Spring blossom heralds the return of the warm seasons, and by planting just one or two of these glorious trees, you’ll lavish your garden with bountiful florals and gentle perfumes. They’re also wonderful for adding seasonal beauty indoors, with armfuls of blooms in a vase creating an unforgettable display. Best of all, they’re easy to grow and will delight year after year.
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Abundant white, pink or reddish-purple flowers are followed by small, brightly coloured autumn fruit in certain varieties. They also have lush green leaves and will keep impressing with an autumn display of golden leaves – all on a small, hardy 2-5m tree with a lovely form.
• In a sunny garden or courtyard for year-round colour.
• For the edible fruits on many cultivars.
• As a screen to provide shade.
Grow it: Crabapples prefer full sun but will tolerate part shade. A well-drained heavy loam is ideal, but they’ll cope with most neutral to slightly acidic soils. Remove suckers and prune lightly after flowering, removing broken or crowded branches. Suits zones 2-4 and cooler parts of 6.
A cool-climate classic, the fragrance of lilac is intoxicating. The plant is a tough, slightly sprawling shrub, with flowers that put on a stunning show in colours including white, pink, blue and purple.
• As an informal hedge.
• Near your house for perfume.
Grow it: Lilacs love the sun and need a frosty winter to bloom. Plant in rich, well-drained alkaline soils. Mulch well and water deeply during dry spells. On grafted plants, cut suckers from below the graft union in summer. Prune out old growth. Suits zones 2-4 and
cooler parts of zone 6.
The starry white or pink flowers of Magnolia stellata are magnificent in small gardens, as is Magnolia ‘Caerhays Belle’, with its pretty pink flowers and rich scent. Smaller magnolia varieties can also be potted up in large pots. In bigger gardens, Magnolia campbellii cultivars delight with their spectacular huge flowers, and the many beautiful forms of the popular Magnolia x soulangiana are also ideal.
• Use as a front-of-house feature tree.
• Near a terrace for gentle fragrance.
Grow it: Magnolias require regular watering and rich, moist, well-drained soil – neutral to slightly acidic. Plant in full sun and mulch well around the roots. Protect flowers and leaves from slugs and snails. Suits zones 2-8, with protection from frost and heat.
These beauties come in a variety of forms, with most growing to about 4-5m in height. Try the vase-shaped Prunus ‘Pink Perfection’, with its large, pink double flowers, or the rounded Prunus ‘Kojo-no-mai’, which bears delicate single white blooms and grows to 1.5m, making it ideal for small gardens and pots.
• As a feature tree in a sunny spot.
• For the fabulous autumn foliage produced on many cultivars.
• To add height and colour in small gardens without being overwhelming.
Grow it: Flowering cherries prefer full sun but most will grow in part shade in moist, well-drained soil. Cut back a few of the older branches as the tree ages to encourage new growth. Suits zones 2-4 and cooler parts of zone 6.
With butterfly-shaped leaves and wonderfully ornate orchid-like flowers, bauhinias are unbeatable small trees for adding a splash of blossom beauty to warmer and tropical climates. There are many species available, including several natives, however the most popular is the Hong Kong orchid tree (Bauhinia x blakeana) which bears a mass of striking pink blooms that put on an unforgettable spring display.
• For cut flowers.
• To add a touch of spring cheer to a tropical garden or nature strip.
Grow it: Bauhinias cope well in tough conditions, including exposed locations and dry soil. Plant in sand or loam, in full sun. Suits zones 4-8, with excellent drainage in wet tropics and protection from frost in cooler zones.
A hardy shrub that will grow almost anywhere, the flowering quince (Chaenomeles speciosa) is often still referred to by its former name, japonica. It has blooms in shades of apricot, pink, red or white and, in colder climates, the flowers are sometimes followed by small fruits that taste similar to normal quinces.
• As a hedge to 2m – its thorns will keep intruders out.
• For its early flowers, which often bloom during winter.
• Espaliered along a wall.
Grow it: Plant in semi-shade or full sun. Any soil will do but mulch well, keeping the stem clear and water regularly. Once established, these shrubs are very drought-tolerant. Prune hard after flowering, removing about a third of the old stems every year to encourage fresh growth. Suits zones 1-7.
One look and you can see why this plant is sometimes called the snowball bush. With round clusters of white, green or pale pink flowers, and terrific autumn foliage, it’s perfect for cottage or classic gardens. There are different varieties available, including those with lacecap flowers.
• As a compact screen.
• Behind a mixed shrub border.
• As a feature shrub.
Grow it: Plant viburnum in rich, well-drained soil in full sun to part shade, providing more shade in hotter climates. Water regularly and feed lightly in spring. Suits zones 2-4, 6 and cooler parts of 1.
Landscape gardeners love these ornamentals for their year-round splendour. A lush showcase of clustered snowy-white flowers is followed by glossy green foliage, many with silvery new growth, with rich autumnal tones appearing from April. Pyrus calleryana Chanticleer is a particularly popular variety and, at about 10m, is a great choice for average suburban gardens.
• In a mini grove of five or more.
• As a feature tree in a lawn.
• In a narrow space, trimmed for upright growth.
Grow it: Pears prefer full sun but will tolerate a little shade and happily grow in most soil types. They tolerate some drought once established. Suits zones 2-4, 6-7.