The flowering cherries and crab apples are at their very best now. It is an ideal time to see the wide range of small flowering trees available, too many gardens have unsuitably large trees planted resulting in ugly pruning having to take place. Garden centres have limited ranges of trees available so now is the time to visit gardens that are open to the public to see the trees in full flower and then order bare root trees to plant in the autumn, cheaper and much better range from specialist nurseries. Check the National Garden’s Scheme website, interesting gardens, great cake and you are supporting a wide range of charities.
I am not a fan of Prunus Kanzan with its blowsy over the top pink flowers, happy to see it in other places but would rather have Prunus sargentii with soft pink flowers and wonderful autumn colour, or the fastigiate Prunus Snow Goose with white flowers and taking up very little space. My two favourite crab apples are Malus ‘Red Sentinel’, covered with small red apples which last, in my garden, until the Fieldfares come to feast on them and P Golden Hornet with reasonably sized golden yellow crab apples which can be used for jelly.
I dislike weeding and have banned hoes from my flower garden so I need to grow plants which cover the ground thickly, especially those with interesting foliage. There is a wide range of spring flowering plants which fit the bill. Many of these are shade lovers and will grow happily under trees and shrubs. There have been several plant breeders working on the varieties of Brunnera macrophylla available. These have large leaves often beautifully marked with silver and with flowers like forget-me knots in April. B. ‘Jack Frost’ has silvery foliage and blue flowers, B. ’ Mr Morse’ has white flowers and one I use a lot is B. ‘Betty Bowering’ which has plain green leaves and white flowers and spreads well.
Pulmonarias are another range of shade loving spring flowering plants with interesting foliage, many of which are evergreen. P ‘Blue Ensign’ has plain green leaves and almost navy-blue flowers. Another good form is P ‘Cotton Cool’ which has almost silver leaves and has flowers which open pink and fade to blue. I am especially fond of P ‘Stillingfleet Meg’, named here after my eldest daughter which has rosy pink flowers. They are called Pulmonaria because the spotted leaves were thought to look like diseased lungs and used to treat lung illnesses, sadly ineffectual, but still given the common name lungwort.
Warm enough to start lettuce outside, plant early potatoes especially if fleeced and beetroot and parsnip can be sown outside, and then it is a busy time for all seed sowing so good luck and we hope for warm days.