May has the most to offer the gardener, from gardens full of jewel-coloured tulips and planting summer bulbs, visiting bluebell woods, to the crowning gardening event of the year, the RHS Chelsea Flower Show.

The inspirational displays take months of planning, and everyone sets out to mimic them in May. Here are some tips to get the designer looks whilst this is all on your radar.

Garden centres will now be stocking two-litre pots of lush growing herbaceous plants which will add real drama to your borders and containers. Use complimentary colours such as blue and pink combinations of alliums and foxgloves or go for the dramatic with orange and purple, geum ‘Totally Tangerine’ and salvia ‘Caradonna’. All should be available to take home and plant.

Great British Life: Foxglove Foxglove (Image: Getty)

Flowering shrubs will also come into their own and this year there are some new varieties with staying power. Weigela ‘Camouflage’ is a May stalwart bought up to date with two tone foliage and rose-coloured flowers.

Spiraea x cinerea 'Grefsheim' or ‘Kaziu’is an improved cultivar with beautiful arching branches with clouds of white flowers all along the branches. A real stunner!

Groups of matching pots and containers are used a lot in show gardens and are easy to imitate in your plot. Look for containers that mirror the plants with colour or texture. Terracotta is a lovely material to show off plants to their best. The rusty colour is a great foil to all that green and vibrant colour. Terracotta pots start from 3” and go up in ascending sizes; so group sizes of pots together to achieve a collection of complimentary plants that can be swapped in and out of containers as they flower, according to season, achieving colour and interest throughout the year.

Great British Life: Parcevall GardensParcevall Gardens (Image: Parcevall Hall)

Garden to visit

Parcevall Hall is set in a hidden valley near Bolton Abbey. It is the retreat house of the Anglican Diocese of Leeds and allows the public to roam its beautiful grounds during certain times, and May is the perfect month to visit. Blue poppies adorn the rock garden, peonies bloom in the formal terrace gardens. Through a carpet of unfurling ferns, the woodland walks are full of wildflowers. Accessibility is somewhat compromised by the terrain and steep climb to the formal gardens, but dropping off at the top is allowed if you ask when you arrive. One of our lesser-known gems of the Yorkshire dales.


Great British Life: Protect roses from greenfly with a spray bottle of water on 'jet setting' to blast them off the emerging foliage. Protect roses from greenfly with a spray bottle of water on 'jet setting' to blast them off the emerging foliage. (Image: Getty)

Have you any tips for making my roses last longer?

Roses are the UK’s favourite flowers and deservedly so.

A great deal of folklore surround getting the best from these resilient plants.

Firstly, “they are magnets for greenfly”. Greenfly attack lush young growth, so the best defence is to use a water spray bottle on ‘jet' setting to blast them off the emerging foliage before they take hold. Birds can still find them on the soil surface. This will allow the new stems to grow strongly and support three flushes of flowers over a nine-month season.

Secondly, it is told they like a layer of horse muck every spring. Whilst not wrong, the reason this was done historically was the dung broke down slowly, releasing the feed over a number of months. These days a slow release rose fertilizer will do the same job and with added metallic elements such as iron, zinc, and magnesium, the foliage will be tougher and fight off fungal spores such as black spot.

Thirdly that they like to be deadheaded frequently. This is common sense, once the first flush of flower is over, cut the flower stem back by a third to encourage further flowers to form. Do this again in the autumn for a late display.

So feed, deadhead, and protect from early aphid attack and your roses will supply you with months of flowers.

My tomatoes had black patches on the fruit last year. How can I avoid the same this year?

Your tomatoes were suffering from blossom end rot. This is a disease caused lack of calcium to the plants exacerbated by irregular watering through the growing season. Tomatoes like to be routinely watered to keep the fruit growing consistently. Watering erratically the fruit swells at intermittent rates and fungal spores attack the end of the fruit where the flower fell away once pollinated.

So, water at the same time of day, every time you water them. Stand the pots in saucers to allow some water to collect and be taken up as the soil dries out and check the end of the fruit as it develops. Apply a slow-release tomato food to the pots and top up after three months to keep the growth consistent. This way your plants will reward you with a steady supply of fruit and not a glut at the end of the season.


Plant of the month

May is the month for foxgloves. By the time the first rose buds are opening these statuesque quintessentially British plants are at their peak. In recent years this biennial has been used in both cottage garden settings but also contemporary meadow planting schemes. Various cultivars are available and as soon as the flowers are finished, it’s time to sow the next batch for next year. ‘Pam’s choice’ is a stately white flowered form with maroon spotted throats.

For easy cultivation look out for the Camelot hybrids in garden centres this May. They are named after characters from the court of King Arthur and feature Lancelot, Guinevere and Merlin as well as Arthur. Comprising a range of pastel colours, these beautiful blooms sometimes reflower from the crown later in the year if you cut back the main stem once it has finished flowering.