At last it is spring. The winter seemed too long to me. We are always teased with a few warm days and then back we go to the ice box.
April as we know traditionally has the “showers” that then bring “May flowers,” but if you brave whatever the weather is throwing at you, and get outside there is much in bloom to see even in April.
Early in the month is the blue season in the Woodland garden. The little Scillas and Chinodoxa carpet the ground, popping up in unexpected places. The little daughter bulbs and the seed from these miniature beauties are washed and carried by animals to other parts of the garden. Looking at a sea of blue makes you realize that patience really is the key to many of the fine effects of gardening. You may only be able to afford to buy one or two packets of these little bulbs to plant, next to a tree in your garden next fall, but wait a few years, and if the placement is right, there will be more and more.
Gardeners have always helped this process along by digging up a few bulbs and moving them away from the parent clump. I have a sea of blue in my own little woods. It was one of the few herbaceous plants that I inherited on the property. I point this out to show that these bulbs really are easy care, as the former owners were not gardeners.
The early flowering trees are also a spring delight. Everyone loves the whites and purples of the Magnolia trees. We have some beauties on campus, from the pure white Magnolia stellata, (Star Magnolia) and Magnolia kobus, to the purply Magnolia x soulangiana (Saucer Magnolia). We always hope that the frost will spare them and not turn the pristine blooms a dreadful mushy brown. I think that planting a Magnolia, especially the early ones, is a gamble, but one that I was willing to take in my own garden.
There is nothing that beats the beauty of the blooms against the blue of the sky. One Magnolia that I particularly admire is Magnolia x loebneri ‘Leonard Messel’. This Magnolia was a chance hybrid in the garden of Colonel Messel at Nyman’s, a National Trust property in Sussex, England. The petal shape (technically called a tepal, as the petals and sepals are the same to look at) is like a star Magnolia, but the color is a light purple with a little white.
I first saw “Leonard Messel” in April at Wakehurst Place in England, and fell in love with it. “Leonard Messel” is also available in this country now. One of its other benefits is the delightful fragrance of the bloom. Wakehurst is the country outpost of Kew Gardens, jointly run with the National Trust, and also situated in Sussex. Both Nymans and Wakehurst are well worth a visit. A few of the highlights at Wakehurst are the Millenium Seedbank and National Collections of Magnolias and Skimmias, amongst others. I also love the Wakehurst winter garden. My latest visit was this February.
As I wandered the paths I was getting ideas for little treasures that we might be able to tuck into our new Albright Winter Garden. Installation if this new garden on campus has begun. Mara Baird is the Landscape Architect. Do come and visit to see the progress of this great new space next to the Formal Perennial Garden and Dixon Hall. By next winter you will be able to enjoy out of season plants in a sheltered space.
If you have any questions please feel free to email me at email@example.com
Jenny Rose Carey
Landscape Arboretum of Temple University Ambler