Shrubs for Spring Flowers
The shrubs described here and in the following posts make up only a small part of the tremendous variety available today. They all have an outstanding merit of one kind or another, such as flowers, leaves, fruit, unusual time of flowering – sometimes they have more than one attraction – and all, with a few exceptions which are noted in the individual descriptions, are easy to grow.
Deciduous or shrubs, the barberries are not only embarrassingly prolific with their flowers, but frequently also have most or berries. They could be said to take the place of rhododendrons in gardens with limy soil, flowering at the same time of the year, namely from March to June. They will, however, grow well in any soil; the species do well in a sunny position and the evergreens in sun or partial shade. Berberis darwinii, 8-10 ft., produces deep orange-yellow flowers in April, to be followed beer by blue berries; it is evergreen.
Berberis linearifolia is also evergreen and has most lovely-coloured flowers – the berries are blue-black. It is low growing, to 3-4 ft. Berberis stenophylla, another evergreen, has bright golden flowers in sprays during April, grows vigorously to 10 ft., and has dark blue berries. A deciduous barberry with several bonuses is B. thunbergii atropurpurea, which has purple leaves and yellow flowers; it grows to about 4 ft. tall with bright red berries and even more brilliant foliage in the autumn. Prune all these, if necessary, immediately after flowering, cutting back flowered shoots to new growth, but remember this removes potential berries and may make the plant too vigorous in growth.
Tea, and the decorative camellia, share the sameof plants – Camellia sinensis is the tea plant, and C. japonica and its varieties are those usually grown for ornamental purposes. One of the camellia’s charms is the variation in the form of flower, which may be single, double, fimbriated, the anemone type, peony-centred, and so on. Camellias do best in slightly sheltered positions with acid or neutral soil – if grown in they need special treatment. The soil should contain and/or ; them in spring and autumn and feed in spring with a sprinkling of a slow-acting organic . Height varies from about 6-12 ft., but up to 30 ft. is possible, and virtually no pruning is required. Some good varieties are: Adolphe Audusson, dark red, semi-double; Contessa Lavinia Maggi, white, striped red, double; Destiny, pink and white striped, semi-double; Donation, pink, semi-double; donckelarii, dark red, white variegation, semi-double; J. C. Williams, shell-pink, single; and mathotiana alba, a pure white, double variety. Ceanothus Only one variety of ceanothus is given here, blue-flowered Cascade, which is evergreen and lives up to its name.
A shrub whose vermilion, buttercup-shaped flowers have a cluster of golden stamens in the centre of each, the japonica (to give its common name) blooms in March-April, but sometimes produces the occasional flower in February. It is hardy, rather slow-growing to a height of about 9 ft., and is not particular as to soil and situation, though it is mostly seen clothing a wall. Knap Hill Scarlet is a salmon-red variety, 5-7 ft. tall, and Rowallane Seedling an intense and brilliant red, low-growing to 4 ft. Prune by cutting back new growth by about half to a convenient bud in the summer, and by removing the side shoots so that a short stub is left, two or three buds long, in winter.
The strong, sweet scent of the Mexican orange blossom,, is intensified if the bush is planted in a warm spot, but even without this it still flowers prolifically, its white, yellow-stamened flowers etched against its glossy evergreen leaves in May, and spasmodically in the autumn too. It is quite hardy, although in the north of England it is better against a south-facing wall. Little pruning is required, except to remove straggling shoots and dead flowerheads to encourage a second, later crop. It will grow well in most soils, including chalky ones.
This yellow-flowered shrub is a member of the Pea family and produces clusters of flowers, shaped like miniature sweet, abundantly in April, and spasmodically throughout the summer as well. Coronilla glauca is not truly hardy, and needs a warm, south-facing wall, with protection in winter; it reaches about 5 ft. outside but perhaps double that in a or its , southern Europe. It will grow in most soils. Prune the tips of the shoots after flowering: this will encourage it to remain compact and bushy. It is evergreen.
Also a member of the Pea family, Cytisus scoparius, the common yellow broom, and its named hybrids flower in May and reach a height of about 8 ft. Good varieties are: Diana, white and yellow; Donard Seedling, deep and light pink; Firefly, crimson and yellow, and sulphureus, deep cream. These hybrids are not very good on limy soils, and grow much better on only slightly limy or neutral ones. C. kewensis is a prostrate-growing hybrid covered in creamy flowers in spring, and suitable for the . In general, light, rather poor soils in sunny positions suit brooms best. Cut back immediately after flowering, removing old flowered shoots for two-thirds their length. It is essential to prune the upright-growing kinds in this way to keep them bushy and encourage flowering.
