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What´s looking good in Early April

There is now a wide range of plants coming into flower.

Camellias are at their peak. Some of the earlier-flowering williamsii varieties are finishing, others such as the pink formal double E.G. Waterhouse are covered in perfect flowers, and this plant has a very useful tidy upright growth habit.

The later japonica varieties are seen at their best with the warmer weather, and Hana-fuki is one of the most distinct, with a cup-shaped semi-double flower in a glowing pink.

The real stars are the reticulata hybrids, such as Leonard Messel, raised not 10km from here and a real treat is to have Francie L growing up the wall of a house, with its enormous rosy-red semi-double flowers and long growths so useful for training.

Rhododendrons are now represented from the smallest rockery types to the real Big-leaf. The lavender-blue dwarfs such as R. yungningense (glomeratum) and Songbird are ideal for a rockery or bank, as well as a raised bed, which is such a useful way of having lime-free soil in chalky areas. The dwarf yellows such as Shamrock and Patty Bee are an ideal contrast.

The same colour scheme can be done in a relatively small space using the taller purple-blues of St. Tudy, St. Minver and Blue Diamond, and the yellow of R. lutescens and Chink. These all have small leaves and flowers, like azaleas.

The first azaleas come out now; the deciduous Frazeri is covered in soft pink, and the Japanese evergreens are led by rich red Tsuta Momiji, and Rex in orange-red, two more which are ideal for small, raised areas.

Amongst the bigger species, R. davidsonianum is a 2m tall upright, covered in delicate pink azalea-like flowers, R. wallichii is an unusual light purple, and R. arboreum is giving tall tree-like pillars of pinks and reds.

This is also the season for the giants, the Bigleaf species such as R. macabeanum and R. sinogrande producing their enormous trusses of cream and yellow. Their leaves have a real architectural value all year, doing best in sheltered semi-shade.

And this is the season of the Magnolia and even the smallest garden has room for one of the varieties of M. stellata - the Japanese use them a lot in big pots and tubs, getting round the problem of unsuitable soil. The magnolia also named after Leonard Messel is another top-ranker, with rich pink stellata flowers on a small upright tree.

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