Beautiful April brings colour back into our lives. Magnolia, Doronicum, quince, and cherry blossom all add to the visual excitement that our gardens are now providing. Tulips, the cheerleaders for April, are arriving in myriad colours, some double bloomed and blousy, some pencil sharp, slim, and lily flowered, others displaying their sanguine disposition with contorted, splashed, and stately heads. Planted en-masse they are often combined with a backdrop of delicate, late flowering Narcissi, their rise and fall synchronised to perfection.
The carnival atmosphere isn’t reserved exclusively for the garden - the colour palette is sweeping across the countryside with cuckoo flowers (Cardamine pratensis) snakeshead frittilaries (Fritillaria meleagris) and pasque flower (Pulsatilla vulgaris) exclaiming ‘Look at us. We’re back and we’re more beautiful than ever!’
The Romans believed that the name April was derived from Aprilis the verb to open, but several other suggestions have been made including the connection with Venus who’s festival Veneralia fell on the first day of the month, her equivalent Greek name being Aphrodite or Aphros. The Anglo-saxons called April eastre-monath after the West German goddess of spring, Ēostre.
April weather is synonymous with showers as the jet stream six miles up works its way north causing large depressions to bring wind and heavy rain in from the atlantic. In the garden, soil temperatures are starting to increase and will be stepping into double figures for the first time since late September.
April is the month when the cuckoo can be heard, often arriving hand in hand with its enthusiastic songster, the nightingale, both having flown north for six weeks from central or western Africa. In the garden, potting sheds, hedges, and nest boxes will be occupied by diligently constructed nests, with blackbirds, thrushes and robins often the first to complete this mission, many containing their first clutch of precious eggs.
Gardeners Graham Stuart Thomas, Humphrey Repton, and Dan Pearson were born this month.