Growbag Blog

Spring blossom: What are your thoughts?


It’s spring so which blossom is best? Some people swoon over cherry blossom but personally I wouldn’t give a cherry tree house room in my garden. Having to put up with its coarse leaves and those irritating horizontal circles round its bark all year round just for a week of some sycophantic pink froth of petals which it thinks justifies its existence.

Tim once planted an unauthorised wild cherry next to our garage which grew into a monster, sending out its malign suckers to infiltrate every plant in a 10 metre radius. He’s been in the doghouse ever since.

No, if you want blossom in your garden in Spring, choose something with more depth, something that has a point to it, a quince perhaps which had pretty flowers, scent and then gorgeous voluptuous fruit it the autumn.

Quince flowers – as pretty as any cherry
Then produces these fabulous fruits

Or go for a crab apple which, if you choose the right one, can give you blossom, fruit and autumn colour: Malus ‘ Transitoria’  has a lovely spreading shape, blossom for ages, autumn colour then tiny yellow fruits for the birds to feast on. 

You can choose a crab apple tree with the particular characteristics you want from the selector page on the website of the excellent Pippin Trees

Or go for something with more intrigue, my Akebia quinata, the chocolate vine, is opening it’s buds now with a dark smouldering mystery that has far more class than any shallow cherry tree.

Akebia – a connoisseur’s spring blossom


Wouldn’t you just know that dear Laura would go all snobby about cherry trees!  I will grant that the knicker-pink of ubiquitous Prunus ‘Kansan’ has an awful bluish tinge to it that definitely grates. 

But what about my gorgeous little P. incisa ‘Kojo No Mai’ (I believe that means ‘Dance of Butterflies’ in Japanese) ? It is a slow-growing quite compact shrub, (would be fab in a big pot) with dense zig-zaggy branches bearing hundreds of little white-turning-to-pink blossoms in early spring.  Its leaves are small, unlike the big cherry tree varieties, and then in autumn they turn into a dazzling array of yellows, oranges and purples before they fall. Honestly, get one – it’s a beauty!

Kojo No Mai – snapped by Louise for her column
Then it does this in Autumn!

Then there is Amelanchier lamarkii – snowy mespilus – which has been a lovely froth of white star-shaped blossom for about 10 days now, just as the copper shoots are emerging, and this is another plant that looks like it’s on fire in the autumn. If you’re investing in a tree, it’s worth trying to make sure that it has more than one fabulous attribute.

Amalanchier – more than one attribute

And that of course is true of the apples and crab-apples, as Laura says. It’s hard to think of anything prettier than a large old apple tree, just as its white flowers are starting to open from pink buds.

Once they are all out and there’s no more pink, I think the magic has gone a little, but there is still the fruit to look forward to. I’ve had fun training eight Malus ‘Red Sentinel’ crab apples into twin espaliers connecting a terrace to a pergola, and the branches are now laden with fat pink buds (see our feature picture at the top) among the emerging bright green leaves – that’s spring for you, right there……..


Really by the time I got to the fourth line of what Elaine’s decrepit apple tree was doing, I was reaching for a gun. No, what you need in spring isn’t a blossom that has depth, or integrity, or more than one season, what you need is something with BALLS.

Handsome is as handsome does… and forsythia does!

Bring on the egg-yolk yellow of Forsythia or Kerria Japonica (yes, of course I call the latter by its common name, bachelor’s buttons!).

They might look a little dull the rest of the year but right now after a long winter and a slow start to spring (what Laura’s farmer husband Tim refers to as ‘a cold back end’) we all need a shot in the arm and these don’t pull any punches in the colour department.

In the Highlands, some way north of Inverness, I’ve used Forsythia as a windbreak for my herbaceous borders and it’s given stalwart service in this role for decades, (it definitely looks a little classier if kept clipped, flowering abundantly as it does, on old wood). It’s sat beside the spiky fluorescence of a Berberis darwinii hedge, another atrocity according to Elaine and Laura, but it also had a second very useful role – keeping the neighbour’s sheep out of the garden.

