Flowering Garden Ideas
There are enough winter and early spring flowering rhododendrons to suit everyone’s taste. Just remember that the more hairs there are on a rhododendron, the less hardy it is, so buy smooth glossy types.
Rhododendron Christmas Cheer (nobleanum) really does flower at Christmas! Pick it when the buds are just showing colour and remove some of the leaves if you want it for home decoration. R. shilsonii, a vivid red, is probably the most outstanding of early rhododendrons. For rock gardens, there is R. repens with waxy red bells about the size of a gentian. Another hybrid is R. Moonshine from which came the best strain of hardy hybrid yellow rhododendrons.
Others than the winter types bloom from the end of April through May and the very late, from June to July.
Azaleas and rhododendrons are the same thing botanically. But there are deciduous (often colouring beautifully in autumn) as well as evergreen azaleas and generally they are much smaller. They are ideal for the small garden. Most azaleas favour the yellow, orange and apricot colour range, though there are some new varieties which are in soft pinks and mauves.
The hardiest of all rhododendrons is the purple species you have probably seen growing wild, R. ponticum. Its counterpart in the azalea world is A. pontica. Ponticus means coming from the shores of the Black Sea! This has bright yellow flowers which are strongly scented and instead of being evergreen has brilliant coloured autumn foliage.
If you have neutral or peaty garden soil all of these will grow happily. They look their best grown together. One can grow certain bulbs including lilies with them. The soil beneath them can be carpeted with heathers, bilberries or the delightful creeping dogwood, Cornus canadensis. These plants will grow under the shade of trees or at the edge of light woodland. They make a delightful link between wild and formal garden. On the other hand rhododendrons will flourish in full sun so long as their roots are kept cool and comparatively moist.
The cherry flowering currant Ribes sanguineum, can be seen in most cottage gardens (I have even seen a clipped hedge of it) and can be cut to force indoors as soon as its flower buds become plump. There is a lovely white variety, alba, the racemes of which are long and graceful.
Great Gardening Ideas Fill Your Garden With Colour
The odd but titillatingly scented witch hazels will bloom in a sheltered place even though snow lies all around. In summer they are not much to rave about — rather like a gross hazel nut bush — but in mid-winter and onwards the branches become decorated with yellow tassels. There are many varieties of varying hues. Hamamelis pallida is a pleasant sulphur yellow.
What many winter-flowering shrubs lack in glory they make up for in fragrance. A favourite cottage garden shrub is the little daphne. These prefer a sandy-peaty soil and are apt to die off in limy soils. D. laureola with scented yellow-green flowers is uncommon and flowers in February and March. The tiny white blagayana blooms in March and April, collina, purple-rose, from March to June.
Many of the maples or acer provide foliage colour and some of them go on to give us bark colour that can be seen brilliantly right down the garden.
There is the vivid liquidambar, afire with brilliant foliage, the parrotia, hamamelis, fothergilla, rhus, sorbus, and many more, a wide collection which enriches and obliges us with splendid summer foliage ending in a firework display of brilliant colour at the end of the season when we most need it.
But even these leaves fall and while we are left with bare stems our eyes shift to the berries, some of which shine from evergreen foliage. We can choose berberis, crataegus, hollies, roses, the vines and snowberries to fit into the garden scheme.
Yet it is not only the true spectrum colours that serve us well in the dark days. White, silver and grey are increasingly important in our gardens. There are many grey or silver leaved plants in cultivation which can shine through the darkness of winter days. They range from santolina and artemisia through many of the dianthus and the hosta to the lavenders and olearias. Even some of the cupressus, pittosporum, populus and Pyrus are useful in their season.