Spring is here – April shrubs, ground cover and must-haves

By Sarah Buchanan. First published by Rattan Direct on 11 April 2016.

Spring blossom, catkins, green leaves on trees. Spring is HERE and NOW. And my garden doesn’t look as good as it could and I am ready for action: with a notebook! I peer over fences and down roads, dawdle around garden centres and spot the plants that shout ‘Spring Is Here’. I ask for their names, or copy names from labels, and I look them up when I get home. I need to know: will that gorgeous plant like my garden? How big will it grow? Does it like facing the sun or is it on the shady side? Shortlist from the gorgeous to what will work for me and a shopping list is born.

Now may not be the time to buy the plants that want to live with me: many do not like being planted when in flower, others will be a lower price later in the year, others will just do better if I wait. So I am planning for 2017. After all, spring is about looking forward!

Spring is here for shrubs

It’s a good time to buy and plant shrubs that create a backdrop and a framework in your garden:

  • Berberis: prickly shrubs, so don’t plant near your garden seats! Great colours and bees love the pollen. The evergreen varieties are good all-rounders.
  • Viburnums: all sorts exist so be careful which you buy. Some flower in winter (bodnantense), some flower in spring (carlessi and burkwoodii); some flower in summer (tinus) and some are evergreen. So check that what you see and like will like your garden, buy and plant it now or add it to your list for later.
  • Spirea: ‘bridal wreath’ is the shrub my Aunty Mary grew because it is happy being cut for flowers in the house; other varieties are just as good.
Spring is here! Spirea 'bridal wreath' in bloom
“Spiraea ‘bridal wreath’ blooming in May” by Rgm3 is licensed under CC BY 2.5. Wikimedia Commons


Ground cover plants

Plants to buy now that will cover the ground:

  • Pulmonaria, or lungwort: different coloured flowers with speckled leaves. A great all-rounder that smothers weeds (my kind of plant) and sows its own seeds nearby to create more plants where you want them.
  • Primroses: sow their own seed in your garden so if you buy in flower, place the pot where you hope the flowers will seed. Cultivated primroses bring different colours, and many are long lasting. My Grandmother grew tiny purple ‘Wanda’ primroses (properly called Primula x Juliana ‘Wanda’) that seemed to flower for ever – I must buy some now!


Primula x juliana Spring is here!
Primula x juliana by KENPEI is licensed by GFDL and CC-BY-SA-3.0 or CC BY-SA 2.1. Wikimedia Commons

April must-haves

My shopping list of plants for later in the year include April must-haves:

  • Spring bulbs: if the weather is warm, tulips are showstoppers and each year I understand why fortunes were made and lost investing in these wonderful bulbs in sixteenth century Holland. So, this year I am studying the ones in bloom, noting their names when I can, looking them up at home, and starting a list to buy and plant in the autumn
  • Magnolia: there are all sorts of varieties, some of which like chalky soils (most do not), so I will need to narrow down my choice!

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