Garden Highlights During the Month of May 2021

May is a glorious month with many changes taking place in the garden. The month started with hellebores giving away the spotlight to blooming epimediums, unfurling hostas and various ephemerals. Flowering shrubs like rhododendrons and azaleas and trees like dogwoods were the stars in mid-May. By the end of the month, my hostas were fully unfurled and I could not help but admire the various sizes and shapes of my collection any time I took a stroll through my garden. We had a rainy month here in South-Eastern Massachusetts and my plants definitely liked that. Below is an overview of what was particularly pretty in my garden this May.

My epimediums were in full bloom in early May. Epimediums are an amazing and easy to grow plant that I featured in an earlier post.

Giant snowflakes (Leucojum) were also blooming in early May. They were one of the best new plants in my garden this year that I purchased fairly inexpensively from Michigan Bulb Co. last fall. I normally avoid planting bulbs because I don’t like their foliage after they are done blooming but giant snowflakes exceeded my expectations. I highly recommend them if you are looking for an unusual alternative to spring bulbs like daffodils and tulips. I particularly liked giant snowflakes in my garden in combination with old-fashioned bleeding hearts where they mimicked each other’s nodding silhouette but contrasted in color.

May is the month when many woodland plants are in their fullest glory. Of these, Jack in the Pulpit is one of my favorite with its unusual long-lasting flowers that are eventually replaced by attractive orange seedpods. Should you decide to grow it, make sure to give it plenty of room as it has the tendency to seed heavily and may overtake your garden.

There were many other beautiful native plants blooming in my garden in May. Shown clockwise from the left: robin’s plantain, shooting star (dodecatheon meadia), columbine (aquilegia canadensis) and dwarf crested iris (iris cristata). Warning: like jack in the pulpit, robin’s plantain and columbine have the tendency to spread aggressively so plan accordingly if you want to add them to your garden!

I planted some amazing violas in my garden this spring but the variety called ‘Etain’ stole the show for me. I planted it in my hosta garden where its bloom color contrasts beautifully with darker foliage plants.

I call this my “Moon Garden” where the white plumes of the foam flower are complemented by the variegated foliage of hosta mediovariegata – an old but nonetheless amazing variety.

Many trees and shrubs also look their best in May. Despite its short bloom time, this orange azalea called ‘Gibraltar’ is a stunner in my garden in Mid-May.

Not as showy but nonetheless an excellent shrub for the garden is the native Carolina allspice (Calycanthus floridus), also known as sweetshrub. Its magnolia-like flowers last for a few weeks in May and have the much desirable quality of being fragrant. My yellow variety called ‘Athens’ is particularly aromatic and I could smell its delicious scent, that reminds me of sweet wine mixed with baked apples, from far away. Carolina allspice attracts insects with its scent which enter the petals and get trapped there until pollination occurs, after which the flowers opens and set the bugs free.

We added a few beautiful flowering trees to our yard last year and the dogwood called ‘Celestial Shadow’ is my favorite. The unusual variegated foliage is complemented by large white flowers starting in mid-May and still going strong to date in mid-June.

My hostas started unfurling in early may and by the end of the month they looked stunning. Shown above clockwise from top left are h. ‘June’, ‘Leapin’ Lizard’ and ‘Jack Berry’.

Many other amazing foliage plants look their best in May. Shown counterclockwise from top left: helleborus “Anna’s Red”, ligularia, Darmera peltata (Unbrella plant) and podophyllum ‘Spotty Dotty’.

I am going to end this post with an images of the foliage of my epimedium ‘Pink Champagne’ that looked breathtaking at the end of May once the blooms were done.

What was in bloom in your garden in May?

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