Gardeners across the UK are being treated to a floral extravaganza this spring, thanks to the sunny, dry start to the season.
At the Royal Horticultural Society, known for its flagship gardens at Wisley, Rosemoor, Hyde Hall and Harlow Carr, gardeners have noted that flowering shrubs are putting on dazzling displays.
RHS chief horticulturist Guy Barter told Candide: “Rain last August must have helped Camellia, Rhododendron, Pieris, Japanese quince, Forsythia and Viburnum to perform well. Some flowers such as Camellia were spoilt by frost, but later buds have pulled through while hardier shrubs have been unaffected – this bodes well for the next flush of spring and early summer shrubs such as Kolkwitzia and Philadelphus.”
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Guy pointed out that cold conditions in late winter meant the season is a “couple of weeks later than usual”. He added: “Narcissus have been spectacular because low temperatures meant the blooms have not become over-mature and developed to their full potential. Fleecing some wisteria at Wisley in open positions had limited success, but wall-trained subjects were hardly affected [by frost].”
At Acorn Bank in Cumbria, a National Trust garden renowned for its Edwardian daffodils and herbaceous borders, senior gardener Heather Birkett said snake’s head fritillaries are putting on a bumper display.
Heather said: “The slender stems and leaves of fritillaries can be their downfall as they can easily get trampled. Lockdown closures and reduced visitor numbers this spring have minimised the damage, resulting in a great show. Snake’s head fritillaries grow naturally in wet flood plains across Northern Europe, so following two wetter than average winters and a damp summer in Cumbria, plants have been happy and able to feed their bulbs, resulting in plenty of shoots and flower buds this spring.”
Glorious weather fuelled displays at Bath Priory where head gardener Jane Moore described spring 2021 as “one of the most fantastic for bulbs”, pointing out that hailstorms struck ahead of tulips bursting into bloom, so flowers emerged unscathed.
One of the garden rooms along the Pompeiian WAll at Hever Castle planted with tulips
Jane added: “The blossom is incredible on crab and espalier-trained apples this spring – I’m going to have to thin the fruit like mad. On Malus floribunda, there is so much flower that leaves are barely visible while forget-me-nots have been glorious. Magnolias were shaping up to be fantastic but were ruined by late frosts; however, Wisteria is looking gorgeous.”
Head gardener at Hever Castle in Kent, Neil Miller, said spring 2021 stood out as a “kaleidoscope of colour. Neil said: “It’s been a strange year with a sudden cold snap holding things back, resulting in thousands of daffodils holding on and then an explosion of colour, while 25,000 tulips have been stars of the show.” It was a similar tale at Kent’s Great Comp Garden, where a spokeswoman said: “Magnolias have been spectacular – over 80 trees in 52 varieties, and as the Azaleas and Rhododendrons begin to peak out, the magnolias are still in bloom.”
At Ham House in Richmond, head gardener Rosie Fyles pointed out: “Tulips have been tall with huge flowers, due to watering during the dry late winter and early spring, with cold nights keeping flowers fresh. It has been a wonderful year for blossom, and we still have our quinces, mulberry and pears to come out. Peonies are budding up beautifully and looking like they will flower profusely.”
This spring has been a treat at Stockton Bury Gardens in Hereford, where Tamsin Westhorpe explained: “A highlight has been the spring pea, Lathyrus vernus. This neat clump-former is in flower from March to early May, and I don’t know why it’s not more widely grown. Another plant that has come into its own this spring is Smyrnium perfoliatum, a biennial that resembles a vibrant green euphorbia. It’s great value for early colour and is still in flower in May.”