Now the clocks have gone forward, we can look forward to warmer weather and longer evenings spent outside enjoying our gardens. We had a few good days towards the end of March, so let’s hope it continues!
Floral & Hardy’s Top Ten Flowering Plants for April
1. Anemone blanda –
If you have a patch in full sun, plant drifts of these pretty little daisy-like flowers with narrow blue petals surrounding a bright yellow disc for stunning effect.
2. Brunnera –
In contrast, these ground cover perennials prefer shady conditions and their large, heart-shaped, and sometimes variegated leaves, and branching sprays of small, star-shaped blue or white flowers can really brighten up areas under leafy trees. They’ll even give you a second flush of flowers in autumn!
3. Clematis alpina –
A deciduous climber with attractive fresh green foliage and delicate, nodding, bell-shaped blooms of blue, white or pink, followed by interesting feathery seedheads.
4. Clematis armandii –
Another climber, this time evergreen, with long, glossy leaves and vanilla-scented white, or pale pink flowers. Grow in a sunny spot, but cover the soil around the roots with pebbles or other evergreen planting, as all Clematis like to keep their roots in the shade.
5. Pieris –
You’ll need acid soil for this evergreen shrub with its vibrant red new growth in spring and its long sprays of white, lily-of-the-valley-like blooms. Given the right conditions, it can grow up to 3ms tall, so make sure you’ve got the space for it!
6. Primula japonica –
There are many types of Primula, but this is one of my particular favourites – the ‘Candelabra Primula’. It bears its flowers in a series of whorls up the stem, giving its common name, and is best grown in moist soil.
7. Pulsatilla vulgaris –
The ‘Pasque Flower’ should be grown in full sun and is ideal for the rockery or a raised bed where its delicate beauty can be fully appreciated. The silky buds open into purple or red, star-shaped flowers, followed by the ferny foliage and later, attractive silky seedheads.
8. Skimmia –
A small, compact evergreen shrub with dark green, glossy foliage and fragrant white flowers from pink buds, followed, if you have both male and female varieties, by bright red berries. Another one for gardens with acid soil, but this time shade suits best.
9. Spiraea arguta –
Commonly called ‘Bridal Wreath’, this was the first shrub I ever bought, and it’s still one of my favourites. The arching branches are smothered with clusters of tiny white flowers at this time of year and it’s so easy to grow, flourishing in most soils and sun or partial shade.
10. Tulipa –
We’re all familiar with Tulips and there are so many types and colours to choose from, there’s bound to be one to suit you. Plant the bulbs in full sun in late autumn to enjoy them next spring, or but them ‘in the green’ now for instant effect.
April Tips and Advice
1. Your herbaceous plants will all be showing now. Support those that are going to need it with cane wigwams or other purpose-made supports before it’s too late! Plants such as oriental poppies and perennial geraniums can soon start to look messy if they are allowed to flop over.
2. Feed your roses with a well-balanced fertiliser, or better still mulch around the plant with good organic material. Also make sure you treat as soon as there are any signs of aphids or black spot. There are chemical treatments on the market to deal with both these problems, but if you are trying to be a little more eco-friendly, planting other plants such as Marigolds and Poached Egg Plants nearby has been proven to reduce aphid numbers as they attract beneficial insects, such as Hoverflies, Ladybirds and Lacewings to eat them. Many people have success by spraying weekly with very diluted washing-up liquid - about one teaspoon to a couple of litres of water. Failing that, just rub the aphids off with your fingers! If you notice black spot on your roses, be sure to remove any infected leaves and also any leaves that have fallen. Do not put them on the compost heap but either burn them or throw them away as otherwise the infection will be spread all around the garden when you use the compost.
3. Look out for Lily Beetles (bright red) in your emerging Lilies and Fritillaries. There is no chemical to eradicate them, so just pick them off and crush them, or they’ll demolish the plants in days.
4. If your evergreen Viburnums have been attacked, leaving the leaves looking like brown lace, you’ve probably got Viburnum Beetle. Spray the new foliage now with a treatment containing permethrin, bifenthrin, pirimiphos-methyl, fenitrothion or pyrethrum (available at your garden centre) and at intervals throughout the season to prevent it happening again.
5. Prune early flowering shrubs such as Forsythia, Ribes (Ornamental Currant) and Chaenomeles (Japanese Quince) as soon as the flowers have faded. They will flower next spring on this year’s new growth, so if you leave it too late you’ll be cutting off next year’s flowering shoots. Pruning at the wrong time is the main reason why many people find that their shrubs don’t flower.
6. You can feed your lawn with a spring/summer feed and mow every week from now until the autumn. Your grass may have grown a little bit over the autumn and winter and, as grasses should only have their top third removed to promote healthy growth, you should start with the blades set high. You can gradually lower the blades over the season, but never ‘scalp’ the lawn, as this will lead to bald patches and allow moss to thrive.
7. New lawns can be sown now after carefully preparing the soil by raking level, firming and raking again. Make sure you water thoroughly – even if it rains!
8. Wildflower meadows can also be sown now. Make sure you choose a mix that is suitable for your site and soil conditions. There are many mixes available – for wet or dry soils, chalk or clay, shade or sun – easy!
9. You can sow Californian Poppies, Cornflowers, Marigolds and Sweet Peas outside now, right where they are to flower. Make sure the soil is well-prepared and weed-free and simply sow them according to the instructions on the packet for an inexpensive show of colour all summer long.
10. April is also the best month to plant stunning Magnolias. They are best grown in a sunny or lightly-shaded spot, and although their flower display is quite short-lived, I’m sure you’ll agree, they’re worth it!
By Helen Ellison, Garden Designer