Dig It – May Tips From The Secret Gardener

Phlox in flowerbed

In May the soil is warming and the garden centres are full of plants, encouraging us to fill our gardens with summer colour.

Before you go shopping, consider the space you have available in the garden. You could create a whole new border or just replant a small area.

PGarden with flowerbedslan to use groups of three of the same plant. It’s quite effective to leave spaces between plants for sowing annual seeds such as Night Scented Stock Matthiola longipetala for moths and Candytuft Iberis umbellate and Pot Marigold Calendula officinalis for butterflies.

The following recommendations are traditional cottage garden plants, which will grow well in almost any soil in full sun and will provide nectar for butterflies such as the Small Tortoiseshell, Red Admiral, Comma, Peacock and Large White.

Measurements show the eventual height and spread, to help with arranging your flower bed and spacing out the plants.

Front of the border

These low-growing plants, which are best placed at the edge of a flower bed, prefer well-drained soil and would also suit a rock garden.

Dianthus gratianopolitanus Cheddar Pink
15cm x 30cm. Numerous, scented, pink flowers over tufted mounds of grassy foliage.

Missouri Evening Primrose Oenothera macrocarpa (formerly called Oenothera missouriensis)
15cm x 30cm. Large, yellow flowers with light fragrance which provide nectar for moths.

Orange Daisy Erigeron aurantiacus
60cm x 45cm. Clump forming.

Thrift Ameria maritime
30cm x 30cm. A native coastal plant forming clumps of evergreen foliage with pink, globe-shaped flowers.

Middle of the border

Caucasian Scabious Scabiosa caucasica
60cm x 60cm. Lilac flowers.

Coreopsis grandiflora
Yellow, daisy-like flowers.

Garden Phlox Phlox paniculata or Meadow Phlox Phlox maculata (which is more mildew-resistant).
Variable size and colour depending on the type.

Persian Cornflower Centaurea dealbata
90cm x 45cm. Clump-forming with lavender-pink flowers.

Red Valerian Centranthus ruber
1m x 1m. Reddish-pink flowers on tall, fleshy stems.

Yarrow Achillea millefolium
60cm x 50cm. Flattened flowerheads of pink and mauve over fern-like foliage.
Caterpillar foodplant for some moths including the Tawny Speckled Pug.

Back of the border

Coneflower Echinacea purpurea
1.2m x 45cm. Purple flowers with prominent, domed, orange-brown centres.

Musk Mallow Malva moschata
1.2m x 60cm. Large, rose-pink flowers.

Shasta Daisy Leucanthemum x superbum
1m x 45cm. Large, white flowers with yellow centres.

Sneezeweed Helenium ‘Sahin's Early Flowerer’
90cm. Bright orange-yellow daisy flowers.

Verbena bonariensis
1.2m. Lilac-purple flowers on long stems.

With careful selection and arrangement, these plants can provide a joyful display for the eyes and a feast of nectar for butterflies and moths over the summer.

Happy Gardening!
The Secret Gardener