Bright sunny days with surprisingly chilly winds and cool nights are usually a feature of April’s weather and this year it is true to form.
Cold winds can damage newly emerged leaves and blossoms. The early spring garden has already produced a dazzling array of colour and some summer flowering shrubs are in bloom – weeks early!
Mexican orange, Ceanothus and Broom crept into flower with the bright yellow Forsythia and Camellias displaying soft pink (or) white blooms; this makes a rare and varied combination of spring flowering plants – all out unusually at the same time. Mexican orange, seen in parks, gardens and open spaces, is hardy, evergreen and needs little attention. White scented flowers appear as early as March, coming back several times throughout the year. Ceanothus has deep green leaves and clusters of shimmering blue flowers. Some varieties bloom in late summer and early autumn such as C. ‘Autumnal Blue’. Broom usually starts flowering in April – with long arching stems it makes an untidy shrub; but clusters of large yellow perfumed flowers – beloved by bees make it worth growing. Broom can take over if not kept under control; black seed pods about 1 ½ inches long are produced, which pop open in the sun scattering seeds over a wide area.
Wisteria and Lilac are two stunning May flowering shrubs – this year they were in full bloom by the first week in April. Wisteria forms curling stems – these mature into woody trunks and branches that can be trained along walls and are often seen covering the front of houses. Before the leaves appear – Wisteria is clothed in bunches of fragrant purple or white flowers.
Even without a garden it’s possible to grow crops of tasty fruits, vegetables and herbs. Tomatoes, salad leaves, sweet peppers and chilli peppers will grow happily in containers either on a balcony, patio or in a window box; there are dwarf varieties such as ‘Tumbler’ cherry tomatoes, Bell Peppers and hot Peppers. They need rich compost such as ‘Jack’s Magic’; watered well (twice a day) in hot weather and given a weekly liquid feed – the results can be spectacular. Adding herb plants such as Basil, Parsley and Oregano will give you ingredients to make lively salads and sauces. And for dessert – Strawberries grown in hanging baskets and Blueberries are happy in pots of ericaceous compost.