Nature Calendar: April in the British Garden

WEATHER

Thunder, hail and showers are not in-frequent. Generally, rainfall is not high, and temperatures rise steadily.

GARDEN FLOWERS

Early tulips provide a splash of colour in April, and dicentra, trilliums and periwinkles start to flower. Hyacinths now flower in the open garden, with the small bulbous irises, and carpets of daffodils. Muscari are still blooming, and are joined by forget-me-nots, wallflowers, Fritillaria meleagris and Doronicum plantagineum.

In the woodland garden Lenten roses are at their best.

THE ROCK GARDEN

The rock garden now comes into its own. Polyanthus make a gay display, with some primulas among the shrubs, and there are still plenty of primroses. The violas are opening and mounds of mossy saxifragas are covered with buds. There are anemones and arabis with bright cushions of aubrieta and pasque flowers growing between the stones.

WILD FLOWERS

April brings an abundance of wild flowers, too. The buttercup is common along the roadsides, but the daisy, pearlwort and woodrush prefer shorter turf, such as garden lawns. Other weeds in the garden at this time include groundsel, shepherd’s purse and annual grass.

The hedge parsley sometimes produces a few flowers in April. Other roadside flowers to be seen now are the wild arum, usually known as lords and ladies or wake robin; dove’s-foot crane’s-bill and herb Robert, both members of the geranium family; and the common violet. The cuckoo flower is found in damp places.

In the woods, bluebells, red campion and yellow archangel are at their best before the trees come into leaf, and where timber has been felled and the copse-wood cleared, these flowers produce magnificent drifts of colour.

TREES AND SHRUBS

In April the first leaves appear on horse chestnut, mountain ash and larch. In the garden, Viburnum burkwoodii and Erica arborea are in flower, soon to be joined by the cherries and the fragrant sprays of pieris. Clwisya temala, too, may begin to bloom.

BIRDS

Many resident birds will be nesting, and a few young birds from the early March nests will already have fledged.

Most of the migrants are now on spring passage: more chiffchaffs and then the willow warbler and related species arrive and swallows begin to pass in increasing numbers. House martins, sand martins and swifts will also be seen before the month is out. Two other well-known birds are due in April: the cuckoo and, somewhat later, the nightingale.

Waterfowl will have left their winter quarters by now and flown north and east to their nesting grounds by stream, lake or marsh. The waders, in particular, will have assumed their breeding plumage, so colourful that they appear to be different species from those seen in much plainer feathers during the winter.

INSECTS

The butterflies that spent the winter as chrysalides are hatching out on warm days. The small garden white visits gardens to lay its eggs on green vegetables; the orange-tip and the green-veined white are more likely to be seen in damp meadows. The speckled wood flutters along woodland drives where there is partial shade, and the holly blue visits shrubberies or open woods where it can find holly and ivy.

ANIMALS

The hedgehog, which may have been seen on warmer days during the winter, emerges from hibernation. Fresh green shoots in the woods may fall a prey to squirrels, whose young are born at this time. Field mice begin their long breeding season, although their numbers are kept down by stoats and weasels.

16. February 2012 by Dave Pinkney
Categories: Featured Articles, Garden Management, Gardening Calendar | Tags: , , , | Comments Off on Nature Calendar: April in the British Garden

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