PRING never lets you down. Ever year, no matter how harsh the winter has been, it eventually gives over to a time of exuberant flowering. It doesn’t matter what your own garden looks like, especially if you haven’t had a chance to get out yet, our green and pleasant land will soon start to sparkle.
One of the first places this happens is trees – stems and branches that have been grey for months suddenly burst forth with magical profusions of colour.
Trees are good for us – they clean the air, produce oxygen and then provide the joy of colour, none more so than the spring flowering trees. Over the next two months cherry, plum and apple trees will put on their annual show. In Japan, this season is celebrated every year with the Hanami festival – people picnic under the blossom trees and spend time with family admiring nature at its best.
It is one of nature’s events that can be all too fleeting so it’s good to take time out to enjoy the blossoms. Visit your local park or walk around the neighbourhood over the next month so you can enjoy them before they are gone.
Better still, plant one in your own garden.
The flowering cherries are vast in variety but it’s best to choose wisely for the average-sized garden as some need a lot of space with their broad canopies.
Prunus ‘Little Pink Perfection’ is a gorgeous dwarf cherry with showy pink blossoms and would be happy in a container. ‘Amanogawa’ is the slim upright version – not to everyone’s taste but fantastic in limited space. For an elegant weeping version for a small space, Cheal’s weeping cherry is good.
In May our hedgerows will be replete with white flowering hawthorn. There’s a lovely cultivated version called Paul’s Scarlet which has pretty reddish pink double blossoms and forms a neat rounded tree, ideal in a lawn or front garden.
The brilliant thing about the crataegus genus is that they will grow in most soils, aspects and in sun or shade, by the sea or the inner city.
The snowy mespilus, Amelanchier lamarckii Ballerina, is either grown as a small tree or a multi-stemmed shrub.
Either way, it’s an elegant specimen with lots of large white flowers in spring and grows to around 4.5m. It also earns its keep by putting on a vibrant autumnal display It prefers neutral to acidic soil. Prunus mume Beni-chidori is the Japanese apricot and it’s a delightful early performer with deep pink almond-scented flowers on bare stems. However, the harsh temperatures and frosts this year will have been tough for it so it’s best planted with a little bit of shelter. I’ve been checking the grey hairy buds of my magnolia Leonard Messel – they don’t look damaged and I can’t wait for their fabulous display. This variety is excellent because it is less affected by frost damage than other magnolias and remains a compact overall size. Its flowers are large, pink and scented, making this a magnolia of beauty. I’m also looking forward to seeing how the fairy magnolia does this spring as I only planted it last year. This is a new introduction, an evergreen shrub with lots of buds along the stems, making it an extremely free flowering variety. Finally, crab apples are one of the best trees for small gardens, providing good all-year-round interest in blossom and fruit. They don’t cast too much shade and are good for wildlife.
Favourites here include ‘Evereste’ which has white flowers followed by orange fruit that can stay on the tree until December, and ‘Rudolphe’ which has rosy pink flowers paired with juvenile purple foliage.
Brogdale, home of the national fruit tree collection in Faversham, Kent, celebrates Hanami in April, inviting you to picnic and tour the orchards. If you visit on April 14 you can enjoy a full Japanese experience.
It will be showcasing Japanese cultural demos including drumming and sword displays and a Japanese tea ceremony. Guests can try calligraphy and origami, tour the orchards and buy Japanese food.