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May Gardening Tour and Planting Ideas

Are you busy doing chores in the garden too? May gardening season is here so it’s a great time to get tasks done and finish planting before summer arrives.

I’ve been shopping and planting for several weeks now to get my new cottage garden up and running. It seems like every day, I’m adding another item to my gardening to-do list.

And while I’m trying to get my new bed started, I’m discovering plants I’ve never grown before and doing some general garden maintenance here at the new house.

If today is your first time joining me, we moved shortly before the holidays to an 1850 farmhouse on 10 acres from a centerhall colonial that was sited on half.

Though it was smaller, my gardens there were full of flowers and lots of pollinators. To see them, CLICK HERE.

Since this is our first spring here in the new house, I held of gardening everywhere (LOL) until I saw what was already here. To see what the gardens looked like after we moved in, CLICK HERE.

There is so much to see and so much that I’m doing here at the same time!

Wait until you see what I’m working on and all of the changes in my new gardens!

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May Gardening To-Do List

While lots of hardiness zones will vary, in general, here is a list of gardening tasks that you’ll want to accomplish in May.

  • Plant tender annuals, perennials and vegetables after all danger of frost has passed.
  • Water well if the weather isn’t taking care of that for you.
  • Weed the gardens. While I mostly hand pull weeds, I also use THIS and THIS.
  • Deadhead spent flowers.
  • Dig, divide, and transplant perennials. HERE is how and why you should do it.
  • Fertilize roses, annuals and houseplants. I love THIS slow release fertilizer for my annuals and houseplants, and THIS organic fertilizer for my roses.
  • Prune shrubs that need to be cut back after flowering in spring or to control overall size. Follow THESE tips for general pruning practices.
  • If you don’t have one already, turn that compost pile. And if you want to learn how to make your own compost, CLICK HERE.
  • Start a new garden LIKE THIS or do it the EASY WAY.
  • Walk the beds EVERY DAY to evaluate how the plants are doing so you can identify pest and disease problems early.

Wait Until You See the Changes in My New Gardens!

A few weeks ago, I shared a full garden tour on my YouTube Channel HERE. If you want see what it looked like with all the trees blooming in real time, you’ll want to check it out.

For my May gardening tour, I’m going to bring you through all of the beds and share what I’m doing, or not doing in each of them.

Some are undergoing a huge overhaul, while others are just getting weeded. With 10 acres, there’s quite a lot here so it can be overwhelming to think about.

To keep my sanity in check, I am ONLY working on a few beds while maintaining the others.

Come tour the gardens with me.

1850 farmhouse with front porch and spring flowers including ajuga, ranunculas, with hostas and buckeye tree.

The Front Porch Gardens

Since the front porch is what you see when you approach my home, let’s start with the gardens just outside.

In early spring, I planted a bunch of containers here just to get some color going.

They are still doing well and as the beds are filling in, look amazing! This photo was taken about two weeks ago when the trees were still blooming and I love this photo.

Gorgeous container garden with ranunculas and pansies in front of flowering crabapple trees in spring with lenten rose -Gardening 101: Container gardening basics for beginners

There is a carpet of bugleweed in bloom right now surrounding this gorgeous buckeye tree.

In the winter, I thought I wanted to remove the bugleweed because it’s pretty aggressive and doesn’t look all that amazing when it’s not in bloom, but now I’m not sure sure.

But look at that bright purple color!

As an aside, I never grew a buckeye tree before but thought it was super cool that it was planted here because my daughter, Shana, is an Ohio State Buckeye!

Having never grown one before, I had NO IDEA that it bloomed with these beautiful trumpet-like pink fuschia flowers. And the hummingbirds are going crazy for it!!!

I typically don’t set feeders or anything out for hummingbirds to draw them in because I plant so many flowers that they love.

If you want to learn how to garden for hummingbirds, CLICK HERE.

close up of hosta and container garden with ranunculas and pansies near a buckeye tree in front of a front porch with bugleweed flowers

While this front porch garden is looking beautiful, wait until you see the new flower garden I planted just outside the front porch that overlooks the front yard.

Originally, I wanted to plant this bed with all annuals. And I have a lot from the seeds that I started indoors.

However, when we sit on the front porch, I enjoy being able to look out and see the view. Most of the flowers I started from seed are pretty tall, so I decided to pick up a few shortish perennials to help fill in this garden.

front porch gardens with walkway and container garden

I’m still going to plant the very back row with some of my zinnia seed starts and yes they’ll be taller, but I’ll live with it and see what I think.

Because I’m considering what to plant along that stone wall that overlooks the property. I may plant peonies there, but I’m not sure yet.

