Spring into action!

As the night frost came to pass, I am watching the swelling buds of my spring garden - Magnolia, Witch Hazel, Viburnum among others.


My father planted a Magnolia x soulangiana in our small suburban front garden in the mid-fifties, and there wasn’t a year when as it came into bloom he didn’t say "That was the best 18 bob I ever spent". If you don’t have the space for one of the larger Magnolias there are some smaller beauties, such as the Star magnolia and Magnolia "Heaven Scent". Look out also for Magnolia Wilsonii, as this shy plant carries its flowers in an upside down fashion, this makes viewing the beautiful stamens very easy indeed. I have planted it in too shady a position, so do learn from my mistake!

Magnolia Heaven Scent

Magnolia “Heaven Scent”; £69.99



Now if you are not familiar with the Witch Hazels (Hamamelis) may I suggest you acquaint yourself, because for spring interest, fragrance and excitement they are great value. Most have yellow flowers, although a few are in beautiful shades of orange; they resemble small sea urchins and are carried on naked branches. If possible, plant them with a green backdrop such as a holly or yew hedge, because this way the flowers can be seen to best effect. Consider painting the garden shed if you don’t have a green backdrop! From where I am writing I can see Hamamelis ‘Jelena’ with masses of fragrant orange flowers. You can plant spring flowering bulbs under your Hamamelis, such as orange, yellow and blue crocus or smaller daffodils such as Narcissus ‘Tete-a-Tete’: the result is a delicate spring cameo.

Hamamelis x Intermedia Pallida

Hamamelis x Intermedia "Pallida"; £33.99


"What I love about Corylopsis is the manner in which they gently beckon your attention, more like a whisper than a thunder clap."



Another gem in the spring flowering department is the shrub Corylopsis glabrescens - its charming small limey yellow flowers are carried in abundance and will brighten any corner. Presently it is very happy in my slightly acid soil.

If you cannot locate Corylopsis glabrescens, any Corylopsis will do. What I love about Corylopsis is the manner in which they gently beckon your attention, more like a whisper than a thunder clap. Indeed this can be said for most early flowering trees and shrubs, which is why I enjoy this time of the year in the garden more than any other.

Corylopsis Pauciflora

Corylopsis Pauciflora, £11.99



If value for money is what you are looking for, then Viburnum Tinus is the plant for you.  Viburnum tinus will flower virtually every day of the year and the flowers are followed by shiny petrol blue berries and the foliage isn’t bad either. I have a huge one here and won’t be reducing it in size any time soon.  Another Viburnum for early interest is Viburnum x bodnantense, an upright deciduous shrub the sweetly fragrant pinky flowers this one is worthy of a space in every garden.

Viburnum Tinus

Viburnum Tinus; £8.29


Note on the author: From training at the London Kew Gardens, sojourning at the Jerusalem Botanical Gardens to collecting specimens in Ecuador - Brendan Little's horticultural expertise spans multiple regions. As regular contributor to BBC Radio Ulster’s "Gardeners' Corner", he has also found time to share his gardening knowledge - and passion - with a wider audience. Brendan has a  Facebook page where he posts gardening tips and gardening course updates - check it out! 

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