One Day In May

Yesterday was a special day.


A five-minute walk away at Margaret’s farm, the cows were being let out to summer pasture.  I’ve written about this annual event in the Priory calendar before (see ‘A Stampede of Cows‘).


So, here’s just a handful of photos of a spectacle I always enjoy.


After several months indoors, the cattle’s exhilaration at being released is thrilling to watch.


And amusing too.  But it is less so when all that separates me from a herd of galloping, huge beasts is a thin hedge.


Margaret and I watched them sprint down into the fields above the Priory.  It always makes us smile.

But I don’t need thudding hooves as a reminder of springtime.  The gardens are a giddy green swirl and I find it difficult to keep up with all that is going on.


Flag irises are colonising the ditch between the two ponds and there are more of them each year.  That’s a good thing;


as is the slow spread of cow parsley on the meadow.


My ‘Fern Boat’ is …. well, full of ferns.  Though I’ve added foxgloves too.


The shuttlecock ferns (Matteuccia struthiopteris) are at their best.  Unlike these Musa basjoo bananas; I’ve only recently stripped away their frost protecting, straw jackets.


I hadn’t realised that shuttlecocks are so invasive.  Though I remove loads of the blighters, there are always plenty more popping up from their underground ‘suckers.’  Here they jostle a hosta.


Three hostas with two toad lilies (Tricyrtis formosana)

Talking of hostas (seamless isn’t it?), in early April I dug up one, spilt it and stuffed the two bits into pots (left).  They don’t look like they’ve just been ripped asunder, do they?  (I’m becoming a little obsessed about hostas in pots.  I suspect there might be more next year).


Still not much going on in the long borders


but the alliums are always a delight.


Box hedging is spurting away too and will need trimming soon.  Here I use box to encase a standard Viburnum tinus ‘Eve Price’ underplanted with heuchera.


This is what the bed looked like in January 2012.


In this triangular bed, I use box to surround an Acer dissectum.  The acer has grown far quicker than I was expecting.  I shall need to rethink the layout.


Last week I dragged the (very heavy) Priory boat over from the east pond and paddled out to the island on the west pond.  I needed to strim, as undergrowth was swamping the four young acers.  It’s looking a bit bald now but the acers will be happier.  In the background and going from strength to strength is my startling (and much-loved) Viburnum plicatum ‘Mariesii’. 


Behind the kidney beds, rhododendrons are in flower.  (I told you it was all happening).


Honeysuckle perfume is another fine May-marker.


There’s another honeysuckle on the east face of the house.  And the everlasting sweet-pea, Lathyrus latifolius, has begun to scramble up a wall with Geranium phaeum in front.


And finally, I’m pleased with a white saxifrage on a west-facing wall. I put them in as stopgap groundcover whilst two Cotoneaster horizontalis matured.  


This is the same area in January 2012.  I had just added a second pyracantha and, oddly, was deliberating about taking out the pointless, ugly patch of lawn.  I didn’t hesitate for long.


Moments before a rain shower

This is only a few snapshots of how the Priory looks on a particular day in May (I’m lying – the above photo was taken the day before).  Even with all the excitement in the gardens around the house and within the rabbit proof fencing, my eye also regularly scans the surrounding valley. There is simply too much to notice; let alone to record and photograph.

47 thoughts on “One Day In May

  1. Glorious. I have grown to love your photos of the cows escaping the confines of the shed at long last, and your long borders are looking rather wonderful. As for the rhodie corner, what a fabulous jolt of colour, I love it. Happy May!


    • Happy May to you Janet – though it is terribly busy, tiring and hot! Still my favourite month though. I wasn’t going to down tools to watch the annual cow escape this time but couldn’t resist. It is always a grand a sight. Dave


  2. What a fabulous read, always a joy David, and such fabulous photos, helping to capture the story so far…love the ‘dancing’ cows :-))
    Looking forward to your next chapter….Chez xx

    Ps I would love to be put forward to win the cookbook xx


  3. Oh, it’s so fun to see photos of Cow Liberation Day! And the Priory looks wonderful.
    (CLD should have its own celebratory mixed drink, like margaritas on Cinco de Mayo.)