The perennials and annuals I planted in this garden are:

  • Salvia ‘May Night’
  • Iceland Poppies
  • Echinacea
  • Nepeta ‘Cat’s Meow’
  • Coreopsis
  • Alchemia
  • Superwave Petunia ‘Latte’
  • Snapdragons (different varieties)
  • Larkspur (different varieties)
close up of nepeta 'cat's meow' and salvia 'May night' in front porch garden

The New Cottage Garden

If you saw what this garden looked like before, you know how far it has come. To see what it used to look like, CLICK HERE.

This bed is sited just outside the pool fence and lines the driveway. It was covered in liriope and was not easy to dig out. The total area is roughly 8’x60′ give or take so it was alot to get all of that out.

I’ve been shopping at the local garden nursery almost daily since they started getting plants in this spring. It is such a joy to be there and I think my best days are spent shopping around for plants and coming up with planting ideas.

new cottage garden after planting it with several perennials, annuals and seeds that were started indoors in front of green wood picket fence and solar lights on green posts next to driveway

I’ve slowly been adding vintage pots and garden decor. Speaking of which, don’t you love those harvest baskets?

I wanted to add a little visual interest to break up the green wood picket fence, so I ordered them to not only look pretty, but to also be available for weeding or holding cut flowers as I work in the gardens.

Although the seeds that I started indoors are small, I used these grow through plant supports to help them as they get taller.

Last year, I waited a little too long to set them up. So this year, I got in on the action pretty early because they grow so quickly in spring.

close up of the new cottage garden with white stone planter, green garden fence that is wood picket fence with wicker harvest baskets

Since I know some of you will ask about them, the green garden stakes with the little clay pots on top have a purpose.

They are not just decorative, but I use them for these two reasons as well.

So the next question follows, why use the green garden stakes if you are using grow through support hoops?

And the answer is, the grow through supports that they are supporting are not my favorite ones and were not holding up in some spots on their own. I’m not even linking them because they are terrible and difficult to work with.

close up of iceland poppies and china blue delphiniums in cottage garden in front of green wood picket fence

Use THESE ones instead because they are easier and support plants much better.

Anyway, here is a list of plants in this bed:

  • creeping phlox
  • dianthus
  • sage
  • helianthus ‘Sunbelievable’
  • snapdragons
  • larkspur
  • zinnias
  • hibiscus
  • foxglove digitalis
  • echinacea
  • moonbeam coreopsis
  • nepeta
  • solomon’s seal
  • monarda
  • butterfly weed
  • asters
  • penstemon
  • superwave petunias
  • lantana
  • peonies
  • roses
  • bearded iris
  • daylillies
  • bleeding hearts
  • yarrow
  • heuchera
  • columbine
  • myostotis
  • delphinium
  • iceland poppies
close up of superwave petunias, columbine and other perennials in my new cottage garden

I didn’t plant all of it, but very few plants were here outside of the liriope we removed.

As I’m planting this garden, I’m thinking about what the garden will look like spring through fall because I want a garden that is colorful and everblooming.

Oh and I’m also keeping in mind that we have critters here like deer, rabbits, and groundhogs.

So far, it’s done well and any plants that are susceptible I’m planting within other plants they prefer not to eat. To learn my deer proofing strategies, CLICK HERE and HERE.

close up of foxglove digitalis flowers
Foxglove Digitalis

I think I’ve tried planting foxglove digitalis several times in my former garden and they never reseeded themselves.

Foxgloves are biennial and usually grow foliage the first year, then bloom the second. Thus, most often, we are buying them as second year plants.

However, they are known to be prolific reseeders but I have not had that experience here in my gardening zone 6a New Jersey garden.

Now that I moved, I’m trying again. And next year, I may try starting a variety from seed using the winter sowing method.

That method worked so well with my sweet peas and larkspur. Foxgloves are a good candidate to do it with.

close up of china blue delphiniums in cottage garden
Delphinium ‘China Blue’

The Pond Garden

I have not done much in the pond garden except weed it once. This year, I wasn’t planning to do much here knowing that the new cottage garden would be a lot of work.

But now that it’s spring, I want to plant some flowers here too.

If I get around to it, I will. Otherwise, I’ll wait until the fall and divide some perennials to move over here.

As an aside, there are LOTS of frogs in this pond. They sing a beautiful song and are pretty fun to watch.

I saw THE BIGGEST one last week – I wish I had my phone on me because he is quite a sight!

close up of pond garden with adirondack chairs, footbridge and fountain
frog on a rock in the pond garden

The Formal Garden

The formal garden is beyond beautiful and something I truly appreciate that the former homeowners created.

