Early Spring flowers

Rhododendron praecox

Rhododendron praecox - Credit: Keith Clouting

Plant specialist Keith Clouting of Taverham Nursery Centre brings you his guide to getting the best out of your garden

Although it’s only February, with the days lengthening and early flowering shrubs and bulbs bursting into life it makes me feel as if spring is just around the corner.

The buds of one of these early flowerers, Rhododendron praecox, will soon be opening. It makes a small, upright shrub with glossy dark green oval-shaped leaves with violet-purple funnel-shaped flowers covering it in late winter or early spring. As it is slow-growing, this rhododendron is an excellent choice for a container or, in a spot towards the front of a border, grow in lime-free soil or compost and plant on the shallow side as rhododendrons resent being planted too deeply.

Another shrub at its best in now is Daphne bholua Jacqueline postill, one of the hardiest Daphnes and one of the best. At this time of year it produces highly fragrant purplish-pink and white flowers, filling the air and garden with scent; the flowers are followed by black berries. It makes a medium-sized shrub, growing to around 2.5m tall and 1.5m wide. It’s best grown in full sun or partial shade in any fertile, moist but well-drained soil.

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