MARCH is a lovely time of year.
You can get some chilly winds, overnight frosts, occasionally even snow, but the progression from winter to spring seems to get ever faster. Every few days, something will occur to confirm spring is sprung. The frogs are still active. The odd daffodil is open. The camellias are coming into flower and everywhere, the deciduous plants are at the point of bud-burst. A time filled with hope and expectation of good things to come.
I find that as the season progresses, my personal favourites change. Snowdrops were a favourite of my mother, and like her, spirits are lifted at the sight of their brave early show. But then I like my Lenten hellebore, which while looking delicate, produces a succession of burgundy red flowers over a period of weeks. Meanwhile, the daffs come into flower. I love them all, large and miniature. Their presence defines the start of the spring season.
Not to be outdone, the early starters among the shrubs come into flower. The delicate-looking pink flowers of the sand cherry confound the cold by appearing on bare branches before leaves make an appearance. Then one of the real stars, the camellia produces flamboyant rose-like flowers in shades of pink, white or blood red, set against superb glossy leathery-green leaves. A stunning plant that cannot fail to impress, and flowers for weeks, and which seems to like our damp climate.
Before you know it the pieris family are jockeying for position. They choose not to produce big blousy flowers, instead opting for generous sprays of lily-of-the-valley flowers. A beautiful sight, but for some their glory arrives in May when at bud-burst they are clothed in bright-red shoots, rivalling even the azaleas and rhododendrons when it comes to attention seeking. Nearer the ground the frond of the ferns start to unfurl and sprays of locket-shaped are produced by the aptly named “Bleeding Heart”. There is so much to look forward to it is difficult to choose a favourite.
Nationally, the favourite remains the rose. They are thorny and need a bit of care and attention to be at their best, but time and again they flower freely and remain one of the most reliable and showiest of plants. Not surprisingly it is an emblem of our nation, our sporting heroes, our county and … err … the Labour party. It is the classic flower of choice at Valentine’s Day and symbolic of love.
I have recently registered a specially named rose called “Pendleside” which I hope to sell from Reedley Garden Centre in Robinson Lane, Brierfield, with all profits donated to our very own Pendleside Hospice.
There are so many deserving causes worthy of our support but in view of their roots being firmly in Burnley and Pendle and the marvellous work they carry out, Pendleside Hospice is my charity of choice, and besides… they are pretty much next door.
The “Pendleside” rose is a robust little plant, a floribunda rose freely producing large clusters of apricot flowers. It repeat flowers. Whether it will prove to be a firm favourite, only time will tell, but I am confident.