March's plant of the month

There's been a beautiful outbreak of horticultural scarlet fever at Harlow Carr

Prunus mume 'Beni Chidori'This March I’m particularly looking forward to seeing our Prunus mume ‘Beni-chidori’ bursting into bloom, and when I say bursting, that is exactly what it does. For weeks now the tiny buds have been swelling along the length of the stems, giving a hint of what’s to come.

Even at this stage it’s possible to see how intense the colour is, with the tiny scarlet/pink buds contrasting against the smooth rich green stems. In March the buds finally burst into full bloom covering the entire tree in a blaze of colour, a vivid shade that really stands out against the bright blue skies and contrasts with all the other much more delicate hues of the season.

We have two specimens in the garden, both replacing a very old and unhappy tree. One is located in the old winter garden next to the pale pink blooms of Viburnum × bodnantense ‘Dawn’, and the other in the more contemporary Winter Walk contrasting with the striking orange stems of Cornus sanguinea ‘Midwinter Fire’ where they both deliver a final blast of colour along with all the early spring bulbs to these areas, as the rest of the garden begins to awaken from the grips of winter.

As a relatively fast growing but small tree they are perfectly suited to the average suburban garden, yet rarely seen. They can be quite short lived but with the correct pruning, the vigour and flower production can be kept for many years. After flowering, the longest shoots should be reduced by up to one half; this will encourage strong growth throughout the summer which will produce the best flowers the following spring.

Read some expert practical advice on other small trees you might select for your garden.

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The Royal Horticultural Society is the UK’s leading gardening charity. We aim to enrich everyone’s life through plants, and make the UK a greener and more beautiful place.