The perfumed garden

Sweet-scented flowers, fragrant herbs and much more… with brilliant gardening expert Kim Wilde.

May is a month that’s full of colour and fragrance, a time to thoroughly indulge your senses.
To me this time of the year is strongly associated with the May tree, and the heady scent from the hawthorn hedges that surround the fields near our countryside garden in Hertfordshire.
The young hawthorn leaves are known as ‘bread and cheese’, although having tried them I would advise sticking to your conventional sarnie!
Lilac, wisteria and clematis montana are also some of the deliciously perfumed plants to be enjoyed this month.
Prune lilacs lightly after flowering, removing sucker growths and dead blooms. Montanas make rapid growth and can be pruned if necessary immediately after flowering to make wood for the following year. Wisteria should be pruned back to five or six buds in mid-summer and to two or three buds in late winter.

Easy herbs

Herbs are quite easy to grow, need little care and are pretty resistant to pests and diseases as the oils they contain act as repellents.
Some also deter pests and attract helpful insects into the garden. Fennel attracts hoverflies, which go to work on the aphids, while rosemary masks the scent of carrots, deterring carrot fly.
Apart from their lovely fragrance herbs are also vibrant foliage plants – particularly sage, which has a wonderful array of foliage types including cream, purple and gold varieties. There’s also a variegated form called Salvia officinalis ‘Tricolor’.
Before growing herbs do a little homework as some, such as angelica and fennel, can grow up to two metres high.
Also remember that some are annuals, including parsley, basil and coriander, while others, such as rosemary and thyme, are evergreen perennials.
A window box is a great place to grow a good selection of culinary herbs in a small space. Just put a few broken pieces of pot in the bottom, add 15cm of pea shingle to make a well-draining layer, then plant the herbs with a potting mixture.
Mulch with a sprinkling of pea shingle to help retain the moisture and to show off the plants. And don’t forget to water and feed regularly during the growing season.

Grow now

You can start growing Ipomoea ‘Heavenly Blue’ (morning glory) this month. It’s a beautiful, fast-growing climbing annual with azure blue flowers.
To give the seeds a head start soak them overnight in water then sow in pots 1.5 cm deep. They’ll be ready to plant out in position in mid-June, supported with bamboo canes.
Sow pumpkin seeds in individual pots now. Plant out next month in richly manured soil and they’ll be just right in October for your kids’ Halloween parties.

It’s child’s play

Encourage your children by giving them their own little plot or grow bag where they can grow sunflowers and strawberries.
You can also amaze them by growing a pineapple plant. Just cut the top off a healthy pineapple, leaving 1cm or flesh on the crown. Let it dry out for a few days then plant in a mixture of multipurpose compost and sharp sand. Water well then cover with a plastic bag and put on a windowsill. When it starts to grow remove the plastic bag. Water regularly and feed with a general houseplant fertiliser.

Things to do in May

Mulch borders to suppress weeds and retain moisture. Avoid letting the mulch touch the stems of plants as it might encourage disease.
Stake tall herbaceous perennials such as oriental poppies and delphiniums using bamboo canes.
Sow seeds of biennials such as brompton stock, wallflowers, sweet williams, honesty and Icelandic poppies. By autumn they’ll be a good size for planting out in their final position for flowering in 2004.