I really love April, as there is wild cherry and Hawthorn blossom in the hedgerows, our gardens are bursting forth with flowers everywhere and the air is full of their delicate scent. Amalanchier and apple trees flower this month, magnolias burst open from their furry winter coats and the scent of later flowering narcissi fill the air, the days are warmer and longer and…as you can see I can wax lyrical at this time of year!
Hedges, as well as being full of blossom, are great for privacy and absorbing car fumes but I like to lift the canopy, so that I can under plant with perennials such as Ox Eye daisies, daffodils and forget-me-nots, etc. to add interest.
With blackthorn, it is flowers before leaves, but with the hawthorn, it is leaves before flowers. The blackthorn flowers first around March/April and the Hawthorn blossoms later, around May. This is why it is also known as the May tree. Hawthorn and blackthorn play an important part in our natural landscapes. Planted to make fields stock-proof, they help capture carbon from the atmosphere and are a welcome source of nectar and pollen at this time of year for honeybees, particularly our native bumblebees and solitary bees. Both bloom with clusters of delicate flowers. As our native bees come out of hibernation, they are hungry and turn to such sources to fuel up before finding a nest and laying their young. After pollination by insects, the flowers develop into fruits. Although bitter to our taste, the birds happily feast on them in the autumn.
Blackthorn in bloom
We had some really lovely, sunny days in March, when we could prepare the garden for the next season and enjoy the wonderful brightly coloured yellow, white and orange daffodils. These colours are dominant and so really shine in the garden. Red is also a dominant colour and these bright hues will continue in April with tulips, which come in all shapes, colours and sizes. There is a wonderful display of Tete-a-Tete daffodils and Apeldoorn tulips in the flower beds in Stockland Square, which continue to flower every year, even though they were planted in 2013! Instead of lifting the bulbs out of pots and storing them until next year, I have decided to replant them straightaway into the longer grass under the apple trees, so they can continue to pop up every year – hopefully. At Dunsborough Park they lift the tulips when they have finished their display and replant them in the woods, which makes a wonderful display year after year!
Moving onto annual plants, sweet pea seedlings can be planted out in the garden now, supported by bamboo canes or pea sticks. Towards the end of the month, start to harden off annuals by placing them outside during the day, so they get used to cooler temperatures and prepares them for planting out in May. Actually, I can never wait until May, so most of mine will be outside from mid- April onwards, so I class this as an April job!
With all this succulent growth we will inevitably attract garden pests but apparently, according to the RHS, we should refer to slugs now as garden visitors!! They provide breakfast for birds and supper for hedgehogs but they do also eat our prize plants, so we have to strike a balance by using more friendly deterents, rather than slug pellets. Copper wire around the veggie patch and pots is effective, as is Vaseline along the top edge of pots, or sinking pots into the soil filled with beer, or a salt solution. I have certainly embraced allowing wild plants – formally known as weeds – to grow in the lawn, leaving areas unmown so wild grasses flourish BUT rebranding and welcoming slime trailing gastropods into my garden to feast on the plants that I have worked so hard to grow from seeds is a bridge too far! Apparently we should also welcome Vine weevil, Box tree caterpillars, ants, woolly aphids, etc!!
Do get out and enjoy your garden, as it and us, spring back to an exciting world of nature.