If April was all about tulips, then May was all about roses (although that will no doubt apply to June as well). It was time to get stuck into some serious gardening and to worry about the lack of rain, which eventually arrived towards the end of the month in the form of a couple of deluges, in one case accompanied by a two-hour electrical storm in the early hours, the like of which I’d never seen, or heard, before. Amazingly, it didn’t flatten the barley field out front or the roses, foxgloves and alliums etc out back.
May brought visitors, who struck lucky with the weather at the beginning and end of the month. There was a Food Festival in Sandwich, which saw the streets closed and filled with food stalls, with tables for outdoor eating set up on the cobbles in front of the Guildhall. A downpour gave me the opportunity to get a glimpse of the display of the new museum and Sandwich’s Magna Carta, along with the Custumal and Charter of the Forest – an indication of Sandwich’s prominence as one of the four top towns in England back in the 13th century.
Two visits to Goodnestone Gardens, a week apart, saw the gardens in quite different weather, but how they had changed since April. So much had come into bloom in the walled garden and even that changed over the course of the week. The clematis vanished and surely I hadn’t overlooked the foxtail lilies before – they were immense! A raptor (Sparrowhawk? Kestrel?) was feeding its chick, precariously balanced on top of a conifer in front of the church tower and I spotted a blue tit feeding young well-hidden in the trunk of a dead tree in front of the house. Tea and cake afterwards, both times, always a treat.
Things were not so joyous on the bird front at home. A baby blackbird, barely fledged and spending most of its time scuttling along the ground, hid in my garden waste bag and was nearly smothered when I dumped grass cuttings on top of it. It survived, only to meet a worse fate two days later when a magpie took it. The three sets of sparrows nesting in my eaves have been driving me mad with their chirruping, the sparrowhawk chick(s) have fledged and the adults are circling , causing general consternation amongst the local bird population (this may put paid to some of the chirruping, I suppose…) and I realise, on writing, that I haven’t seen my garden robin for some time. I hope he’s just too busy feeding young to put in an appearance and that he’ll reappear, looking a bit bedraggled having moulted his red breast, before too long.
A trip to garden centres near Ashford gave me a chance to see something of the beautiful Kent Downs, new to me, with delightful village names – Monks Horton, Stowting, Rhodes Minnis. And a subsequent trip to Beech Court Gardens, with a wonderfull arboretum which felt like Kew Gardens on a more manageable scale, introduced me to lots of places beginning with ‘C’ which will require further visits – Challock among them.
Locally, I discovered a walk through a Miller’s Woodland Trust site, most notable (to me) for its butterflies and beautiful meadow, filled with grasses and vetches including a single-flowered magenta one that I had never seen before, later identified as Grass Vetchling, courtesy of my favourite book from childhood, The Concise British Flora in Colour. This was finally unpacked, along with all my other books, after 10 months in boxes. As I filled up the new bookshelves it was like meeting lots of old friends again.