Tuesday, 10 May 2011

Ne're cast a clout til may be out

Don't worry the title is not a typo, it is a lovely old English proverb which is now recited in a slightly more modern way, "Don't cast a clout til may is out". Perhaps I also need to explain that a clout is a piece of clothing! Us Brits do have some very odd words, I know.

 For many years I thought that this saying referred to the month of May. It is warning us to be aware not to taken in by the occasional early warmth of spring; there could still be cold weather or frosts until the end of May. In other words keep your winter clothes to hand!  Recently though I was made aware that this old saying can actually be taken another way and the "May" could actually mean the may (flower) of the hawthorn tree. Hawthorns are seen in abundance in our hedgerows. That would change the meaning of this old proverb to the need to be aware of a cold snap until the may flowers are in bloom.

Well this year here in Surrey the may was in full blossom at Easter, so still in April.  This photo on the left was taken over the Easter weekend. The hedgerows were thick with lovely may blossom. The exceptional April weather we have had has brought everything on so fast.

This early growth has been remarkable in my own tiny, very sheltered back garden. I have foxgloves in full flower which I do not normally see until mid June. I have grown them for nearly 30 years and they always self seed and form lovely clumps in different parts of my garden.

I can remember my childrens' christenings in June 1986 and 1989 and the foxgloves (digitalis) were a feature in the background of the parties we were able to hold in the sunshine in our garden.

On the right is a photo taken last weekend.
I am quite astonished to see them so early this year, particularly after the savage winter we had.

I have them in shades of dark pink,


and pale pink.
I love their stripey throats which keep attracting the bees all day long. I am also fascinated how useful this plant still is to modern medicine. Digoxin, which is used to treat heart irregularities is still produced from this wonderful plant.

In the sunshine whilst I was taking these photo I spied someone sleeping behind my hosta pot

You can't see anyone until I zoom in behind...
Just look who I found.....

my darling pink nosed Billy, fast asleep and covered in soil and quite oblivious to all that was going on around him! This is one of his favourite sleeping places in our garden. The only trouble is that he is so well hidden that sometimes, when watering my pots, I forget he is there. He often jumps out, shaking water drops from his coat!

My garden is really coming along and I recently bought some bedding plants which will be potted up very soon.

Amongst my purchases is a new black petunia, it is the first true black to be grown commercially. I will watch it with interest this summer.

So whether the correct meaning for the old proverb, "Ne're cast a clout til May be out" is the month of May or the may (flower) I have cast a clout already and my garden is looking more summery every single day. This glorious weather still continues and this afternoon it reached 28oc in my sheltered back garden. It appears to be summer in spring!

The joys of nature (and the weather). Billy and I are so enjoying our garden. I hope you have lots of signs of spring in your gardens too.

Bye for now,

Jane x


  1. Hello, Jane! Of course, I was hoping to catch a glimpse of Billy, and his little pink nose! He looks so content to be snoozing among the flowers. As always I enjoy seeing the posts from your garden, and I realize I haven't posted any flower pics that I hinted I might...Will you take a "raincheck?"
    Love that the foxgloves choose where they'll settle for the season! We have similarly minded California poppies that self sow in our yard every year- and I noticed this year some others around the neighborhood! "Passive guerrilla gardeners," we garden whichever way the wind blows!
    Have a beautiful week! :o)

  2. Jane what a lovely post, and I learned something too. Love the saying and all it's possible meanings. Your Billy is so sweet. We had a kitty named billy when the kids were growing up. He was a good cat also, but black and white, with a pink nose and white whiskers. Quite pretty. Love the foxgloves in your garden and so many colors. I could never grow them well but spent a lot of money trying. So terrific you are having nice weather, we are too! Have a great week and enjoy the sun. xoRobin❤

  3. Dear Jane,

    Thank you again showing your beautiful garden with all the pinks (my favorites, including the little nose). My garden is quite spare still :) but soon...I have been knitting in there, though, so I'll show you those "flowers" soon, color is a color when needed, right?

    Have a wonderful week and many, many sunny moments with that pretty pink-nosed boy!


  4. Wow, your Foxgloves are gorgeous! I should plant some as they like forested places, I think. How fun to see Billy sleeping outside. Our kitty cannot go outside as we have wild beasties that kill kitties such as fox, coyote, raccoon and raptors. So, our poor kitty cannot go out in the flowers to nap. Hugs, Teresa

  5. Good morning ladies, good to see you all here!

    Michele, our dear Billy likes nothing better than a snooze in the garden amongst the flowers,I shall have to take a "raincheck" and see what you come up with on your blog. Have a great week too,
    Jane x


    Billy is a very sweet cat Robin, such a gentle boy. Your Billy sounded a sweetie too, it must be something to do with the name! I am so glad you are also sharing the sunshine too,
    Jane x


    I knew that all the pinks in my post would make you smile Mia, especially Billy!Enjoy knitting in your garden, you must feel like a bird set free at the moment, enjoy :0)
    Jane x

    I am quite suprised how well my foxgloves grow Teresa as the area they seem to thrive in is south facing and quite dry! Yes usually they are very much a wood/shade plant. It just shows you need to grow what your garden will grow not what you want it to!Gosh you have some beasts around...luckily the worse we have are foxes and they don't seem to bother the cats around here thank goodness,
    Jane x

  6. Hello Jane and Billy! I love your pink nose as well and the way how you can curl for your nap! Just be careful about the shower - if you don't like it as our Nelli! Ok she doesn't really have a bath but she enjoyes to walk there and drink from the floor.
    Jane you have so lovely garden with amazing flowers!
    Enjoy your sunny garden days!
    xxx Teje

  7. Billy sends big purr to you Teje and your sweet pets. He really does hate water, he even comes in when it rains!
    Jane x

  8. Hello Jane - I remember puzzling about which kind of May this saying meant! (In the days when we didn't have summer in April!) I love garden lore and have collected lots of sayings over the years, some of which I've stitched into garden samplers. Your foxgloves are absolutely amazing! Mine are still in bud, it's so early to have such full bloominng ones - they do look gorgeous in your garden - and they must love the soil to keep self seeding like that. Hope you're having a great week.
    Helen x

  9. Well Helen you were more clued up then me as I didn't know of the may flower until I was grown up-LOL! My foxgloves are really amazing and as I said so suprising as they have chosen the hottest part of my garden and love it!Have a sunny week,
    Jane x


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Jane x