As a young girl growing up in Bannockburn my grandparents often used this phrase and I wondered if it referred to the month of May or the flowering of the May-blossom or Hawthorn.
Either way, what it really means is ‘beware as the weather is often fickle at this time of year’. A hot day with no clouds in the sky at sunset usually precedes a cold, possibly frosty night and two dry sunny days can be followed by rainstorms and almost wintry winds. But at least there are no midges yet – the bane of outdoor life in Scotland’s summer.
Riot of colour
Every year May takes me by surprise. The month always starts with small patches of green beginning to show here and there and before you know it the landscape has turned into almost full-on Summer. Trees in full leaf, draped in the freshest shades of green, cast shade from the warming sun, cherry blossom has been and gone and there are bluebells and rhododendrons everywhere causing a riot of colour in our gardens and woodlands and I love it.
A couple of years ago we were given a few clumps of irises to grow at the house. This year they have been absolutely spectacular and the south-facing border where they are growing is completely awash with the elegant purple flowers.
A peculiar but fascinating plant
The other day my eye was drawn to an unusual white, spiky plant. What could it be? It had a slender, short stem, a large rosette of leaves at the base and a punk-style prickly head. It took me a few seconds to realise that I was looking at a ‘dandelion clock’ that had been drenched by recent rainfall. All the fluffy bits of the seed head had stuck together into soggy lumps and it would be some hours before the precious cargo would be able to float away on the breeze.
Dandelion seeds are dispersed by the wind and to make sure at least some of them land in a suitable growing place, the plant has to produce lots of seeds. The iconic seed head can contain anything from 150-200 seeds per flower – no wonder it is such a successful plant!
Our ancestors looked on dandelions as a green first-aid kit as they can have many medicinal uses and all parts of the plant are full of vitamins and minerals. It is also a really valuable species as a good early source of nectar and pollen for insects so worth tolerating where possible, after all, not many plants symbolize the sun (its golden flower), the moon (the puffy white seed) and the stars (when the seeds blow to the winds).
Orchard in bloom
Our new orchard is in full bloom and we may even let a few apples ripen this year, though the trees are still a bit young. It has been satisfying to see that all the trees we planted have survived and seem to be thriving. Very soon the lush grass will be almost as tall as the small trees so we will have to set to work, cutting back and clearing the immediate vicinity of each tree. For the time being the long grass helps to keep the soil moist in the dry east winds and it creates beautiful ripples as the wind passes overhead.
I think this will become a very beautiful part of the gardens as it matures partly because it is relatively unspoilt but mainly because it has the wonderful backdrop of the Doo’cot and the Ochil Hills – a stunning combination.