|My neighbour's magnolia tree leans happily over our fence - it's a Magnolia x soulangeana of unknown variety|
The past week has seen a transformation here in Chippenham. Green fuzziness is busting out all over, and gorgeous blossom is everywhere. It means from now until May, the trees take centre stage and proclaim spring is truly here.
I'm really lucky living where I am. As well as my neighbour's generosity with her magnolia, whoever chose the trees for our estate did a really good job. Most front gardens have a small tree with around a third of these currently sporting glorious blossom. They're mainly ornamental cherries of various white and pink hues.
The planners also kept many of the old hedgerows threading through the estate, so whilst I probably wouldn't choose blackthorn as a garden tree, I'm more that happy to find it leaning over our other back garden fence. The blossom has a notorious warning - beware the blackthorn winter - but it is a pretty sight, and I also enjoy picking the fat sloes in the autumn.
Here's some more of our estate's blossom, ornamental cherry this time. Last year, on my Maytime walks I also discovered we have lots of native bird cherry in the more parkland like areas.
If the embedded video doesn't work, try this link instead.
If your garden lacks blossom, there's just enough time left to find yourself a tree. With careful selection you'll have some flowers for now, and then plenty next year onwards.
The best time for planting is usually between November and March when trees are dormant, though container grown ones can usually be planted at any time. Planting now will possibly save you lots of extra watering during the summer to ensure your tree gets well established, though of course it depends on how much rain we actually get.
Some of my favourite blossom time trees
|Bright 'Red Windsor' blossom|
Any fruit tree makes sense for a garden in my view. I also have a soft spot for pear and quince, though the latter has yet to set fruit. My neighbours out front have a couple of plums and round the corner there's almonds. None of our gardens are particularly large, yet we've still managed to find the right medium sized tree to suit our tastes.
|My Magnolia stellata|
We have to be more careful round here to select lime tolerant varieties like my neighbour's Magnolia x soulangeana. Magnolia stellata works well too and is great for a small garden or pot. I also like the look of Magnolia x loebneri 'Leonard Messel'.
|Hawthorn blossom needn't be white|
I've found it's this tree that's stripped of its berries first by the birds and it's host to a wide variety of insects. Definitely one to consider for a wildlife garden.
A more unusual choice is Prunus x subhirtella 'Autumnalis' which blooms from November until March. If you've ever thought you've seen a cherry blossoming out of season, it's probably this one.
|Cercis siliquastrum and topiary|
I'm also an admirer of the Judas trees (Cercis siliquastrum) at West Green House.
What's your favourite tree for blossom? Update: The results are in... which merited a post all to themselves via Blossom Time Revisited.
Where to find inspiration
I particularly love the crab apple trees at Yeo Valley Organic Garden and the old orchard and potager apples at West Green House.
Caerhays Castle in Cornwall hosts the national collection of magnolias. They're quite a sight when you approach the castle via the beach side car park. Keele University has the national collection of flowering cherries. Drive along any country road in May and you'll be bowled over by the hawthorn blossom in the hedgerows.
- Kew's top tree man Tony Kirkham had lots of top tips when he gave a talk at Bath University Gardening Club
- My Plant Profile on Apples
- My piece on crab apples for Gabriel Ash has plenty of suggestions for you to try.
I love Naomi's book Orchard Odyssey, which has lots of inspiration for growing your own orchard in the smallest of spaces (did you know 5 fruit trees constitutes an orchard?). Here's Sally Nex's review.
- The RHS guidance on planting trees and shrubs
- The RHS' guide to the best ornamental cherry trees for small gardens
- Wikipedia's guide to the Judas tree, Cercis siliquastrum
- The Guardian's 2016 guide on the best places to see ornamental cherry blossom
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