If I had to pick a favorite month as a gardener, it would be May. It is the time of year when our world in the Pacific Northwest is bursting with buds; fat, round, enthusiastic flowers in waiting. Their breaking into bloom is the signal to dust off spirts suffocated by winter coats and open our arms to the world. It would be fair to argue that April, also part of spring does the same spring dance, but it is a little warmer in the fifth month of the year and the trees are leafed out in that lovely calming green. The promise of the season is being realized.
All of this horticultural bounty is tended by the goddess the ancient Greeks called Maia and after whom the month of May is named. Her being is associated particularly with flowers and increase. In Old English, May is known as the ‘month of three milkings.’ It refers to a time when the cows could be milked three times a day instead of only two, a reflection of the growing bounty available to the bovines.
Maia has certainly blessed the Dunn. But, for some reason, and as someone who is admittedly biased, I believe the garden’s May burst is particularly fine this year. The current rhododendrons in bloom will make your jaw go slack; Unique Marmalade, Augustinii and Seaview Sunset are glorious. They are not alone. Pacific Coast Iris hybrids on the Great Lawn and the false Solomon Seal displays (Maianthemum racemosum) are lovely. The magnolias, particularly Magnolia Genii deserve applause as do most varieties of azalea. It is a veritable feast.
Lily of the Valley (Convallaria majalis) is the flower of May and we can show them off too. Also known as the May lily it means, ‘return to happiness’ and that seems to sum it up nicely. Lily of the Valley is believed to protect gardens from evil spirits and, as the tiny bells are cups for fairies, to bring in the wee folk as well. In Holland the flower is sometimes planted in the garden of newlyweds as a symbol of renewing love. At the Dunn we just like looking at it.
Besides being a prime month for watching new life among the garden plants, May comes with other interesting observances. National Bike Month, is one of them. Primary, of course, is Mother’s Day. In 2017 I took a survey of flowers that the staff associated with their mothers and turned it into a blog. https://dunngardens.org/blog/mothers-day-flowers. (Mine was hydrangeas; not a May bloomer in my native New Zealand when it is fall.) It is a lovely ritual to go through, particularly when your mother is no longer living.
So, May is worth the time, in general, as the portal to summer. I would like to suggest it will also be worth your time to visit the Dunn during the month and there are plenty of opportunities to do so. Members can wander with three friends on Tuesday or Friday, anyone can take a tour, or come to the Stroll on Sunday between 1 and 3 pm. Better yet, in recognition of National Bike Month, visitors can ride their bikes to the garden for any of those events.
One last thing. If you would like to tell us your favorite May flower we’d love to hear what it is and if there is a memory attached we’d love the story that goes with it.