Berberis, not ‘Plant of the Year’ material but a good sheep deterrent.

You see girls when you bang on about plants needing more than one attribute, it’s sometimes not the most obvious ones that matter!

NB Louise’s Great Plant this Month has so much more class than Muscari (grape hyacinths to Caroline).

More NB If you’d like a bit more gardening chitchat from the3growbags, please type your email address here and we’ll send you a new post every Saturday morning.

By the3growbags

We're three sisters who love gardening, plants and even the science of horticulture but we're not all experts. We'd love everyone even remotely interested in their gardens to be part of our blogsite.

8 replies on “Spring blossom: What are your thoughts?”

Minus 1.5 degrees in County Durham last night – so Narcissi lying flat on the ground this morning (they may sit up again later) and early Rhododendron flowers all brown, alas, BUT cherries in full blossom completely unaffected! Go compute…
I recommend one that was in full flower for us over a month ago, in very cold weather: Prunus mume ‘Beni chidori’ with deep pink flowers and really pretty. When I lived in London years ago, we had a huge Almond tree in our front garden, so gorgeous that people would travel to photograph it. Squirrels opened its nuts with ease but we had no nutcracker could cope – we had to use a hammer on the front doorstep. I agree about hating Kanzan, though!

Thank you for writing in, Linda and Caroline. Elaine here. Glad you approve of some of our choices! Yes, we had a frost here in Western Normandy last night as well, but it wasn’t enough to flatten the narcissi, I’m happy to say. I have just looked up ‘Beni Chidori’ and it looks SO pretty. Thank you for the tip-off – it has just been added to my shopping list, though I daresay Laura with her weird cherry aversion will need a little more convincing!

Hello all, Laura here!
Actually if there was one cherry I would make room for it would be Beni-chidori (although strictly speaking I think it’s an apricot?) such beautiful deep pink simple flowers on bare stems, and as you say, flowering almost in late winter rather than spring. A great recommendation. We have a small almond tree, which also flowers early, but doesn’t sound nearly as spectacular as yours!
Thanks for sharing your garden knowledge with us Best wishes Laura

I have an autumn flowering cherry (Prunus subhirtella “autumnalis rosea”) which is somewhat random about when it flowers and which are pale pink – it has been flowering now since November. Peaking in late January when it looked fantastic – it still has a few just now. The tree has a nice airy spreading habit and the leaves are quite small, turning yellow/orange in the autumn. It doesn’t cast too much shade for planting underneath either. Because of where I planted it, I sometimes wish it had a bit more drama in it’s colouring but actually it’s a pretty wee tree which doesn’t detract from other plantings for the spring / summer season. I also have a Kojo No Mai in a pot and absolutely love the autumn leaf colouring. Still to get an amelanchier though !

What excellent taste you have Clancy! The autumn cherry will actually flower obligingly in any mild spell in the winter and where you live in the highlands I think you have several of these pleasant breaks in the weather this winter. And although I have been quite negative about spring flowering cherries in the blog I would actually make an exception for Kojo No Mai which is a dear little tree that never puts a foot wrong. If you add an Amelanchier to your collection the baton of blossom can be passed onto it in spring and you should have blossom somewhere in your garden for about six months of the year ? best wishes Laura x

Loved reading your blossom choices -on another tack – is it recommended to prune salvia at this time? In a town garden ?? Thank you Maggie

Hello Maggie, Laura here glad you’ve found us and are enjoying the blog!
With respect to the salvias I’m assuming you mean the shrubby ones that look a bit scruffy at the moment, but should be starting to show some green leaves in their lower regions by now. The advice is generally to wait until the last frost (so hopefully now!) then trim all the dead tips of the branches back to the green shoots. You can prune them harder back than this if they are getting too big for their space but I have found that they sometimes don’t regenerate as strongly if I cut them right back so I just give them a light trim to tidy them up. Hope this is helpful, Laura x

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