Wonderful warm sunshine has opened the furry buds of Magnolia stellata astonishingly quickly. It is always a worry when the snow white, starry flowers open in March as the first night of frost will turn them brown. But right now they are beautiful, and as with all fleeting blooms I’m relishing them in their brief moment of perfection. This little shrub is slow-growing but unlike many magnolias it starts blooming when young. It comes from just one mountain area in north -east Japan. I think it looks lovely underplanted with sky-blue Anemone blanda, but mine have yet to make a carpet.
Even more beautiful in my eyes is Magnolia loebneri ‘Leonard Messel’ which has Magnolia stellata ‘Rosea’ as one of its parents. You can see this in the strappy petals.
Whereas Magnolia stellata has made a modest-sized shrub in my garden, after ten years, ‘Leonard Messel’ is a good-sized tree. The buds seem to open astonishingly quickly and yesterday, the delicate pink flowers looked magical against the blue sky. ‘Leonard Messel’ is supposed to be more tolerant of lime in the soil than many magnolias, although having said that, I grow more than ten different magnolias and they all do very well despite not having an acid soil.
The wine-red flowers of the chocolate vine, Akebia quinata are yet to open, but I think Akebia quinata ‘White Form’ is even prettier and it blooms earlier and looks lovely right now. The creamy-white flowers have striking purple centres and they are deliciously scented. Akebia quinata is a climber which needs quite a lot of space as it grows quickly.
I have mixed feelings about the ubiquitous pink flowering currant. I do not object to it on the grounds of its smell as some people do, in fact it is one of those smells which gives me Proustian moments and takes me straight back to my childhood garden. But pink flowering currant is a bit of a horticultural cliché. The white form called Ribes sanguineum ‘White Icicle’ is somehow much more refined. It starts blooming earlier too and has been going strong for ages now. Whilst it is still looking good I think it deserves to feature in my Six on Saturday. Next to it is the pink pussy willow, Salix gracilistyla ‘Mount Aso’. The bright pink catkins have now turned to grey.
Another March favourite is Stachyurus praecox. This shrub doesn’t grow very quickly in my garden. I think it would prefer a more acid soil than I can provide. But still it is healthy enough and delights me each year with the strings of yellow beads hanging from the bare branches. This is a photo from last year as the one I took yesterday is out of focus. I could take another but the sun is calling me and I can’t keep out of the garden one more minute.
At ground level, there are more and more spring treasures opening every day. My first Pasque flower, Pulsatilla vulgaris is blooming now. This is a pretty pink one with large flowers called ‘Rosen Glochen’ which means pink bells. In the wild, Pasque flowers like limestone meadows; the nearest native ones here are in Cambridgeshire, but it is very obliging and does well for me. I have it in several colours and soon I will have the lovely fringed form ‘Papageno’ in bloom. This pink one is always the first to open in my garden.
Lathyrus vernus. ‘Alba- roseus’ is a small, compact, bushy, vetch-like plant with sweet pea -type flowers in two-tone candy-floss pink. It seeds about gently and looks lovely with primroses and pulmonarias. The purple Lathyrus vernus seeds about more prolifically but it blooms later and is still just in bud.
I really haven’t a minute more to spare for this post as the sun is calling most tantalisingly and the garden awaits. So without more ado, I will thank our host, the Propagator and remind you to visit him and his ever-growing team of Six on Saturday enthusiasts. And I will leave you with a gallery of just a few of the flowers that didn’t make Six on Saturday this week but are very beautiful.