At the risk of sounding predictable and cliched Spring is my favourite season. Especially when one has grown weary of the short Winters days and arriving home to inky dark skies. Nothing delights and fits me more than the first spring shoots of bulbs beginning to peak through the crusty soil and gently ripen to cheery colours. I get giddy walking under the low branches of trees in my neighbourhood as I watch them swell and bulge and as the weeks progress split and burst into life. And those fresh greens, the first leaves of Birch look good enough to scoop up and make a salad with, the sticky buds of Horse Chestnut unfold like a ballerina. The joy of Spring planting is the awakening, the slow acrobatics unfurling of new foliage as and buds scales give ways to soft tiny leaves and bulbs shoots ripen to cheery colours. And the promise of longer days ahead of course.
Starting from the ground, I love getting out for Woodland hikes in this time of year and searching out some of our native spring flowers; Violets (Viola hirta), Primroses (Primula vulgaris), Wild Garlic (Allium ursinum) and Anemone (Anemone nemerosa) that peak their heads out and get a head start on the trees that tower above. These natives will also do very well in our more tamed urban gardens and will self-seed and regenerate year after year.
The ubiquitous Daffodil; I would always recommend sowing in a mix varieties ( at least 3 differnnt types). That way you can enjoy a prolonged flowering season, the dwarf Narcissus ‘Tete a tete’ is strong performer and belongs towards the edges of a drift. I am very partial to the double flowering and white varieties. A mix of Daff’s, Aliium, Tulips and Camassias sown through your lawn will provide constant colour from March to late May and save you a of grass cutting.
Hellebore (Helleborus orientale) is terrific plant for any small gardens, the creamy green flowers hang elegantly for months over the clumps of chestnut like leafs, ‘Burgundy’ is a very striking variety. The Hellebore is more than happy in the shadier corners of your garden, mix it up with some Brunnera macrophylla for their frosty white leaves and some Ferns (Polystichum or Asplenium) to enjoy their uncurling fronds.
The Lilac (Syringa vulgaris) is a short lived but always unforgetable spray of colour which can work well in deep corner of garden. There are some great varieties of Californian Lilacs (Ceanothus) to offer us splashes of blue and their sweet sugary perfume, but they are a little tender not suit more inland locations. Viburnum tinus ‘Eve Price’ can make a tidy little hedge under a window sill and produces spray of tiny white flowers all the way to April. For a patio or balcony pot near your living room window Camelias will dazzle with their Rose like flowers.
For our Cairn front gardens we always plant a wide selection of small spring blossoming trees, what greater joy than the bold Magnolia flowers perched on the leafless branches (Magnolia ‘Kobus and ‘Stellata’ are solid varieties). Amelanchiers and Viburnum lantana also put on a good show. The Pear tree (Pyrus calleryana ‘Chanticleer’) is ideal for an urban garden and by the times it flowers n late April you know Summer is just around the corner.
Farmleigh Estate is a great place to visit any time of year, but especially form mid-March to April when you can admire the lovely bulb drifts in the gardens behind the main house.