April showers are on the way, they say. Well, I’ve written enough about our changeable weather over the last few years to know that it could be pouring, boiling hot or snowing in April! So this month instead I thought I would give you a little insight into why I choose some of the spring flowering plants I often use in clients’ gardens.
We’ll start with Amelanchier canadensis, also called the Juneberry, Serviceberry, Currant Tree and a whole host of other names. A member of the rose family native of North America, Amelanchier canadensis is a small tree or shrub with truly year-round interest. In April it will be covered in billowing white blossom, and tiny new leaves which are a beautiful pinky-bronze colour. Later these leaves turn green, then red before falling. The flowers are followed by purple-black edible berries (though I confess I’ve never tried one!) Some books and websites will tell you that the Amelanchier prefers acid soil, but I have found it will grow anywhere, so give it a try.
Next on my list of must-haves is the Hydrangea. I don’t tend to use the common mophead types, except perhaps the white flowered variety Mme. E Mouillere. I prefer the panicle-flowered types like ‘Kyushu’. These can get big, but if you prune them each spring, cutting off the last season’s growth close to a bud, you will get large, creamy-white flowers and a plant which won’t take over the garden.
Other April flowering plants that I love are Brunnera, for its forget-me-not flowers and cream splashed foliage; Camellia for perfect blooms; Ceanothus for a sea of intense (but short-lived) blue flowers. Then there’s Daphne for its sweet, jasmine-like scent; Dicentra spectabilis (also called Lady in the Bath – I’ll explain that one another day) for delicate foliage and flowers and Heuchera, of which there are so many colours it’s amazing.
Helleborus orientalis is another favourite, with its perfect down-turned speckled or ruffled flowers. They are commonly known as Christmas or Lenten roses, although there are few that do actually bloom at Christmas – most flower from January through to Easter. They provide invaluable company for snowdrops when little else is flowering. There are lots of new varieties too; most are pink, purple or white or a combination of these colours, but ‘Yellow Lady’ is, well – yellow – and there is a tough lime green version called Helleborus foetidus, the ‘stinking Hellebore’ – guess why?!
This article originally appeared in the April 2013 issue of Village Breeze magazine.