May Garden Activities


saxifraga in bloom, Victoria BC garden
photo by SVSeekins

My morning coffee entertainment is watching the birds relay food to their voracious young back in the nest. If I’m lucky, one of these mornings I’ll get to watch the little ones fledge.



  • If you’re gung-ho about watering hanging baskets all summer,  basket-stuffers galore are at all the plant sales this month. When choosing plants, keep in mind whether the basket lives in a sunny or shady location. Another handy design strategy is providing some “thrill, spill & fill” in each container.
  • Plant summer flowering bulbs (dahlias, gladioli, canna lilies & such), Many folks grew them inside over the past month or two, and move them into the ground now. At the same time as planting the dahlias, put in the stakes.  They’re not needed right now, but they will be later, and then there’s a greater risk of damaging the roots.


  • Begonias, geraniums, & other tender plants that have also been over-wintered inside can be set in the garden now. Even tropical house plants can go out to a dappled spot on the deck. It’s amazing how much faster they grow outside in the summer.
  • Even though they’re small now, pinch back snapdragons by 1/2… they’ll respond by growing bushier & produce more blooms.
  • Cut back the euphorbias after their big show.  Letting them go to seed in the garden is sheer folly.  These garden thugs spread easily enough through underground runners.
  • lilac, red hot pokers, irs, lupin, with the ceanothus just about to come into bloom too, Victoria BC garden
    photo by SVSeekins

    Dead-heading spent blooms can spur some plants into another flush of flowers


  • Wander through the beds digging the weeds… This is also an opportunity to downsize populations of snails, slugs & tent caterpillars as you discover them
  • Unless you’re totally cool with widespread volunteers next year, cut back or pull out the centurea, forget me nots, cerinthe and other heavy seeders after their blooms are done.

    chestnut bloom
    photo by SVSeekins


  • Whether it’s garden hoses, or a fully automated system, it’s time to prep irrigation before it’s really needed.  Replacing rubber gaskets & rings reduces that nasty dribble at the hose connection.
  • When you water, water slowly and deeply in the early morning or evening when the air is cool and calm.

    early camas bloom Mt. Tolmie, garry oak meadow, garden Victoria BC
    photo by SVSeekins


  • If there are bare patches that you’d like to seed over, go for it. Keep that area moist to give the seeds some support until established.
  • Keeping the mower blade above 2 inches will provide a lush lawn, and also enough leaf cover to give the grass’ roots a little shade (so they don’t dry out so quickly).
  • The meadow grasses on our rocky outcropping are ready to go to seed, so C heads out there with the whipper-snipper. That way the seed doesn’t spread into the beds
  • If the lawn gets 1 inch of water every two weeks, it’ll still will turn the color of straw in the heat of summer but will bounce back super quickly after temperatures cool in fall.

    spring blooming Daylily
    photo by SVSeekins

Veg & Berry Patch

  • As it’s warming up, give the ‘starts’ some outside time during the day to harden off… they’ll be ready to plant outside by the Victoria Day long weekend
  • herbs: Plant heat-loving seedlings of annual herbs like basil, cilantro, & parsley. Perennial herbs, like chives (blooming now), oregano, rosemary, and thyme find permanent homes in my borders. Take care with mints – they should go into containers to keep them from invading the world.
  • As the potatoes start to grow, ‘hilling up’ (adding extra soil around the stems) will help the plants produce more.
  • Enjoy the fresh rhubarb, but leave a few stems to help the plant feed the roots & produce a bigger crop next year.
  • starts:  Direct seed carrots, leeks, onions, spinach, swiss chard, beets, parsnips, broccoli, radishes, arugula, broad beans, corn salad, kale, chard, oriental greens, and peas outdoors.
gravenstein apple blooms in april garden Victoria BC
photo by SVSeekins


  • It’s best to clean pruners between bushes. Spray with a solution of 10% bleach + water mix. This helps to prevent the spread of diseases through the garden.


