While the annual cut back of the blowsy summer flowering grasses and perennials was completed during March this month, and especially with the recent cold snap, the main borders in the garden can look rather ‘flat’ for a few weeks while those cut back plants in the borders start their fresh seasonal growth that will clothe the ground again with green. Though invaluable all the way through the year the woody plants (image below), are especially key at this time as they provide a permanent structure, shelter, screening and of course early season flower that is so essential for early season bees (image below again), and other pollinators as well as the sheer enjoyment that they bring to ourselves.
The garden is on slightly acid soil so rhododendrons, azaleas and camellias grow easily and are simply great for providing structure from their stems and branches and wow factor from their magnificent flowers. Rhododendron macabeanum (image below), has impressive huge evergreen leaves and large lemon yellow flowers early in the season.
Camellias are such a useful group of plants. They are tough, long lived easy care plants whose evergreen leaves offer superb screening and cover all year with the added bonus of welcome spring flowers. At Knoll we have some fairly large plants (image below), that not only act as an effective screen but offer quite literally hundreds and hundreds of flowers at this time of year.
Being quite literally next door to the famous Trehane Nursery who have an extensive range of camellias, it is not overly surprising that our own collection in the garden has steadily increased over the years! There is such a massive selection of different flower types from which to choose that it is difficult to have favourites. For example Camellia Royalty (image below), is well named for it impressively sized, 6 inch plus, royal red flowers while Camellia Bokuhan (image below again), has softer red flowers that are only about an inch wide. Both are beautifully refined flowers that I enjoy having in the garden as well as, on occasion, in the house as cut flower.
Camellia Donation has masses of soft pink flowers which has been allowed to gradually arch over a pathway in the garden. It has taken a few years but it has now made a rather lovely floral archway at this time of year (image below).
Magnolias are another wide group of spring flowering woody plants that never fail to provide seasonal wow when in flower. Magnolia Jane (image below), is already coming into flower and seems to produce a succession of delicately scented purplish upright flowers for some weeks.
Being borderline hardy we are always delighted to see Acacia pravissima come into full and enthusiastic flower after the winter. Tiny bright yellow pom-pom like flowers are produced all along the pendulous branches with such profusion it is difficult not to be impressed with the sheer quantity as well as the colour. Planted at the top end of our new Dry Meadow with its shaggy covering of Poa labillardierei and in association with other structural evergreens such as photinia and prunus as well as the superbly textured bark of the cork oak, the acacia amply demonstrates how woody plants provide structure and flower at a time of year when the summer flowering plants are of least interest.
Though spring flowering perennial plants and bulbs do no provide any structure in the same way that woody plants do, they are equally welcome for their bright cheerful flowers which seem to herald the beginning of the coming season.
The Shady Meadow though quiet during the dry summer period now erupts into its annual display of primroses, anemones and chionodoxa that is watched over by a distinctly bright red rhododendron (image below).
Though the garden has a generally dry sandy soil primroses (two images below), seem very happy with us and multiply and mutate into myriad different shades of white through yellow to pale rose and burgundy red.
Yet another favourite spring flower is Iphieon (image below), who bright soft blue flowers seem avidly to follow the sunshine. Beautifully marked and enthusiastically produced; what else could one ask for !