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Discover articles on garden design, seasonal planting tips for your garden and other news and views from Gillian Goodson Designs.

The arrival of spring

   Camellia japonica  ‘Alba Plena’  (Gillian Goodson Designs)

 Camellia japonica ‘Alba Plena’ (Gillian Goodson Designs)

It is sometimes difficult to keep true to New Year’s resolutions when the strong, stormy arms of winter tempt you back under the covers. Let the energy-filled air with its smell of freshness and hope heralding the arrival of spring help shake off winter’s grumpy coat. Take delight in spring blossom against a clear blue sky, when hearts sing and passers-by readily return smiles.

While new ideas form, stop and admire the young downy chicks, fluffy ducklings, and chuckle at spring lambs on wobbly legs. Take notice as new leaves and petals unfurl around you. Clusters of bright pink, pea-like flowers of Cercis canadensis ‘Forest Pansy’ (American Redbud) will be borne on bare branches from March to April before their stunning heart-shaped, deep wine-red to purple leaves emerge. It is a brilliant choice for a sunny spot and ideal for small gardens growing 5m to 10m. 

Introduced from China and first gracing our shores in 1792, is Camellia japonica ‘Alba Plena’. Position this upright, evergreen shrub away from drying winds and direct morning sunlight and its elegant, double-white flowers (10cm across) will grace your garden from March to April. It requires an acid to neutral soil so plant in a large container with ericaceous compost if your soil is alkaline.

A favourite of mine, with deeply cut leaves and flowering from now through to April is Anemone nemerosa (wood anemone). An explorer’s delight in ancient woodlands, plant it in swathes under deciduous trees and shrubs, and on shady banks. The star-shaped white flowers, slightly flushed pink on the underside, are often still in flower when bluebells emerge.

Clump-forming, long-flowering perennial—March to May—Pulmonaria ‘Blue Ensign’ (Lungwort) also thrives in shade, brightens the garden and attracts pollinating insects with its violet-blue flowers and unspotted green leaves. For clusters of coral-red, try P. rubra.

The weeds will also be celebrating spring so you will be kept busy. Fork over borders and mulch. Prune: roses before leaf buds open; winter-flowering shrubs such as witch hazel, viburnum; and dogwoods and buddlejas. Last chance to plant bare-rooted trees, shrubs and hedge plants. Check for aphids, slugs and snails on fresh growth. Sow lettuce, broad beans, parsnips and spinach (harvest after a fortnight or so).

That secret stash of Easter eggs that you have been hoarding since they first shockingly came on sale in January can now be shared. Have a wonderful Easter Bank Holiday weekend. May the seemingly insurmountable be achievable!