BEST OF BLOSSOM
Our guide to the most beautiful flowering trees
everywhere you look, trees are beginning to erupt with a delicious show of fluttering spring blossom – it’s such a wonderful time of year and even if some flowers are fleeting, they are so very worthwhile. If you were to choose just one blossom tree for your own garden, what would it be? We asked the experts for some prize recommendations.
Magnolias put on an opulent display and expert Jim Gardiner, vice president of the RHS, has chosen 48 for a new grove of them being unveiled this month at Borde Hill Garden (bordehill.co.uk) in Sussex. For a fast-growing round-headed tree, he recommends M. ‘David Clulow’, with large white goblet flowers, flushed pink at the base. Upright-growing ‘Daybreak’ also has distinctive colouration – rose-pink with a hint of green – and its flowers are often late enough to miss the early spring frosts. Another of his recommendations, ‘Daphne’ has eye-catching yellow flowers that come out just before – and then along with – its rich green leaves. Great Comp (greatcompgardens.co.uk) in Kent holds a magnificent collection, too, and garden curator William Dyson singles out the compact-growing M. ‘Heaven Scent’, especially for a small garden, where its
fragrant pink blooms will make a splash of interest in mid- to late spring.
Crab apples are undoubtedly one of the stars of the spring show, their boughs heavy with frothy, candy-coloured blooms. And that’s just the start of their charms. When the fruit comes, many varieties provide a fabulous display of colour that continues from autumn into winter. Malus ‘Evereste’ is a go-to tree for lots of garden designers, including Arne Maynard, Charlotte Harris and Sam Ovens*. “It is small and very beautiful with delicate soft-pink buds opening to fragrant white flowers,” Sam says. Fergus Garrett at Great Dixter (greatdixter.co.uk) favours M. floribunda: “It’s the dreamiest of all; light and airy, with red-blushed pink and white blossom that smothers the tree.” Golden-yellow crab apples follow.
For a small garden, Jim Gardiner suggests columnar M. ‘Adirondack’, with waxy white flowers that open from pink buds. And, if you have space for it, head gardener Tom Coward at Gravetye Manor (gravetyemanor.co.uk) would recommend M. hupehensis, a strong grower with a cloak of white blossom, which can reach ten metres. Top Irish gardener Jimi Blake has trained seedlings of M. sieboldii into a multi-stem in his garden (huntingbrook. com) and loves it for its graceful habit and mass of pale pink flowers opening to white.
Ornamental cherries are very easy to grow and produce blossom in luscious profusion. Bob Mcqueen, horticultural manager at Hillier Nurseries (hillier.co.uk), picks two vase-shaped trees, Prunus ‘Snowgoose’ and P. ‘Sunset Boulevard’, ideal for a smaller space. On the first, the large flowers are almost grey-white; on the second, dark pink in bud, paler in flower. Icing-sugar pink P. sargentii has the bonus of lustrous bark and brilliant autumn colour. Jim Gardiner’s recommendations include the loud and proud bright pink P. ‘Beni-yukata’; along with double, shellpink P. ‘Ichiyo’ and P. incisa ‘The Bride’, which is more dwarf in habit, with white flowers edged by distinctive red anthers.
For something different (seen on page 127), Ed Ikin, head of landscape and horticulture at Wakehurst Place (kew.org/ wakehurst) has two suggestions. First is Chinese Stewartia sinensis – “a strong performer with a shapely habit, large fragrant white flowers and a reptilianlike trunk that shimmers in the rain”. His second pick is the Carolina silverbell, Halesia carolina. “It’s slender, elegant and never overpowers the space it is in,” he says. Exuberant plant hunter Tom Hart Dyke (lullingstonecastle.co.uk) enthuses about Staphylea holocarpa var. rosea,
which he says “bursts out with fluffy, candyfloss pink flowers on spindly naked branches and follows up with bronze young leaves.” While for late flowers, head gardener Neil Miller at Hever Castle (hevercastle.co.uk) recommends underused Japanese snowbell, Styrax japonicus,
with its clusters of creamy white bells.