By the month of May the garden has really come to life and if we are lucky we should all experience beautiful warm days where the scent of wisteria and wallflowers hang on the evening air. No garden should be without magnolia and particularly tulips at this time of year. There are many beautiful varieties of this hardy bulb, whether grown in huge clay pots or in mixed borders, such illustrious names as Tulipa ‘Angelique’, Tulipa ‘Spring Green’ or Tulipa ‘Queen of the Night’ are guaranteed to liven up anywhere outside, from mixed borders to huge clay pots, during this colourful start to summer.

Favourite magnolias must surely be Magnolia ‘soulangeana’, the star like Magnolia ‘stellata’ and the outstanding evergreen variety Magnolia ‘grandiflora’, which needs a huge wall to do it justice. Other recommended plants for May are hardy shrubs such as azaleas, rhododendron, lilac, viburnum, laburnum, cytisus, deutzias and weigelas.

There are now so many splendid varieties available that is hard to choose but you can’t go wrong with the sweet scented Viburnum ‘burkwoodi’, the pale yellow Cytisus ‘praecox’ or the richly perfumed double flowered Syringa ‘Katherine Havemeyer’. Additional May delights are the charming low growing pink Rhododendron ‘Temple Bells’, the long flowered Laburnum ‘Vossi’, the Japanese Wisteria ‘floribunda’, Deutzia ‘Candidissima’, with its double white blossoms, and the striking Weigela florida ‘Foliis Purpureis’, which sports pretty pink flowers nestled amongst bronze green foliage.

Then there are the old cottage garden favourites which include the elegant Solomon’s Seal, blue, pink and pure white garden bluebells (which are bigger all round than the more slender wild ones) the cheerful Viola ‘Jacknape’ with its deep violet, almost brown, and yellow petals, the quaint pale mauve Viola ‘Freckles’, the white form of Jacob’s Ladder and that classic cottager’s flower aquilegia, otherwise known as Grannies Bonnets, which seems to grow in just about every nook and cranny. Although the new double varieties are prized by plantsmen and women, it is probably the original timeless pink and deep blue plants which have been grown for decades that look so right growing out of paved areas, among Bourbon roses, in light woodland, peeping out from under hedges and even in the long grass of wild flower meadows.

Epimediums are delightful little plants with lovely, graceful foliage and are well worth growing if you have a moist shady corner; Epimedium ‘pinnatum’ is perhaps one of the best and has long clusters of small yellow flowers. They fit well with great swathes of blue forget-me-nots and lily of the valley and the pale yellow globe flower Trollius ‘Lemon Queen’ which is similar to our native buttercup. They also compliment the early and fabulous pale yellow Paeonia ‘mlokosewitschi’ which also has the added bonus of blue green foliage that turns crimson in autumn; the only complaint is that the lovely bowl-shaped flowers are short lived. Perhaps the most obvious symbol of May is the plethora of flowering cherries that seem to spring from every tree-lined street and suburban front garden. Best known and probably either the most generally loved or totally loathed is Prunus ‘Kanzan’ with its clustered sprays of rather garish pink flowers.