It is spring at last so we have plenty of lovely blooms to chose from and it’s difficult to pick out favourites.
1. Azara microphylla.
My first March plant is a tree that does not have showy flowers; they have no petals and consist of clusters of yellow stamens. They are hidden away in the leaf axils and you could walk past it without noticing it. But it is a winner because of the intense vanilla fragrance of the little yellow flowers which pervades the garden. It is absolutely delicious. Azara microphylla has small glossy leaves arranged in a herringbone pattern and as it is evergreen it always looks good. It comes from Chile so a really hard winter can blacken the leaves but I have it growing against a wall and it always recovers. I think it must be the most pervasively fragrant flower I grow apart from Elaeagnus angustifolia. Some people think it smells of chocolate, others say marzipan. But to me, it is definitely vanilla.
2. Stachyurus praecox.
March is the time for a shrub with dangling strings of primrose- yellow beads on bare branches. Stachyurus praecox comes from Japan, it is a fabulous sight in bloom. I used to have one with variegated leaves called ‘Magpie’. I am sure it had longer racemes too but perhaps this was the impression it gave because it was such a huge bush. It looked good when in leaf as well, I don’t know how readily available it is. My Stachyurus praecox is only two or three years old so I am looking forward to it getting a bit bigger.
3. Cornus mas.
I love the little yellow flowers of Cornus mas at this time of the year, I used to have a huge tree of this which was a wonderful sight against a blue sky. I shall have to be patient to wait for my little tree to be as impressive as that one.
I recently saw a similar tree which was much showier with larger flowers called Cornus officinalis so I think I shall seek this one out for my winter garden.
4. Edgeworthia chrysantha.
All my favourites seem to be yellow so far. I have heard that Edgeworthia chrysantha can be tricky but mine is three years old and is doing very well. This year it is looking wonderful. It has cluster of tubular yellow flowers. They are fragrant but not in the stop -you- in -your -tracks way of Azara microphylla. You have to go and sniff it. The buds are hairy and look as if they are frosted with silver. It can’t take too much frost so I cover it with fleece in winter. It is worth the effort to look after it.
A little more unusual is the green flowered Ribes laurifolium. I love green flowers and this is a gem. It will climb if you give it a climbing frame. It roots easily if you bury part of a branch. The one to look out for is Ribes laurifolium ‘Amy Doncaster’.
Even more unusual is the bright red dangly ear-ring flower of Ribes speciosum which looks as if it a fuchsia. It does better if it has the protection of a wall, I grow it on the front of the house.
I have to include Clematis armandii because it is looking wonderful right now and goodness, how it grows, it is making a great job of covering the unsightly fence and has made its way into a nearby variegated holly too. I like it so much that I recently bought a pink one called ‘Apple Blossom’. But I will have to wait another year or two to get flowers.
As it is spring we have to have some cherry blossom. Prunus ‘Kursar’ makes a neat little tree and has masses of small dark pink flowers. It blooms very early at the beginning of March and has gone over now.
Dear little Prunus incisa ‘Kojo-no-mai’ is a slow-growing shrub which is covered in the most delicate blossom. It comes from the volcanic slopes of Mount Fuji.
For my last three top flowers, it’s a puzzle which to chose from the gallimaufry of little gems that are carpeting the garden right now. Actually, it’s probably impossible to improve on the wild flowers we enjoyed lining the lanes when we were out on our bikes yesterday.
But we gardeners are always searching for some more recherché varieties of plants that really can’t be improved upon. And of course at this time of the year we are starved of colour. Yellow is everywhere but the deep blue of spring flowers is particularly pleasing.
Spring, of course, is the time for pink blossom but there are plenty of pink flowers carpeting the ground.
OK, that was just a little diversion to fit a few more flowers in. For my number eight I have to choose corydalis because it makes carpets in shades of pink and violet in March and then disappears completely. Corydalis solida and Corydalis cava have to be on the list. I started with named ones like red Corydalis ‘George Baker’, pink Corydalis ‘ Beth Evans’, lilac Corydalis cava and creamy Corydalis malkensis. They seed around freely in a rainbow of colours. After flowering they disappear completely.
March of course is daffodil time so we have to feature a few. I love the miniature ones. Little Narcissus cyclamineus is a diminutive gem with a long trumpets and swept back petals. It comes from Portugal and enjoys damp soil. I like it with black grass, Ophiopogon planiscapus ‘Nigrescens’.
Queen Anne’s Double Daffodil, Narcissus Eyestettensis is one of the oldest in cultivation. It likes a cool woodland position so when I have finished enjoying it in the greenhouse this is where it will go.
Narcissus ‘P.W.Milner.’ is another old variety dating back to before 1869.
Here are a few more.
10. Lathyrus vernus.
My last plant is a charming spring-flowering cousin of the climbing sweet pea. It is a perennial and makes a nice dense clump full of flowers.
The pink form is even more floriferous. I have never bothered propagating this plant but this summer I will try sowing some seeds, you can’t have too many of such a pretty plant.
I’m sure you are all relishing some fabulous March flowers now and I would love to see them and I am sure everybody else would too. Please join me and share your favourites, with a link so we can all enjoy them. I shall post my top Ten April Blooms on the 23rd April.