    • Next year i shall insist that Margaret serves a huge jug of margarita (whilst dressed liked Carmen Miranda) and I think play something deafening over a tannoy. Flight of the valkyries maybe. D


  4. The garden is just so fabulous! and what a shame that it isn’t open for others to enjoy. There was so much to like in this post! I hadn’t heard the term Cow Parsley before, and we have lots of it everywhere but especially along the roads. Only this year did I learn about cows’ reaction to being let out of the barns after the winter. Amazing for them to show such joy! That was well captured in your pictures, too. Really, really beautiful pictures of everything! Dana


  5. Having had to dig out 3 overgrown Cotoneaster horizontalis before I could start the veg patch garden, I MUCH prefer the white Saxifrage!! It’s all looking very lush – love the fern boat! – have you tried less invasive ferns than Matteucia? Polystichum or Dryopteris would be a better bet if you don’t want to be constantly digging up ferns! All the rainfall from earlier in the year has created perfect conditions for the ferns! Thanks for sharing the cow stampede – Woohoo, springtime! Love it. But feeling very sad for poor Shirley, our local City Farm cow, who has a hot dusty enclosure with very poor grass to feed on. 😦


    • Poor Shirley. Doesn’t sound much of a life. There are many different ferns in the gardens, Caro – I should do a post on them I suppose. I’ve already removed Matteucia from one bed where it was too thuggish but I have other species in my self-propagating fern boat to keep me supplied for quite some time. As for the C. horizontalis I needed that bed to be very low maintenance. I have fallen for the saxifrage too and wonder about removing the cotoneasters before they become too big – like yours. Dave


  6. Fantastic photos of the cows. I never think of joy and excitement when I think of cows, but I guess I was wrong!
    The priory looks great, things are really moving along. It all looks so well cared for, colorful, and promising, but I think I will love the green banana amongst the green ferns most of all. By July it should have a perfect primeval look to it.


  7. There are some nice little touches you have added that make all the difference taking the garden out of the ordinary. Some lovely shots Dave – and that honeysuckle, to die for.


    • Thank you Elaine. Much of it is trial and error – like the box and acer. I’m happy to dig something up and try it elsewhere if it isn’t working. What is odd (for me at least) is that most of the time, my work is for my benefit only. Hardly anyone gets to see the garden; one reason why I started the blog in the first place. Dave


  8. Fantastic, you captured the cows excitement at being let out once more! The garden is looking amazing, the alliums, the honeysuckle, love your fern boat, everything is shouting that this is a wonderful time of year!


  9. Your garden is looking lovely and my curiosity has been piqued by your photos of the various different areas. I’m wondering if the Priory has garden open day? Gardeners love nothing more than looking around other gardens! Helen


    • Hi Helen, I’m afraid it doesn’t. We were accepted by the NGS a couple of years ago but decided against opening for access and security reasons. Sorry. Given that I’m a NT member I’m ashamed to say I haven’t been to Sissinghurst in two or three years. I always mean to come and see the nuttery in early spring. BTW I can’t see a subscribe by email button on your blog. Is there one? Dave


      • There wasn’t one but there is now! Am still learning all the finer points of WordPress and blogging so thanks for the nudge. Also, if we can’t visit your garden, you must visit us. The irises are looking fantastic at the moment. Helen


  10. Your gardens look so amazingly healthy and flourishing, I drool. I do love seeing livestock reveling in their first spring release – their joy is contagious. I want to kick up my heels as well!


  11. After the terrible times when so many are slaughtered, I appreciate seeing fields of cows even more. Yours are very nice! Your garden is looking glorious, lots of lovely red brick walls and paths I had not appreciated before.


  12. The garden is looking beautiful. It is funny you should mention your Viburnum plicatum ‘Mariesii’ because I only found out what one was a couple of days ago. It looks in a lovely setting to show of its tiered flowers. Amelia


    • They are stunning, Amelia. I bought one years ago for my garden and then realised how big they get. I swapped it for something much smaller. It was an early purchase for the Priory where space isn’t a problem. Dave


  13. It is wonderful that most cows in the UK spend a lot of the year outside, sadly here it is a sight you rarely see. Only sheep are outside. Of course there is less grass for them here in summer perhps here they should be out all winter and in for the summer. Your honeysuckle looks amazing, actually it all looks just like MAY!


  14. The cows in our back field have been out for a month or more – it is good to see them out. Your honeysuckle is glorious and I love the meadow. Amazing how quickly everything gets going once it starts.


    • Hi Elaine, yes the cows across the river from the Priory have been out for several weeks. But Margaret worries about hers churning up the pasture if it is too wet – she waits till the ground has dried out. Dave


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