Buds are meant to burgeon in May, according to all good literature; here in Andalucía they are much more likely to do it in April. But, either month, it is an absolute delight, that delicious freshness of tiny brilliant green shoots emerging from dead-looking bare wood. The emergence of new life is magical enough to always make us gasp. If you come into the Garden Centre early on spring mornings, you´ll almost certainly catch us oohing and aahing at the latest emergence – even my daughters are good at it now! It becomes a contest to see who has noticed something new; the lime greenness of ginkgo biloba leaves, the shrimp pink buds unfurling on the schotia brachypetala or drunken parrot tree, smoky, sultry leaves on the cotinus, tulips in their candy-striped coats, fat rosebuds bursting their jackets and the soft sherbet colours of iris blending and mingling under the limpid leaves of quince trees. The evergreens have held sway all winter but now is the time of glory of the deciduous trees and herbaceous perennials. Never will they look so enticing so do take time to wonder at it all. Remember that gardens are places of pleasure – don´t wrap yourself up in so many tasks that you don´t have time to enjoy! Take your early-morning cup of tea out into the garden; you won´t be able to sit still for long, something will catch your eye and lead you down the path of garden delights. Two trees shine out for their freshness in springtime gardens; robinia pseudoacacia, commonly known as the black locust tree, and robinia pseudoacacia 'Casque Rouge'. The genus robinia is named for a Parisian apothecary, Jean Robin, and his son, Vespasien, who worked as Royal gardeners to Henry IV of France and planted out the garden for the Faculty of Medicine, later the Jardin des Plantes. It is believed that the first planting of robinia in Europe took place there in 1601; it was later introduced to England and one was planted at Kew Gardens in 1762 where it still lives, one of their oldest trees. Robinias are native to south-eastern North America where robinia pseudoacacia was particularly valued and became largely used in the colonisation and construction booms of the U.S. Their attributes were seemingly endless! They are quick-growing and undemanding. The durability of their wood made it rot-proof and it was used for wagon wheels, fence posts, structural timbers, flooring and ship building. The flowers are very beautiful and have a wonderful fragrance; bees love them and an excellent honey is obtained. They have spreading aggressive roots that are great for stabilising ground; they fix nitrogen and have a sweet liquorice flavour too. The tree is extremely resistant to pollution and, for this reason, was often planted along rail lines and as a street tree. It also makes an excellent slow-burning firewood. The black locust can reach 20m high with a trunk girth of 1m, so it´s not for small gardens! Its grey-brown bark is rough, fissured and deeply furrowed – very attractive. The leaves are pinnate, ferny and very pretty, especially in springtime, and the pea-like flowers are clustered into hanging racemes, dangling prettily rather like wisteria, and wafting their rich perfume around during spring and early summer. Their rich smell is so good that they are valued in the perfumery trade and because of their edibility have been popularly nicknamed 'bread and cheese' in Spain. The seed cases are long with 4 to 10 seeds in each. Robinia pseudoacacia 'Casque Rouge' is known as the pink cascade false acacia because of its very pretty and abundant deep rosy pink flowers. It is a quick grower too, though slightly smaller at around 15m and a really lovely sight in full bloom. It, too, is easy and tolerant, an excellent choice in rougher areas of the garden where it will help avoid soil erosion. Both types are best in full sun situations – though some light dappled shade is also acceptable – and they become very drought tolerant. Both are resistant to insect attack and disease, really tough beauties! Now it has to be said that robinias are not perfect – who wants perfection anyway! Both are widely grown as ornamentals for their graceful habit but they do have their down-sides too! Firstly, they are fairly spiny – the thorns of the black locust were even used as a substitute for nails. But some class them as invasive and, admittedly, they can be when used wrongly. They have a suckering habit that can be a problem in conventional cultivation; but make use of that on rough old ground because they are brilliant at stabilising banks and loose shale soil. If you want to control the suckering, try not to cultivate around it – chopped, damaged roots are more likely to sucker. Self-seeding can be rather prolific too but they are easily pulled out whilst young to prevent them developing into a jungle. Never overwater your robinias; it encourages fast rapid growth, but it will be very weak and thin, easily snapping and breaking in high winds. Their nature is to be rather brittle branched (like true acacias) but remember that they also make excellent firewood! Autumnal pruning, especially whilst young, will help to develop a good shape and strengthen weak growths. The robinias are mildly poisonous and the bark of the black locust is particularly poisonous so do take care when pruning. Don´t be put off planting robinias – their prettiness far outweighs their problems and I´m sure we´ve all got land crying out for one or two! We have both in stock at the moment. NB: For those of you who had planned to visit 'The Event Garden Show' in Portugal in June of this year, please note that it has been postponed until Spring 2017 because of bureaucracy problems! Viveros Florena – Probably the best little garden centre in Andalucía! Keep checking our web page for latest news and exciting new stock arriving at the garden centre. Join our mailing list to keep in constant touch. Shop on-line with us for unusual plants, plug plants, scented roses, bulbs, coloured iris, organic products and my books. Winter Hours, October to May: 10 – 4, closed Sundays & Mondays. Summer Hours, June, July & September: 9 – 2, Closed Sundays & Mondays and August. Viveros Florena, Crtra. Algarrobo/Cómpeta, km 2, Cómpeta, 29754, Málaga Tel: 689928201 Web: www.viverosflorena.com Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. And see us on Facebook – Lorraine Cavanagh's Garden Centre

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