Gardens in Blossom
This is it... the clocks have changed and our gardens are bursting into life with, if we have worked hard, a spectacle of colour thanks to our early summer flowering plants and trees. And the star of this show, if you are lucky enough to have one (and if not, walk down the street and make the time to appreciate the one your neighbour has) is the cherry blossom. In Japan, they have a word for this moment when the whole of life seems to burst out of hibernation and into a celebration of the end of winter and the return of longer days - the Japanese call it 'hanami.'
If you want to see for yourself what all the fuss is about and can't get to Japan, you could make a trip closer to home to Northumberland and visit The Cherry Orchard at Alnwick Garden. With over 300 graceful Japanese Tai Haku cherry trees this is the largest Cherry Orchard in the world and so well worth a special trip to visit. Lying on a peaceful slop beyond the Grand Cascade, each April and May the Orchard becomes a beautiful cloud of white with the petals falling gently to the ground like snow. The Tai Haku is known as 'the great white cherry' because of its large whole blossom and the trees in this spectacular orchard are underplantd with 50,000 Purple Sensation Alliums. Winding pathways meander through this special place and there are stunning azalea borders planted at the Orchard's edge.
In fact Alnwick Garden is far more than a contemporary pleasure garden of excellence. It is a registered charity that places people - individuals and communities - at its very heart stimulating growth and change through play, learning, the arts and other positive activities held throughout the year. And if you catch a glimpse of Alnwick Castle - home to the present Duke and Duchess of Northumberland - you may even recognise it from the Christmas special episodes of Downtown Abbey in which it was featured. This is also the month to pop the camera in the rucksack and visit Kew Gardens which also has a magnificent Cherry Walk once in bloom. It runs from the Rose Garden behind the Palm House to King William's Temple and then on to the Temperate House. You will also see over 250 different varieties of magnolias across the grounds but in particular near the Elizabeth Gate and Victoria Gate entrances and again close to the Kew Gardens Gallery. And if that's not enough blossom for one visit, several varieties of camellia bring further intense colour, along with carpets of the one plant that for those of us native to the UK shouts 'summer has stared' loudest of all - bluebells
It may feel as if the blossom is here for all too short a time but actually, the flowering season of the cherry, for example, is eight weeks so we have two months to enjoy this transition to a new season of growth and vitality across the whole of our garden spaces.