A more profusely-flowering shrub it would be difficult to find — the bush is one mass of bright golden flowers in early spring — provided the birds leave the buds alone. They may attack the bush in February, but sometimes may start to ‘disbud’ in November of the previous year. Bird prevention sprays help, but most need to be renewed after rain or snow. Special rayon netting rather like spiders’ webs may also prove effective. Prune only to thin out the growth every few years after flowering, removing the flowered shoots back to new growth; when grown against walls, prune every year. Forsythia intermedia Lynwood is one of the best, growing to 10 ft., but F. ovata is another good sort, flowering in very early spring, sometimes even February, and only growing to 4 or 5 ft. Its leaves change to a light golden-brown shade in autumn, and it will grow into a prettily shaped bush without pruning. All forsythias grow well in ordinary soils including limy ones, in full sun or partial shade.
Late spring- and early summer-flowering, the genistas have bright yellow flowers very thickly produced all over the bush. There are dwarf kinds, suitable for the rock garden, only a few inches high; others of medium height, to 2 or 3 ft., and one or two, such as the Mount Etna broom, Genista aethnensis, to 12 ft.; G. Lydia reaches 3 ft. and is covered in golden flowers in May. Pruning is not necessary. They like warm sunny positions with well-drained soils.
Thepeonies are spectacularly lovely plants. The May-flowering Paeonia suffruticosa is an original species from which garden forms and hybrids have been obtained. It has large white flowers with petals apparently made of crinkled tissue paper, with a deep magenta blotch at the base and centred with golden stamens. The species itself is beautiful, and forms and hybrids bred from it even lovelier. Elizabeth is an example of such a hybrid. P. suffruticosa grows to about 4 ft. high, and rather more in width. It is inclined to start into growth too early in the year, as soon as there is a mild spell, is cut back by subsequent colder weather and often never does really well as a result. It is best to put it into a sheltered position where the sun is unlikely to reach it until after midday during the winter and early spring, so as to avoid as far as possible alternation of cold and warmth while it is supposedly dormant. It flowers in May and needs a deep, fairly rich soil, and is therefore helped by feeding heavily with compost each spring.
Rhododendrons and azaleas
Azaleas are included here as they are regarded by the botanists as being a section of the genus Rhododendron; in nurserymen’s catalogues they may be listed under azaleas or rhododendrons. For those who are lucky enough to garden on acid soils, one or two of these shrubs are essential. Every colour can be found amongst them, and the low-growing Japanese, Ghent and mollis azalea hybrids are particularly lovely, flowering in April and May. Rhododendrons are somewhat taller, on the whole, although Rhododendron fastigiatum is a dwarf kind reaching 2-3 ft., and flowering in April and May.
These shrubs are not deep-rooting; nevertheless they must have goodand a soil containing leafmould. Failing this they should be heavily mulched with leafmould or peat each year in spring. Light shade, or filtered sunlight under trees suits them, and little pruning is required except to remove the dead flowerheads as soon as they have finished blooming, since otherwise the bushes exhaust their strength in producing seed. There are evergreen and deciduous kinds of azaleas; rhododendrons are all evergreen. R. praecox flowers in March, or even a little earlier, and will reach 3-5 ft.; it is semi-evergreen.
There are two types of spiraea, those that flower in spring and have white sprays of flowers and those that bloom in late summer, having pink, red or white flowers. The spring-flowering kinds include Spiraea arguta, to 7ft., with arching sprays of flowers, often known as Bridal Wreath; S. vanhouttei, to 8ft., and S. thunbergii, 3-5ft. All these should be pruned immediately after flowering. They are easily-grown shrubs, more than repaying the occasional feed or mulch.
Much better known as lilac, this is available today in very many lovely varieties, single and double flowered. As it is 10-15 ft. high when fully grown and takes up rather a lot of room it is well to remember that once it has flowered, it contributes little to the overall effect of a garden; indeed in winter, without leaves, it has rather an ungainly shape. Good double varieties are: Katherine Havemeyer, purple, fading to lilac; Mme Lemoine, white; Mrs Edward Harding, red shading to pink, and President Grevy, bluish-lilac. Good singles are: Clarke’s Giant, lilac-blue; Primrose, yellow; Prodige, deep purple; and Souvenir de Louis Spath, dark red. These hybrids all require good soil preparation before planting. Prune after flowering to remove old flowered shoots and weak ones. Feed with sulphate of potash, about a handful to each plant, at the same time.
Tamarix tetranda is very like Tmarix. pentandra, but produces much lighter and more delicate pink flowers, very much earlier in the year, in May. It is pruned immediately after the flowers have finished, cutting out the shoots which have flowered. The tamarisks will grow in most soils and like a sunny position.
A genus of shrubs (sometimes known as Diervilla) not often seen, but perfectly easy to grow given a moderately rich soil. They are most attractive, with their arching shoots covered in funnel-shaped flowers in late spring. Weigela florida is rose, flowering in May — it reaches 6-8ft. W. middendorffiana, 2-4ft., has yellow flowers, spotted orange, in spring. Weigela praecox flowers in April — its rose flowers have a yellow throat. Prune immediately after flowering.