There is much to be said about focusing your garden on one season. If you’re trying hard to create all year interest in a small garden or within one border you will end up with all year disappointment. Unless you have a very large garden where you have space for a Winter garden, Summer borders and a Woodland Spring walk, it always pays off to focus on one season, or even to narrow it to one or two months so that at least your garden is at its peak at one particular time.

And if you need to choose one season, well, Spring, is a splendid choice. The advantage with banking on Spring is that a lot of trees and shrubs that bear beautiful Spring blossoms tend to also offer spectacular Autumn foliage (I’m thinking June berries, cherry trees, crab apples,..). So you’ll get a double return on your investment.

Don’t worry that by focusing on Spring you’ll sacrifice Summer. Summer will still be glorious with all the herbaceous plants coming back up, all the shrubs and trees in full leaf and summer bulbs and annuals to punctuate it all and fill the gaps.

Here is a list of ingredients you’ll need to turn your garden into a Spring celebration bursting out of life, colour, blossom and exhilarating scents.

For an average-sized garden in our hood, say 12meters long x 6 meters wide, you’ll need:

  • Some evergreen structural planting to constitute the frame of the garden.
  • 3 Spring-flowering shrubs
  • One or two Spring-flowering climber
  • At least one small tree with Spring blossom or a row of 3 or 5.
  • Hundreds of Spring flowering bulbs
  • A sprinkle of Spring fragrance

Choose from the selection below.

3 best Spring shrubs

  • Cercis chinensis ‘Avondale’

The bare, upright shoots of this plant are covered in small clusters of deep pink, pea-like flowers in spring, creating a spectacular display just before the leaves start to emerge.

  • Halesia Carolina

A beautiful, deciduous tree with clusters of bell-shaped white flowers that work well in semi shade, especially when underplanted with seasonal bulbs.

  • Exochorda x macrantha “ The Bride”

Stunning pure white bloom that goes on for 6 weeks in April and May. It can be trained as a wall shrub .

3 best Spring climbers

  • Clematis macropetala
  • Clematis alpine
  • Akebia quinata

Exquisite and underrated climber with chocolate-scented deep burgundy flowers.

3 best Spring scents

  • Osmanthus burkwodii
  • French lavender, flowers earlier than English Lavender but blends well with its English cousins if you want to create a prolonged effect.
  • Hyacinth orientalis

3 best Spring blossom trees

  • Orchard trees
  • June berries (Amelanchier lamarckii or canadensis)
  • Magnolias

3 best Spring bulbs

Use them at the base of trees or clear stemmed shrubs, in drifts or clusters and fill your pots and window boxes with them.

  • Tulips

So many colours, shapes to choose from, there are tulips to please everybody’s tastes, some of them are even beautifully scented.

  • Scilla sibirica

Easy peasy bulbs perfect to naturalise a section of your lawn

  • Fritillaria meleagris

Such pretty little things!

Now there is no need to long for Summer, THIS is perfect. Spring has sprung!

Barbara Samitier is a garden designer who lives in Peckham Rye.

This article first appeared in the April 2016 issue of SE22 magazine.