Early May saw the weather suddenly change, with continental warm air blowing in and several days with temperatures nudging into the low twenties. Just a week after the snowy scenes at the end of April.Snow turned to mist.Tulips quickly faded.
But we missed these early sunny days, being away for a week, and the garden had exploded into lush new growth on our return. It’s extraordinary how the same scene transforms in just a few weeks.
Daffodils were replaced by Camassias and in turn were followed by Pyrenean valerian, Valeriana pyrenaica.
It continued to be a strange year for flowering times. Many of our Rhododendrons were in flower at the same time, rather than sequentially, whilst some stalwarts, like Geranium macrorrhizum, flowered much later than normal.
Our Bowles’ golden sedge, Carex elata ‘Aurea’, which normally flowers with Narcissus “Jetfire”, was flowering at the end of May instead.
As in 2015, the cuckoo has been clearly heard several times every day, swallow numbers increased during the first half of the month, and on May 12th, the first Garden warbler, Sylvia borin, was heard, along with seeing the first dreaded lily beetles. And as always the light and shadows towards the end of May were exceptional, on occasion.
Any work in our meadows, where selective spot weed wiping or dribbling to manage soft rush, Juncus effusus, infestation continues to show good progress, has been accompanied by the wonderful serenading of Mistle thrushes, Turdus viscivorus, and blackbirds, Turdus merula.
It’s been a fairly dry month overall, but after the early week of hot temperatures, the cooler theme returned, towards the middle of the month. This benefited our ewes which we’d opted to have lamb later than usual, partly in an attempt to increase ewe lamb numbers.Which seemed to pay off, since we ended up with 50% more ewes than rams.
In spite of seeing a young fox, by torch light, weave between resting ewes and lambs just before midnight, the young lambs have escaped unscathed, and have certainly grown away faster, given the more benign weather at this time of the year, with more vigorous grass growth for the ewes. As I write this up on May 27th, passing thunderstorms are threatening to interrupt our power supplies again, and continuous rolling thunder for over quarter of an hour, with torrential rain, saw the sheep standing motionless mid field, and the bird song completely cease, until the lightning flashes moved East towards Esgairdawe.May saw the end of our garden visitor season for 2016, and it’s been very successful, ending with a lovely day for many visitors on May 21st. By limiting opening times to 2 days a week over a 3 month period, we’ve also found it much more enjoyable, and less of a strain, whilst receiving more visitors than in previous years.
But the garden has been designed to have appeal to a wider range of species, than just the human form, so it was fun to be about to leave the front door one evening to check the sheep, only to see a weaving line of 4 Canada geese and 6 goslings snaking along one of our slated paths. 45 minutes later, and we’d eventually managed to persuade them, in two family groups, out of the enclosed garden and back down the track, from whence they came.The last two days of May heralded the beginning of a hot sunny spell that stretched into June, and it was a huge delight to have Claire Takacs, an Australian based, and internationally renowned garden photographer, visit us at very short notice on Bank Holiday Monday, May 30th. The weather and light were wonderful for photography, early morning midges aside, and we await to see what Claire has managed to capture of the Gelli magic. I’d commented to Fiona before she rang, that the garden, after some 20 odd years of work, was looking as good as it ever had, so it was indeed fortuitous timing.
The month’s rainfall of 114 mm was enough to keep things growing, whilst being modest, and temperatures overall were a little poor, but much better than last May, Light levels were nearly 20% up on 2015, with several clusters of very sunny days – anything over 20 KWH.