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

The spring garden

Zesty orange of  Fritallaria imperialis   (Gillian Goodson Designs)

Zesty orange of Fritallaria imperialis (Gillian Goodson Designs)

The lengthening days bring a dawn choral outburst with the female of the species being serenaded by their feathered counterparts. The warmer air brings with it that unmistakable feeling that spring has truly sprung and joyful jubilation! The warmer soil accelerates growth and you will be in awe of the spring blossom – may it tempt you into the garden and garden centres in search of that treasured find.

Magnolias are in stunning bloom from compact, slow-growing Magnolia stellata (3m) with its white star-like flowers to the heavily scented, goblet-shaped pink flowers of M. ‘Heaven Scent’ (10m). There’s popular M. x soulangeana (6m) with white to varying shades of pink, which is moderately lime tolerant. They would make a wonderful focal point in a sheltered part of the garden. Consider the lemon-coloured M. denudata (10m) for an alternate colour palette.

April also sees a burst of cherry blossom –visit Barnsdale Gardens for some breath-taking blossom including Prunus ‘Pink Perfection’ (8m) with leaves opening bronze to green with double, light pink flowers.

For a shady spot in a cottage-style garden, consider Lamprocapnos spectabilis (formerly Dicentra spectabilis) (bleeding heart), an elegant herbaceous perennial with arching stems of nodding, heart-shaped flowers of rose-red and white. There’s also the pure white L. spectabilis ‘Alba’.

For a splash of zest, go for the orange or yellow of Fritillaria imperialis (Crown Imperial). The sun-loving, bell-shaped flowers hang from strong erect stems. The bulbs (planted in autumn) are huge: 13cm across! As with life, not all has to be glitzy and glam in the garden so for something subdued, try Osmanthus x burkwoodii, a reliable evergreen shrub for full sun or partial shade. Its jasmine-like white flowers are highly scented and when not in flower, makes a great contrast for summer planting.

Keep on top of the weeds and don’t let the soil dry on new plantings. From mid-April, the lawn will appreciate some TLC by scarifying to remove moss and weeds; sow new seeds in bare patches. Feed fruit trees! Once the threat of frost is over, prune the overwintered flower heads on Hydrangeas. Sow broad beans, early peas and potatoes, asparagus, carrots – the list goes on. 

Should rain threaten to dampen your spirits this month, remember the rhyme of long ago Sweet April showers, Do spring May flowers and think of the vibrancy that May will bring and may your heart skip with delight!