This bud's for you: It's hard to beat the sight of flowers on the verge of unfurling

A switch seems to flip, the air warms, and somewhere there is the faraway sound of a bee buzzing. It's spring – so suddenly that it seems indecent, as if a lady has stripped off her clothes in the park and there's slightly too much skin showing. Things itch, scratch, wriggle and pop. And best of all, the world is full of buds, pink and rose and veined with green, and ready to unfurl any minute.

Funny, then, that the horticultural rules should be so against the whole idea of a bud. While I was chatting to Lady Skelmersdale, one of the judges at last year's Chelsea Flower Show, she told me that the über-posh show gardens are strongly marked down if their flowers aren't yet properly open. It means the gardens haven't been timed correctly, and that they ain't ready.

I find this a bit daft. Surely that's the most appealing thing about a bud? It's something coming into being, and not quite there yet. It's cherry blossom, in tiny pink concentrations, ready to burst. It's magnolia trees, which often look their best to me at this moment in time, with their pale flowers in bud, held like candles on the bare branches in furry cases, just starting to open. Delicious.

A magnolia is not normally a tree for a small garden, as they have a wide and spreading growth which looks damaged when pruned unless done very skilfully. But Magnolia stellata, with its purest white star-shaped flowers, is a fantastic plant for any garden where spring's first plunge is happily celebrated. It will only ever get to a bit more than head height, and even then, very slowly. One friend of mine has underplanted a single specimen in her front garden with white stones, which makes a dramatic and beautiful statement. Plants are currently on sale at Crocus, priced £17.99 (crocus.co.uk).

A liking for spring buds certainly leads lots of people to pay good money in supermarkets these days for pussy willow, with its gorgeous stems of furry catkins in tasteful shades of grey. They are traditional plants for Chinese New Year, and on Palm Sunday in Eastern European churches, but they don't need to come from the supermarket. Salix caprea "Kilmarnock" is a very pretty version, with long weeping branches with a dwarf habit, so it will never get too big. My neighbour has it growing over her front wall, so that the catkins are there for street-strokers such as myself. Every year you can cut a number of stems to bring into the house without damaging the shape of the tree at all: it's a vigorous grower, with a five-litre specimen coming in at £24.99 from Crocus (as before).

But my favourite buds remain those of fruit trees, even if they are ornamental – there's something about cherry-blossom buds against a deep-blue sky that lifts the soul.

And knowing the flowers themselves will last only days at most is a great lesson. Turn out now to see blossoms, and to picnic underneath the trees – a wonderful reminder of how quickly things can pass. 1

Cherry pickings

Prunus 'shirotae' (Mount Fuji)

A neat tree, this has an arching, spreading growth, with heavy loads of pure white flowers in April 15-litre pot, £35, burncoose.co.uk

Prunus padus 'colorata'

The most delicate of stems and pale pink flowers with carmine centres. Gorgeous – though will eventually become a 15m tree 15-litre sapling, £35, burncoose.co.uk

Batsford arboretum

This tree collection in Gloucestershire holds the National Collection of Japanese sakura flowering cherries. There should be blossom through to May Entrance £6.60, batsarb.co.uk

Discover more property articles at Homes and Property
Suggested Topics
Property search
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Head Chef

£22000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This Garden Centre complex base...

Recruitment Genius: Buyer

£36000 - £38000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Buyer is required to join thi...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £45K: SThree: SThree Group have been well esta...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £45000: SThree: SThree Group have been well es...

Day In a Page

Turkey-Kurdish conflict: Obama's deal with Ankara is a betrayal of Syrian Kurds and may not even weaken Isis

US betrayal of old ally brings limited reward

Since the accord, the Turks have only waged war on Kurds while no US bomber has used Incirlik airbase, says Patrick Cockburn
VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but doubts linger over security

'A gift from Egypt to the rest of the world'

VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but is it really needed?
Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, applauds a man who clearly has more important things on his mind
The male menopause and intimations of mortality

Aches, pains and an inkling of mortality

So the male menopause is real, they say, but what would the Victorians, 'old' at 30, think of that, asks DJ Taylor
Man Booker Prize 2015: Anna Smaill - How can I possibly be on the list with these writers I have idolised?

'How can I possibly be on the list with these writers I have idolised?'

Man Booker Prize nominee Anna Smaill on the rise of Kiwi lit
Bettany Hughes interview: The historian on how Socrates would have solved Greece's problems

Bettany Hughes interview

The historian on how Socrates would have solved Greece's problems
Art of the state: Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China

Art of the state

Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China
Mildreds and Vanilla Black have given vegetarian food a makeover in new cookbooks

Vegetarian food gets a makeover

Long-time vegetarian Holly Williams tries to recreate some of the inventive recipes in Mildreds and Vanilla Black's new cookbooks
The haunting of Shirley Jackson: Was the gothic author's life really as bleak as her fiction?

The haunting of Shirley Jackson

Was the gothic author's life really as bleak as her fiction?
Bill Granger recipes: Heading off on holiday? Try out our chef's seaside-inspired dishes...

Bill Granger's seaside-inspired recipes

These dishes are so easy to make, our chef is almost embarrassed to call them recipes
Ashes 2015: Tourists are limp, leaderless and distinctly UnAustralian

Tourists are limp, leaderless and distinctly UnAustralian

A woefully out-of-form Michael Clarke embodies his team's fragile Ashes campaign, says Michael Calvin
Blairites be warned, this could be the moment Labour turns into Syriza

Andrew Grice: Inside Westminster

Blairites be warned, this could be the moment Labour turns into Syriza
HMS Victory: The mystery of Britain's worst naval disaster is finally solved - 271 years later

The mystery of Britain's worst naval disaster is finally solved - 271 years later

Exclusive: David Keys reveals the research that finally explains why HMS Victory went down with the loss of 1,100 lives
Survivors of the Nagasaki atomic bomb attack: Japan must not abandon its post-war pacifism

'I saw people so injured you couldn't tell if they were dead or alive'

Nagasaki survivors on why Japan must not abandon its post-war pacifism
Jon Stewart: The voice of Democrats who felt Obama had failed to deliver on his 'Yes We Can' slogan, and the voter he tried hardest to keep onside

The voter Obama tried hardest to keep onside

Outgoing The Daily Show host, Jon Stewart, became the voice of Democrats who felt the President had failed to deliver on his ‘Yes We Can’ slogan. Tim Walker charts the ups and downs of their 10-year relationship on screen