  • Forsythia & Other flowering shrubs should be pruned right after flowering so they have the full growing season to prepare for next year’s bloom

    wooly sunflower in bloom, oregon sunshine, Victoria BC garden
    photo by SVSeekins


  • add compost or sea soil to areas of heavy feeding
  • fertilize spring bulbs after bloom so they can soak up nutrient & rebuild the bulbs for next year. Note: Let the leaves (solar panels) continue to grow, helping out with the bulb’s rebuild.

    laburnum tree in bloom, Victoria BC garden
    photo by SVSeekins

Seasonal Color
trees: apples… dogwood… magnolia… chestnuts… laburnum… hawthorn…
shrubs: camelia… heathers… pieris (lily of the valley shrub)… rhododendron & azalea… lilacs… weigelia… california lilac (ceanothus)… wisteria…
perennials: wild violets… trillium… bleeding hearts… erysimum (wall flower)… euphorbia… myosotis (forget me nots)… pulmonaria… vinca (periwinkle)… calla lily… oregon sunshineevergreen clematis & clematis montana… solomon’s seal…
ferns: sword… giant chain… deer… the full gamut…
bulbs: camas… blue bells… alium…

young tree peony in bloom cu, Joe Harvey, Victoria BC
photo by SVSeekins

Planning & Events
Plant sale’s & garden tours abound. Whether I need anything or not, I’m sure to trip over a few.

© SVSeekins, 2014

Apple Hanky Panky

Apple pollination is tricky.

gravenstein apple blooms in april garden Victoria BC
photo by SVSeekins

It’s not the usual introduction of two flowers.   An apple flower needs to hook up with a flower from another tree.

That means a single apple tree in an otherwise empty orchard is doomed.  The tree is not ‘self fertile’.  It needs a pollination partner.  Isn’t that romantic?

gravenstein apple, garden Victoria BC
photo by SVSeekins

But wait — there’s more.  An apple flower needs to hook up with a flower from another apple of a different variety.   

That  means 2 McIntosh trees in an otherwise empty orchard are doomed, too.   (No kissing cousins.)

Luckily the 2 apple trees in our yard are different varieties.

McIntosh and; Gravenstein apple bloom overlapping is rare, garden Victoria BC
photo by SVSeekins

Unfortunately their bloom times don’t always overlap. The Gravenstein (on the right side of photo) is an early bloomer.  The flowers are often so battered by april showers, few are left when the McIntosh (on the left side of photo) blossoms in May.

What chance do they have for setting fruit?

A full crop
photo by SVSeekins

And here’s another twist. Gravensteins are duds when it comes to pollinating other apple trees.

So our McIntosh helps set fruit on the Gravenstein, but it doesn’t get any love in return.  It needs an additional partner.

Seriously?  Do we really need a threesome in our yard ??

Here’s the good news.  It turns out that apples are sometimes open-minded.  When looking for love, they’ve been known to hook up with crabapple.

apple blossoms in May
photo by SVSeekins

The scandal!  Am I prepared for all this complication?  Not sure.

In reviewing the research & looking deeper, I discover there are a few (very few)  exceptions to all this hanky panky.  A Newton Apple is self-fruitful.  Pity there isn’t one in our garden.

I admire a tree that can ‘take care of itself’.

© SVSeekins, 2014

Tree Peony Blooms!

It blooms!  Woo Hoo!!  And just look at how BIG the bloom is!!

young tree peony in bloom cu, Joe Harvey, Victoria BC
photo by SVSeekins

And durable.  This bloom is a week old & has endured rain several times.  Bonus!

I know Peony as an old-fashioned perennial.  There are several in our garden.  But Tree Peony?   Doesn’t the name sound exotic??  They’re a recent discovery for me.

in February 2012 I bought one from Joe Harvey, a local fellow who develops new varieties of peony.  So, this ‘tree’ is still a baby.  I’m impressed it produced a bloom in  its 3rd spring.

Now I’m excited for the future….

How much longer will the bloom last?…   How tall will the ‘tree’ get this year? … Will there be more blooms? … Will the deer leave it alone? (The baby deer are arriving in the garden these days & they’ll usually try a taste of anything.)

So many questions. Always so much to learn.  Isn’t gardening grand?

© SVSeekins, 2014