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May 2012

Welcome to the merry month of May. Hurrah! Today's date is Wednesday, 23 May and I'm going to go out in the garden, properly attired in white shirt and tie. It's a time of wonderment. Everything is behind us, and yet so much lies ahead. It’s warm outside and the sun is finally casting its rays over Tumba and our little garden.

Things happen so quickly this time of year. I get up with a gasp in the morning and go to bed speechless at night, since there’s so much to be inspired by – every impression, every experience, every scent, every sight, everything that simply IS, everything that’s in bloom. At the moment, the apple trees are in full bloom, whereas the pear tree’s time is over for this year – but its flowering has been enormous. Life is a gift. I really am so thankful.

On 13 May, we opened the garden for the benefit of the Red Cross. I wish to give my many thanks to all the wonderful people who turned up here. It was great fun and we were extremely lucky with the weather. We'll be opening for the Red Cross again on 10 June. Let's hope that the weather is stable. We'll see what's in bloom then.

At the moment, I’m wandering around the garden and admiring the hundreds of tulips in bloom(and that's no exaggeration). During the course of our trip to Holland I came to learn that one should preferably avoid planting tulips (and hyacinths also, for that matter) in the same spot two years in a row. So, if you saw the tulips in the garden this year, don’t rely on seeing them in the same spot next year. By contrast, alliums (which I'm crazy about and have also planted by the hundreds) are bulbs which return time and again, and spread wherever they’re happy. And how they’ve spread in our garden! I mainly plant two types: Purple Sensation and Christophii (which blooms about two weeks after Purple Sensation and has much larger flowers). One tip for extending the allium season is to plant the bulbs in different places in the garden – both sunny and shady .Naturally, the bulbs in the sunny spots are those that bloom first, up to 2-3 weeks before the others. By the way, if you're interested in buying allium bulbs directly from Holland at unbeatable prices, check out our price list for spring flowering autumn bulbs here on the website, under Bulb Club. The bulbs you buy are exactly the same ones as we plant here in A Gentleman’s Garden.

It will be a great pity if the alliums are no longer in bloom when the garden is open on 10 June. But it's practically impossible to choose a perfect date for opening the garden. I'm often asked, “Stefan, when do you think the garden is at its best?” I find that a very difficult question to answer, since everything has its time at some point during the season, and everything has its charm. It's extremely difficult to get the date “right”, or even to define what “right” means. The garden lives its own life.

At the moment, the beautiful yellow azalea rhododendron Luteum, which also attains a wonderful colour in the autumn before losing its leaves, is spreading a heavenly scent in the garden by the goldfish pond. A few feet away, the season is almost over for the old magnolia soulangeana, but how it's flowered this year! The first rhododendrons are just beginning to come into bloom –and the dandelions, too; instead fighting and trying to eradicate them, I prefer to regard them as a beautiful wildflower. As for the rhododendrons, whilst Cummingham White is already in full flower, the yakushimanum hybrids (which should stand in full sun) are showing their pinkish-red buds, which by degree will turn into chalk-white small clouds.

I'm going to go here and have a look at the White Trumphator tulips. This pure white tulip, which belongs to the lily-flowered group (the name refers to the unique form, which resembles a lily), came into the world in about 1942 and is one of my absolute favourites. It's a regular guest in our garden. By the way, it is apparently the case that lily-flowered have a greater tendency than most other tulips to return year after year.

I still daren’t cut the lawn, since we've had so many crocuses, and the leaves have to wither away first, so it's best to wait approximately five-six weeks after the crocuses have flowered before cutting the grass. Although this gives me a valid excuse not to cut the grass, the month of May in a Swedish garden is nevertheless incredibly hectic. There's so much to do. But, at the same time, if you have a garden, it's important to set limits, to adapt the garden to your circumstances: how interested are you? How much time do you have to devote to the garden, to spend on maintenance, etc? A garden involves a lot of work but it’s important to take time to enjoy what you've created – to take moments, now and again, to sit or lie down, lean back and merely gaze and wonder over everything you’ve done, and everything you’ve received in return.

We – you and I – are worth it.

Stefan, A Gentleman Gardener