There is something magical about the garden in April; the clocks have finally jumped forward making the days so much brighter, inevitable April showers are interspersed with gloriously sunny days and everything in the garden is so fresh and full of promise. There is much to look forward to, yet there are plenty of perennial plants in full flower now, together with trees and shrubs which look their best at this time of year. These early flowering perennials are an important source of nectar for foraging bees too so it’s well worth including some in your planting.
It would be easy to walk past Acer psuedoplatanus brilliantissimum in summer, when its leaves are plain green, but as its leaves unfurl in spring it fulfils the promise suggested in its name – they are a wonderful pink colour, rightly described by some as ‘shrimp pink’, turning yellow green a little later. It’s compact, making it perfect for smaller gardens. Blossom is rife amongst ornamental trees now, especially ornamental cherries and apricots. Try Prunus mume ‘Beni chidori for deep pink blooms, or Prunus ‘Kanzan’, with fluffy double soft pink flower around 2.5cm across. Forsythia, Amelanchier and Chaenomeles (Japanese quince) all flower on bare stems, giving their flowers space to shine, along with Corylopsis, whose soft yellow pendant flowers light up the dappled shady areas it thrives in with a warm glow.
There are some lovely border perennials flowering now. Somehow they seem to go naturally together, too. Primula with Pulmonaria, Ajuga with Bleeding Heart (Dicentra, now renamed Lamprocapnos- what a mouthful!), Ribes, the flowering currant, perhaps under planted with Brunnera. Doronicum (Leopards Bane) is a low growing plant with yellow daisy flowers that partners perfectly with brightly coloured tulips or contrasting blue hyacinths. Many climbers will be well clothed in leaves now, and growing away nicely, but some Clematis will be in glorious flower now. The early flowering Clematis barely need any pruning attention so are really simple to care for, and their blooms are always welcome as an early backdrop. Clematis montana, alpina and macropetala will all perform well now, and although individually the flowers are small, they are borne in abundance. A light clip after flowering to keep them in check is all they need.
April is the perfect time to top dress the borders with leaf mould or well-rotted compost (mix in a little fish, blood and bone fertiliser to add further nutrients) as the soil is now warm, and this creates the perfect backdrop to any flowering plants, as well as feeding the soil. Sprinkle it thickly amongst these early flowering gems, enjoying each ones beauty as you go.