Gardening / The bliss of spring blossom

Now's an excellent time to select lilacs at garden centres, as they come into flower.

Now’s an excellent time to select lilacs at garden centres, as they come into flower.

SPRING blossom is a reason why living in the older areas of Canberra is so desirable with streets lined with flowering trees as opposed to the concrete jungle of some parts of modern Canberra.

Cedric Bryant.

Cedric Bryant.

We enjoy six months of flowering trees, from June to December, starting with the flowering apricot, Prunus mume.

Then we progress to the flowering plums, almonds and cherries. About this time, the first of the crabapples come into blossom through September before reaching a crescendo of blossoms in October and November.

It’s impossible to pick which is the best blossom tree and I know the Japanese claim the flowering cherries are the ultimate. Certainly, anyone who has visited Japan in spring may have to agree.

As we go into November, the subtle fragrance of Syringa or lilacs fill the air.

I have been admiring a catalogue listing 14 fabulous lilacs, ranging from Syringa “Missimo”, with its rich Royal Robe purple flowers, possibly the darkest and most regal of all the lilac, to S. “Madame Lemoine”, one of the best of the whites with its double flowers.

Now’s an excellent time to select them at garden centres, as they come into flower. Lilacs like a little patience, taking two to three years to become fully established. Maybe the only way to describe them is for their entrancing fragrance.

The velvet-brown buds of a Port wine magnolia… and, yes, the fragrance is just like a good quality port wine.

The velvet-brown buds of a port wine magnolia… and, yes, the fragrance is just like a good quality port wine.

ANYONE with a reasonable-size garden should consider planting a Michelia figo or port wine magnolia.

I took this photo of the just emerging, velvet-brown buds last week as the days warm and, yes, the fragrance is just like a good-quality port wine.

Two other varieties to consider include Michelia yunnanensis “Paradise Perfection” and M.y. “Paradise Starlight”, which are bred by Bob Cherry, of Paradise Plants north of Gosford, from one of his plant-hunting expeditions in the Yunnan province of China. Both have pure white flowers with a delightful fragrance over a long period.

I recommend they are pruned after flowering or in mid-winter to keep them to about two metres tall, although they will grow to more than three metres at the expense of an abundance of flowers.

THIS is not the time to forget the wonderful range of Cornus or Dogwoods. The most popular are those native to North America and are ideally suited to our climate.

In fact, most dogwoods, similar to many fruit trees, need cold winters to flower well and like our distinct seasons. Cornus florida “Rubra” and C.f. “Sunset” are two popular deciduous varieties with stunning pink bracts, the flowers are quite insignificant.

The Himalayan dogwood, Cornus capitata, also known as the Himalayan Strawberry Tree, is an evergreen and one of the delights in our garden. In summer the flowers start off lime green, then gradually change to a dark pink then to bright red strawberry-like fruit in autumn.


  • After recent storms, it’s good to check all trees and shrubs for broken or damaged branches.
  • Check out Eremophila or Emu Bush, a hardy native plant used both medicinally and culturally by the Aborigines. These delightful plants are in flower now at garden centres.
  • Don’t get caught out with drying, warm winds affecting the just-planted annuals and veggies, particularly potted plants that can dry out in a couple of days.
  • ActewAGL reminds householders that all trees and shrubs must be kept a minimum of 1.5m away from power lines. With the rate of new growth within a year, I recommend at least 2m-2.5m clearance.

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