As we write, the high winds are just hitting the Tamar Valley, on the border of Devon and Cornwall, and the whole of the South West. Up until now we have had the most tremendous Spring blossom as the sustained dry weather has protected the dazzling colours and a period of relative cold has enabled the blossom to emerge slowly.
We have a very small garden of our own and have managed to make room for an Acer Palmatum for Spring and Autumn leaf colour, a red Hawthorn (Crategus oxyacanthoides) for its beautiful blossom, an Apple for blossom and fruit (sp. James Greaves), a Lilac for colour and fragrance and a Wisteria which is verging on tree size and is just stunning.
The Apple, Lilac and Wisteria are so highly scented and good for pollinators and all manner of insects. They provide the perfect colourful backdrop to the bulbs out at this time of year, like tulips, and really mark an end to Winter as the evenings lengthen.
Of course the traditional May blossom, Hawthorn (Crategus monogyna) which always follows on from the stunning Blackthorn (Prunus spinosa) is late this year. Nature has a way of providing us with a seamless array of blossom. Just as the Camellias are going over; the Rhododendrons appear. The Horse chestnut (Aesculus hippocastanum) comes into bud just as the Cherry (Prunus sp) is fading. With a little bit of planning, there can always be a tree or hedge of interest, right through the Spring.
I almost enjoy the point at which the blossom is about to come out just as much as the actual flowers. The tight pinky red buds of the Apple, before they open to the delicate pink/ white petals, herald the promise of Spring and the Summer beckoning beyond. The beautifully spaced and upright candles of the Horse chestnut (Aesculus hippocastanum) are just waiting for their bright lights to be switched on. Indeed, although not a native species, this is Mrs Chadwick’s favourite tree and very common in leafy Warwickshire where she comes from. Sadly we don’t have space for one in our garden and many are beset by the pest of leaf minor.
In a small garden, every plant and tree really has to earn its place. Magnolias and Cherries have had a brilliant season this year but all too often their wondrous colours can be damaged by frosts, rain and winds. Amalanchier lamarckii is a favourite alternative I often recommend to clients, since the white blossom is much more hardy as the tree originates from the foothills of the Himalayas. Rowan (Sorbus), Crab Apple (Malus sylvestris), Cockspur Thorn (a relation of the Hawthorn), Eucryphia nymansensis, Pear (Pyrus) and Plum (Prunus) are also good choices as they flower slightly later; by which time the frosts and storms may have passed.