Durham University Botanic Gardens in May

May is always a busy time for me; marking, marking and more marking, so not much time for mooching in the garden but I do my best and have met several students there for walks during the exam period.  Wildflower and cornfield species planted in deep borders near the entrance to the garden are just starting to flower including Ragged robin, Silene flos-cuculi, a particular favourite of mine. Its specific name comes from the traditional English name – Cuckoo flower – because of when it first appears.

Ragged robin in the wildflower border

Ragged robin is less common than its close relative, Red campion (Silene dioica), because it favours damp meadows but the slightly tatty looking flowers also provide a splash of bubble-gum pink and are a great source of nectar for long-tongued bees.  I’m growing some from seed to plant around my new garden pond.

In woodland areas of the garden, the trees are mostly in full leaf by the end of May and the plants which flourish beneath them in early spring are starting to look decidedly sorry for themselves. Fringe Cups, Tellima grandiflora, are still looking good though, as is the beautiful Persian cyclamen (Cyclamen persicum).

Tellima grandiflora (left) and Cyclamen persicum (right)

The alpine rock garden is really coming into its own now.  Taking a closer look at one of the Saxifrage species provides a surprise – what look like quite plain cream flowers are covered in deep red spots – I’d love to know what the flowers look like in the UV part of the spectrum used by many insects.

The first geranium flowers are starting to appear, both here and in other parts of the garden.  I have to admit to being a but of a sucker for Geraniums in all their forms; there is something so classic about the flowers, enhanced by delicate nectar guides in many species. 

Geranium cinereum var. subcaulescens

Onwards and upwards, hoping for more time to make the most of the gardens at their best in June!

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