I've never really thought of my garden as
a spring garden!
I don't have Cherry Blossom or Rhododendrons, or Azaleas or even Daffodils, let alone a Crocus. Or many other flowers we associate with spring. This is probably because mine is more of a summer perennial garden, and because I became more fascinated by perennials after seeing gardens in the Northern Hemisphere specialising in the New Perennial or Prairie Movement - during those heady travelling days, which are now so out of reach for us from New Zealand.
Perennial nut or not, no gardener, can resist spring, and neither can I!
My spring begins early with Snowdrops! Galanthus nivalis to be precise, which most of us know as the demur english Snowdrop brightening our lives just when we need it most - in the dreary depths of July when those modest pure white buds push their way so bravely through the frozen winter earth.
Soon after the Snowdrops finish, Michelia which is anything but demure starts up, bursting into bIowsy bloom in August, and continuing on until now, in early October. Because this blowsy bloomer is evergreen and starts flowering regardless of frosts, it has a subtropical feel to me, which is not surprising, originating as it does in the mellower north.
I was lucky enough to be given a Magnolia 'Fairy Cream' by Abbie Jury, when she came down to visit me in Christchurch, just after the earthquakes. Raised by her husband Mark, soon after the nomenclature changed from Michelia to Magnolia, it is a beautiful small tree. And is invaluable in my garden because it's evergreen and adds a touch of the winterless north to a wintry stark Christchurch garden.
I was careful to plant it in a sheltered spot where it's surrounded by the lushness of other plants -ferns and climbers. So it does not have to struggle on it's own exposed in an open bare place, devoid of the company of other plants.
After all aren't plants are just like people needing the company and friendship of other plants to comfort and shelter them so that they can thrive? And thrive it does, flourishing admirably in my garden throughout a spiky frosty winter - it's leaves looking healthy and pert, unlike many evergreens struggling through a southern winter.
While Magnolia 'Fairy Cream' is in full bloom in the side garden, orange tulips appear in the front garden, and they couldn't be more of a colour contrast to the gentler creams, whites and blush pinks of the side garden. But orange tulips and the front garden are a whole other story.
The very earliest spring flowering shrub in the garden would have to be the two bushes of 'Cornish Snow' (see above) - that most delicate of blush pink miniature Camellias, with hundreds of little single flowers dotted down it's branches. Though my bushes haven't got much in the way of branches, because they've been topiarised into lollipops which means their long whippy branches have been trimmed back.
'Cornish Snow' is a variety which lends itself beautifully to clipping and shaping. Some might say topiaried trees and shrubs are not nearly so fashionable as they were 20 years ago when I started to shape mine, but I think they do still have their place even in the most naturalistic of gardens.
In my back garden there are other less exotic treats like Bluebells, Forget Me Nots, and the prolifically seeding herb, Borage, along with pale blue Irises about to flower. But no one could call the cerise flowered Broad Bean 'Hughey' prosaic. It's lovely splash of cerise is very welcome amongst my everyday plants which just seed about all over the place.
And all fluffed about by pale grey Santolina.
Exotic or everyday, I love them all!!