Best trees for spring blossom
Choose trees for spring beauty, the hope of summer
Who doesn’t love spring blossom? Besides being absolutely stunning it’s the hope for better times to come, lighter nights, warmer days, gorgeous flower-filled gardens and entertaining family and friends in the garden. As part of the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee 2022 celebrations she would like us all to plant a tree under the Queen’s Green Canopy initiative. You don’t necessarily need a garden as many trees are suitable for growing in large containers, they just won’t reach their full potential and they need more maintenance, on hot days they will need watering twice a day.
If you have a large garden you can bask in the glory of spring blossom from late March early April to the end of May. Sloes, Prunus spinosa, (blackthorn) are usually the first to bloom, you can see the white froth along hedgerows the length and breadth of the countryside. They are not really suitable to grow as a tree in the garden but are a wonderful addition to a wildlife hedge, particularly if security is a problem as they are covered in spines, so not suitable if you have small children. Next to bloom are damsons and plums then the glorious wild cherry, Prunus avium. Ornamental cherries are next and there are masses of varieties which range in colour from pure white to the deepest carmine pink and from simple single flowers to many petalled doubles. If you only have a small garden the upright pale pink Flagpole Cherry, Prunus ‘Amanogawa’, is ideal and as a bonus the flowers are slightly fragranced.
Pears and crab apples are next to flower closely followed by quince, Cydonia oblonga, hawthorn (Crataegus monogyna) and finally apples. If your apple isn’t self-fertile you will need another tree as a pollinator which flowers at the same time, otherwise you won’t get any fruit. If you have a lot of apple trees in your neighbourhood you may be able to benefit from your neighbours, negating the need for you to have two trees.
Crataegus monogyna (Hawthorn)
The common hawthorn is a very tolerant tree, of both dryness and excess moisture and they are also suitable for coastal windswept gardens. There are hybrid varieties available which give slightly larger and double flowers, try Crataegus laevigata ‘Paul’s Scarlet’ with double scarlet flowers or C monogyna ‘Compacta’ a small variety suitable for growing in a container.
Cydonia oblonga (Quince)
The most widely sold variety of this small fruit tree is ‘Vranja’ which gives fragrant yellow fruit. Not to be confused with the ornamental quinces Chaenomeles japonica which is grown as a shrub.
Malus (Crab Apple)
There are a lot of named cultivars of crab apples giving fruits ranging from the deepest red to pale yellow however the best for blossom are ‘Adirondack’ which produces white flowers and being a small tree is suitable for growing in a large container. Recommended varieties include ‘American Beauty’ which has deep red double flowers, ‘Hillieri’ with bright pink semi-double flowers, ‘John Downie’ has white flowers and a heavy crop of bright orange flushed red fruits and ‘Golden Hornet’ which is one of the most reliable varieties producing white flowers and yellow fruits, suitable for a large container.
Malus sylvestris (Apple)
Apple trees come in many forms, not just the orchard trees, nowadays there are several grafted onto dwarf rootstock specifically aimed at the smaller garden. There are fan-trained trees which are designed to be planted against a sunny wall. Step-over trees are trained onto horizontal wires and as the name suggests they are low enough to ‘step-over’, they make a fantastic border to a vegetable patch. There are also ‘patio’ trees’ designed to be grown in large containers and these have 2 -3 varieties grafted onto a single tree; they pollinate each other so you will get fruit even with only one plant.
Prunus avium (Wild Cherry)
This makes a large tree and is not suitable for small gardens or containers, however if you do have the space, it is a beautiful tree, not only for the blossom but also the fruits which are an important source of winter bird food.
Prunus (Ornamental varieties)
These are the iconic trees which produce the most spectacular spring blossom from early March to late May and ranging in colour from pure white through the spectrum of pinks to dark carmine. ‘Kursar’ has rich deep pink flowers and is suitable for a medium sized garden, ‘Taihaku’ is also known as the Great White Cherry, being possible the best white flowered variety, however it is not suitable for a small garden. One of the best for a small garden or container is the pale pink flowered ‘Kojo-no-mai’ as it is slow growing, and an added point of interest are it’s zig-zag branches.
Prunus spinosa (Sloe, Blackthorn)
As outlined above this wild native would not be suitable as a stand-alone tree but would make a fantastic addition in a wildlife hedge, not only for the blossom, slow gin and impenetrable spines but also for the refuge it gives to small birds and mammals.
Pyrus communis (Pear)
Pear trees are available in the same forms as the apple trees and like the apples need a sunny site and good humus rich soil.