What’s looking good in the garden in April?
It’s been an interesting month weather wise, starting unseasonably mild and continuing with lots of sunshine but no rain. However, this last week we have seen the return of colder weather with frosts at night. It’s definitely feeling chilly today and as I’m sitting writing this post I have finally succumbed and put my heating back on!
April in the Garden
It’s probably safe to say that April is blossom and tulip month with plenty of both to enjoy throughout the month. Many plants in the garden this year are well forward of their normal flowering period. For example, I planted a lovely Allium ‘Purple Sensation’ in a client’s garden last autumn and the buds have already appeared and look likely to open shortly; its flowering season usually starts in June, so it’s well ahead!
Flowers in April
Lots to enjoy this month, these are some of my personal favourites, that hopefully people will think about taking a second look at! The first one Brunnera ‘Jack Frost’ could fit in both the ‘flowers’ and ‘foliage’ categories this month. I first came across this plant whilst I was working at Cambridge University Botanic Garden. Bruneras are terrific little plants with both lovely blue flowers and striking foliage, which can still be enjoyed when the flowers have faded. They will cope with some shade and also drier soils and the ones I have used in clients gardens are all performing well on both clay and sandy soils.
Magnolias usually flower before the leaves are out but this particular species has flowers that open at the same time as the leaves. Here it’s growing in a pot but I have seen larger ones growing in the garden. It’s also unusual as the buds have a touch of yellow to them which fades to cream as the flowers open. I’m not 100% certain on the species or what cultivar it is but after a bit of research think it might be Magnolia acuminata. The history of yellow Magnolias is fascinating and I have included a link to a great page I came across – Caerhays Estate, St Austell which is well worth reading.
Another favourite of mine is Dicentra spectabilis or Bleeding Heart (now known as Lamprocapnos spectabilis), a real cottage garden plant that has graceful arching stems of flowers, it’s really hard not to love them! I often use them in planting schemes and am actually just about to use Dicentra spectabilis ‘Alba’ the lovely white-flowered form.
My final choice for this month is Lunaria annua (Honesty) probably considered quite a common plant but it does provide not only attractive flowers but of course the distinctive papery seed heads that if left on the plant will last right through the winter and will look wonderful with the frost on them. There is also a lovely white form Lunaria annua var albiflora as well as a variegated white form Lunaria annua abilflora ‘ Alba Variegata’ – if you can get your hands on them – here’s a link to the RHS page which lists suppliers and also a company selling seeds of the white form Chiltern Seeds.
You can also get a perennial form; Lunaria rediviva and here is a link to the RHS page with more information on this plant in case you are interested in finding out more.
Foliage in April
I thought it was worth included a short paragraph on foliage this month as there is some great plants that I think make a real contribution to the garden, albeit this is sometimes for a short period. Some favourites of mine include Euphorbia (definitely looking at their best this month) Pulmonaria (good at the start of the month) and Lamium (common name dead-nettle – good all through this month and beyond).
Scent in April
My first choose this month is Viburnum x burkwoodii, the one below is a mature shrub growing in a client’s garden and was full of wonderfully scented blooms for the first part of the month. It was a real pleasure working near this shrub and hard not to walk past without taking a sniff of the lovely fragrance! It’s evergreen too with lovely dark green leaves; it doesn’t mind a shaded position and will grow in most soil so definitely worth growing.
Another favourite shrub of mine is Syringa vulgaris or Lilac. I always remember that we had a purple one growing in the front garden at home when I was growing up; it had been there a long while and then finally succumbed to the great 1987 storm. I love the scent and the colour (being a bit of a purple fan!) although you can get a white cultivar as well. I also come across a lovely dwarf lilac last year which I have planted in a client’s garden, although it’s not quite in flower yet so I will be including it in my next months ‘looking good’ post.
My final scented choice for this month is Choisya ternata ‘Aztec Pearl’. Choiysa’s in flower are quite a common sight at this time of year but often you will see either the plain green form, Choisya ternata or the yellow-leaved form, Choisya ‘Sundance’. Less common is the cultivar ‘Aztec Pearl’ which I think is a shame as it has the same scent but with much more delicate and finely divided dark green leaves ,which makes it a very attractive choice. Like all Choisya’s its evergreen and doesn’t mind a bit of shade.
There’s a lot to look forward to in May with spring really underway now and personally I am hoping that we have some substantial rain fall as the ground is very dry. I garden on both clay and sandy soil and both are suffering, although in different ways! The trend in recent years seems to be for very dry springs in my part of the country, although this year it’s been combined with a very dry winter, so it’s certainly making gardening both interesting and challenging.
I hope you’ve enjoyed reading my post and feel inspired to get out there in your garden and maybe hunt out some new plants to try growing. Whatever the weather enjoy getting outside and spending time in nature, whether that’s getting your hands in the earth gardening or walking in the woods or down on the beach.