfly flower)
  • Skimmia japonica
  • Spiraea (Spirea)
  • Smilacina (False Solomon’s seal)
  • Syringa (Lilac)
  • Tradescantia (Spiderwort)
  • Viola
  • Weigela
  • Wisteria