The tulips and other spring bulbs in the garden are just coming to an end as we approach mid-May. The warm weather has finally arrived and there are so many flower buds forming in the garden. Biennials such as Honesty, Sweet Williams and Sweet Rocket all come into their own this month. They are invaluable flowers to have in the garden in order to plug the gap between the end of the spring bulbs and the beginning of flowering of hardy annuals. Hardy annuals sown in the spring will start to flower towards the end of this month or early in June, depending upon when you sowed them (and your geographical location).

Sweet Williams
Sweet Williams are highly fragrant and last well in the vase when cut

Many garden perennials also start to flower this month. I have Red Campion which is a great wild flower. It will happily flower in the shade and produces flowers throughout the summer.  Aquilegias provide welcome flowers now and will self-seed throughout the garden. My mixed hedge is a good source of flowers. The tiny white flowers of Hawthorn are known as the May flower and look lovely in the vase. Viburnum oplus has white flowers that look a bit like lace-cap hydrangeas and Viburnum lantana has flat clusters of tiny white flowers. Cut them all just as the buds are opening to last as long as possible and split the stems of these woody plants to help with water uptake.

Hawthorn flowers
Hawthorn flowers with Clematis montana and Red Campion

The first Alliums are just breaking out of their buds and will flower throughout May and June. I love the large fire-work flowers of Allium christophii planted along with the smaller intense purple A. purpureum and  white A. nigrum. The seed heads can be dried for fantastic displays later in the year.

Oxeye daisies can be a bit rampant but seedlings are easily pulled out from the soil if they stray too far. These beautiful daisies make lovely meadow-style arrangements at this time of year and if you cut them down after flowering, they will produce a second flush of flowers in the autumn.

The perennial wallflower Erysimum 'Bowles' Mauve' is a must for any cutting garden as it flowers practically year-round and is the best food source for bees. In the shady part of the border, I have some Tellima grandiflora which has thin spires of tiny green, fringed flowers, hence its common name of 'Fringe cups'. The flowers add some height to a flower arrangement while the fresh green leaves can be cut and used to soften the neck of a vase.

Nigella flower

Nigella (Love-in-a-mist) is another flower that I wouldn't be without and, like many biennials, it self-sows really well. Leave lots to go up to seed and you won't ever have to buy any more seed! It has fabulous looking seed pods that can be collected and used both fresh and dried in displays.

The final buds ripening in my garden are those of my climbing Rose 'Open Arms' which I cut throughout the summer and autumn. I find that it doesn't suffer from the dreaded black spot common in some roses. This year we have planted more climbing roses to scramble through the hedges on either side of the garden. Climbing roses are wonderful for repeat flowering all through the summer.

Workshop flowers
Cut flowers arranged during my first 'Grow your own flowers' workshop

May has also seen the very first pupil through the door for my 'Grow your own flowers' workshop. It was a lovely day and we had fun arranging tulips with foraged Cow Parsley and cuttings from the garden - Forget-me-nots, Euphorbia, Tellima foliage, Erysimum, Hawthorn and Primroses. It's not too late to take a workshop and get started on growing your own this summer!

Jam jar arrangement made by my student Caroline in my first 'Grow your own flowers' workshop
Jam jar arrangement made by my student Caroline during the workshop


A taster of which plants you could be cutting this month from your garden. It is possible to design your beds and borders to include a plethora of flowers for cutting without affecting the display in the garden. All the plants make great garden plants in their own right. Just a few flowers of each type make a lovely arrangement and many of the plants are also brilliant for wildlife.

Mixed border in early May
Mixed border in early May

I have Tulips scattered throughout my garden beds but just pick a few stems here and there (in addition to a dedicated raised bed which I treat as a crop). Plant double what you need in the border and you will have extra flowers to cut for indoors as well as a great display in your beds.
If you choose a mix of early, mid and late flowering forms, you can harvest flowers from March to May. Tulips flower best in their first year but you can select varieties that are better at repeat-flowering than others. I've grown Purissima, a white form which flowers in mid-Spring which is just starting to go over, Queen of Night (very dark purple) which started to flower towards the end of April and is looking great in May, 'Negrita' a lighter purple looking good in early April and Black parrot with it's dark colour and lovely frilly edge flowering in late Spring which is still looking good. All of these are supposed to be good repeat flowerers, although as this is their first year, I will have to report back next Spring.

Tulipa 'Queen of Night'
Tulipa 'Queen of Night'

We planted over a hundred Allium bulbs the Autumn before last and it has really transformed our beds in May and June before most of the perennials come into flower and after most of the Tulips have done their thing . As there are so many, I can pick a few at a time for cutting without much impact on the garden. I have a mix of A. 'Purple Sensation' with its large, rounded purple pom-pom head, A. 'Cristophii' which has large, fire-work heads of star-shaped, purple flowers, A. Nigrum - a lovely white form and lots of the smaller, round-headed A. sphaerocephalon which flower later in July.

Forget me nots
These started flowering in early April but are still popping up and looking good, especially on the shady side of the garden when flowers appear slightly later. They are wonderful flowers for mixed Spring posies.

Lovely Spring flowers which come in range of colours and forms. I have a mix of dark purples and pinks dug up from my mother-in-law's garden. They self-seed and you will find lots of little seedlings throughout the garden which are easy to either weed out or transplant to where you'd like them.

A great foliage plant and a lovely zingy, acid green which looks good with dark Tulips and with colourful Spring flowers. There are many different forms of Euphorbia, both annual and perennial. I grow Euphorbia amygdaloides v. robbiae which is an evergreen perennial. It looks great in my border year-round and is invaluable as it thrives in partial and full shade.

A classic native British flower which thrives in shade. I inherited a small clump growing around the base of a Silver birch in my garden. A few flower spikes cut just as the bottom flowers are emerging adds a lovely dimension to a Spring flower display. You should never cut Bluebells growing in the wild but do go and visit a bluebell wood in May for a spectacular display. If you do add Bluebells to your garden, ensure you plant our native Bluebell rather than the Spanishone as our native species is under threat.

Viburnum lantana (Wayfaring tree) and Viburnum opulus (Guelder Rose)
These both flower this month and are useful shrubs with wonderful creamy-white flowers. I have both growing as part of a mixed native hedge.  A hedge is a great source of both foliage and flowers for arrangements if you don't have much room to grow shrubs in your beds. Both species will produce red berries in Autumn which are useful for adding colour to Christmas wreaths or Winter vases.

Guelder Rose
Viburnum oplus (Guelder Rose) with its gorgeous flat clusters of flowers.

Erysimum 'Bowle's Mauve'

We have this perennial wallflower in a raised bed near the house and it flowers off and on all year round with perfumed mid-purple flower spikes which swarm with bees and butterflies in the Summer. They are one of the very best nectar supplies for insects as they have such a long flowering period so everyone should grow one for the bees and snip a few flowers for yourself too. Just 3-5 stems in a vase will add a pop of vivid colour.

Erysimum and Alliums
Perennial Wallflower and Alliums

Lemon balm
This is a wonderful perennial herb. It smells divine, makes a yummy herbal tea and it has lovely fresh green foliage in May. The new growth is a bit soft and sappy at this time of year but if you sear the stems it will last quite nicely.

May garden flowers
Euphorbia, V. opulus, Hesperis, Alliums & Irises

Sweet rocket (Hesperis matronalis)
A biennial which, if you sow seed in late Summer and plant out in September, will be flowering now. Comes in purple or white forms and flowers profusely. It will self-seed which is great if you want a lot of it, otherwise, keep cutting the flowers and it won't ever get to the seed stage.