A joy to behold in early spring, spiraea produces masses of wonderful arching sprays of tiny white flowers. One of the earliest to flower is the beautiful bridal wreath. Prunifolia produces prolific double white flowers, the foliage changing to a stunning bright red in the autumn. Snowmound is another striking variety with dense clusters of white hawthorn-like flowers. Plant it in a sunny border or partial shade. They are hardy, easy to grow and develop quickly. Prune spring-flowering spiraea after flowering. There are many other varieties of spiraea. Summer-flowering ones have red, orange or pink flowers, some with variegated leaves.
Gleaming forsythia with its clusters of bright yellow flowers give splendour to a spring day. It is tough, versatile, deciduous and hardy. Grow it as a large and spreading shrub or train it as a climber. Luckily, forsythia will thrive in poor conditions and can be planted in sun or partial shade. However, if you mulch it annually, trim it after flowering and water it during dry spells it will reward you with more density and a greater profusion of flowers. There are many varieties. They all flower in abundance on bare stems, producing fantastic displays. Lynwood has rich yellow flowers or try Spectabilis, with flowers up to 4cms. Suspensa is a large shrub with paler flowers.
Pieris is an evergreen shrub which carries sprays of white or cream bell-shaped flowers. Flourishing in acid or neutral soil, it also grows well in a container of ericaceous compost. It likes a little shade to prevent scorching the new shoots and some shelter from late frosts. Japonica forrestii Forest Flame has glossy, red leaves which turn pink or creamy white then dark green. In late spring clusters of ivory, nodding bell-like flowers resembling lily of the valley appear. Pieris japonica has cascading white, pink or red flowers. Its leaves vary from bronze to brilliant pink or scarlet. The flower buds develop in late autumn, covering the plant until they bloom in early spring.
Ceanothus gives a dazzling display of deep blue flowers. It is generally frost hardy, can be deciduous or evergreen, a shrub or a small tree. Once it is established avoid pruning. Trim young plants to keep them bushy, pinching out the soft young shoots in spring but don’t cut into any wood older than one year as the stumps may not re-grow. Ceanothus tends to grow quickly and die young with a lifespan of 10 to 15 years. A good choice is Puget Blue which is a stunning sight. Dark Star, Skylark and Concha are also a magnificent dark blue. Or try Victoria which is covered in mid-blue flowers.
Jobs for April & May
- Start feeding your roses regularly from April when the pruning has been completed.
- Keep deadheading winter-flowering pansies to encourage further flowers.
- Cut back penstemons just above fresh, new shoots.
- Prune honeysuckle, jasmine and early flowering clematis to repair winter damage and improve the shape.
- From late April plant summer-flowering bulbs: brodiaea, eucomis, galtonia, sparaxis, tigridia and tritonia.
- Remove daffodil and tulip flowers as they fade, taking off the head and seed pod.
- Plant ground cover and edging plants such as aubrietia, violas, hardy geraniums, dwarf lavender, rosemary, sage or thyme.
- In early May, plant begonias, canna, crocosmia, dahlias, gladiolus, lilies and nerine for summer flowering.
- Plant perennials such as phlox, delphiniums, euphorbias, helianthus, sedum and foxgloves.
- At the end of May plant out your summer bedding plants, fuchsias, geraniums, petunias, begonias and lobelia in tubs, troughs, borders and baskets.