Which flowers are the signs of spring in your garden?
Whatever your favourite spring flower, make room in your garden for these six harbingers of the new season.
The deciduous forms of these shrubs are at the top of the list for sheer spring beauty and ease of growth. Unfussy to the point of enjoying neglect, they can be grown as backdrop shrubs rather than needing to be front of house, provided they see some sun through the winter.
Viburnum x carlcephalum emits a spicy fragrance from its flowers and the showy snowball bush, Viburnum opulus 'Sterile', is a great favourite with florists who use the young, soft green flowerheads in their spring bouquets.
Magnolia are always associated with this time of the year. Magnolias tend to have only one flower at the end of each stem, but what a flower it is and these showstoppers make ideal specimen trees in a garden. Many, such as Magnolia denudata, Magnolia 'Manchu Fan' and Magnolia 'Caerhays Belle', have strongly scented flowers too.
Michelias are the kind of plants that surprise you. From a tidy evergreen shrub (Michelia figo makes a lovely hedge) the explosion of beautifully scented flowers transforms it into a real show stopper.
And the tree form, Michelia doltsopa, is a favourite specimen in warmer areas of New Zealand. Or grow the less showy Michelia figo just to smell the strong banana/bubblegum scent of its unremarkable flowers!
Wisterias tend to be showstoppers and require space to climb around structures or fences as they flower best on lateral growth.
The cascades of flowers are usually blue or white and look romantic around vintage houses and pergolas.
5. Californian lilac
The Californian lilac (ceanothus) is a lovely bold addition to drier parts of the garden and smothers itself in deep blue flowers in spring.
The dwarf spreading forms, such as Ceanothus 'Yankee Point', have nice foliage and blend with other spring blues such as early-flowering lavender and some hebe bushes.
Rhododendrons are at their showy peak in spring. Their flowers are a stand-out and work best planted in groups.
Plant the thrips-resistant Rhododendron maddenii for its big, scented white trumpet flowers, but many of the hybrids offer a bigger colour range.
Rhododendron 'Van Nes Sensation' has a lovely blue-pink flower, Rhododendron 'Fastuosum Flore Pleno' is a great purple-blue and you can't go past the deep red of Rhododendron 'Rubicon'. Soft tones are provided by Rhododendron 'Unique' (cream), 'Jingle Bells' (soft apricot and red) and 'Countess of Haddington' (soft pink).
- NZ Gardener