From the statues and gazebo to the design and upkeep, this is something I only dreamed about! And now, we live here!

Someday I will plant these beds with more flowers, but for now, we’re going to live with it as is and add things over time.

Deer travel through this area so that limits what I would do out here and it’s pretty shaded with all the trees.

Formal garden with gazebo, garden statues, boxwoods, dogwoods blooming, and trees.
close up of garden statue in formal garden by boxwood and blooming dogwood

I want to see how the lonicera does growing up the gazebo. That needs a little more sun than shade so it will be interesting to see if it flowers over time.

The plants are still fairly young so whenever I come out to the gazebo, I wrap the vines around the pillars.

There is also a rose planted here that doesn’t look like it’s doing so well, so I’ll probably dig it out and move it to the cottage garden.

Chris and I come out here on the weekends and sit for a spell with a glass of wine. There are benches that surround the gazebo so it’s fun to sit there and enjoy the garden views.

close up of gazebo with bench seating

The architecture is so cool too, isn’t it?

Not sure if I’ve mentioned this recently, but my husband is an architect so he has a different appreciation for the artistry involved with this structure.

The details on it are so cool too.

close up of garden statue in formal garden with dogwood tree in bloom and pachysandra

The Backyard Garden

The backyard gardens have a lot of specimen plants.

From a weeping european larch to a weeping hemlock, japanese maples with azaleas and rhododendrons, this backyard garden has alot of pretty plants that provide structure and character.

I’m finding so many shrubs and small trees here that I wanted to plant at the other house, but did not have room for.

So it’s a real thrill to have them all here now! And I had no idea what everything was because we saw it in fall when the leaves were dropping.

The backyard gardens are also pretty unique because it has two benches that were sculpted from trees and a beautiful tree sculpture in the shape of koi.

backyard garden with bench sculpted from a tree, japanese maple and azaleas with green fence and wooded forest

As the season progresses, the lenten roses still have blooms but they are fading and getting much larger!

Seriously, I’m in love with this perennial!

And the azaleas look so pretty against the green fence. When we first moved here, I wanted to paint the green fences white down the road, but now that I’m seeing them with everything blooming and leafed out? It’s gorgeous!

So I’m not changing a thing there.

close up of flowering azaleas in pink and red and lenten rose

And while we are over her, isn’t this foliage just gorgeous?

When designing a colorful garden, don’t just look for blooms, look at foliage color.Because foliage does SO MUCH in the garden.

And if you get plants that get amazing fall foliage color? Even better.

close up of japanese maple with chartreuse foliage
close up of azalea blooms with boxwoods and spanish bluebells in garden against green wood fence with lattice

The Zen Garden

And the last garden we are dropping by today is the zen garden. I started adding planters here in early spring and haven’t gotten around to planting more.

It is on my list for next week though, because I want to soften the lines of the hardscaping with more color and flowers.

Originally, I thought I could move a lot of my houseplants out here, but it’s a little too sunny for them.

Small pond garden in the zen garden with japanese maple, sambuca nigra elderberry and blooming azaleas and rhododendrons with garden statue
outdoor planters for spring with ranunculas, pansies and helianthus sunbelievable in zen garden by small pond

So I need to pot up some plants to add more character to the zen garden.

Although I haven’t gotten around to it yet, it still looks amazing!

There are a few bearded and siberian irises blooming and we have a sambuca nigra that’s just about to bloom.

I ALWAYS wanted to plant this shrub in my former garden but just didn’t have the space.

It’s a beautiful plant because the foliage is dark, lacy and adds a lot of texture and dimension around the pond with the japanese maple.

Zen garden with pond garden bearded irises, japanese maple and hardscaping
close up of bearded iris

I plan to work more on the beds back here in the fall when it’s time to dig and divide plants again.

Because I’m doing so much in the new cottage gardens, I don’t have the energy to do it this spring.

So it’s on my list for fall! There’s a huge area that we see from our family room that has almost nothing there. It will look beautiful with divisions from other plants around the property.

close up of the zen garden from above with garden statue and small pond garden

Want to See the Gardens in Real-Time? Watch it on YouTube!

Join me for a walkabout in all of the gardens where we’ll chat about what’s blooming and popping up in my new gardens.

So grab a cup of coffee, tea, or whatever you want, and let’s enjoy a stroll through the beds!

Looking for More Cottage Garden Ideas?

Here are more cottage garden tips, tricks, and inspiration.

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close up of foxgloves for may gardening tour and planting ideas
Planting Ideas and May Garden Tips with close up of nepeta
The prettiest may garden and planting ideas with close up of nepeta and salvia may night

Thank you so much for following along.

Enjoy a beautiful day! xo

Stacy Ling

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