As the warm weather continues, evergreen shrubs are starting to flower. And acid-loving plants, such as Rhododendrons and Azaleas, are starting to show flower buds and give a fantastic Spring show.

Some people think of these plants for large gardens, but there are many dwarf varieties that are suitable to grow in a small garden or in a pot.

A lovely dwarf variety called “Crane”, which has white flowers, grows only up to about 3ft and is perfect for a shady corner. Evergreen Azaleas are very similar to Rhododendrons, but generally have smaller leaves. Again, there are many varieties that are small, such as “Geisha Pink” or “Joanna”, which also grow to around 3ft.

They are very easy to look after if planted in the right position and soil.

If grown in a pot, remember to plant in ericaceous compost, with a little bark or grit mixed in to allow for air to circulate around the roots.

Pruning is also easy, as they require very little. Prune out any dead, diseased and dying wood and after that only prune to produce a nice rounded shape if necessary after flowering. Large varieties of Rhododendron can be cut down hard in Summer if they get out of control.

Magnolias are another Spring shrub that look at their best this time of year and grow well in our area. The first variety to flower is the Star Magnolia or Magnolia “Stellata”. It has fragrant white, star-like flowers and grows to around 8ft.

A little later on, the other Magnolias follow suit, with flower colour ranging from yellow, light pink to almost black. As with Rhododendrons and Azaleas, little pruning is required. If it must be carried out, then prune Magnolias which flower before the foliage appears, in Summer, as they tend to ‘bleed’ sap, but will heal better in warmer weather If the flowers form after the foliage, then prune in late Spring. You can grow Magnolias in pots, again using ericaceous compost with a little bark or grit. Whatever your size of garden, there is a plant to suit.

If the mild, drier weather continues and the ground is not too wet, spring colour can be added to well-drained areas by planting early flowering alpine plants like Aubreita, Arabis and some of the Saxifrages.

Two biennials that you can also add to give your garden quick colour at this time of year are the age-old Sweet William and wall flowers which have improved colour ranges from the days when they were only offered on the market, bare root and wrapped in newspaper.

Onion sets can still be planted and although most people push the set into the soil, leaving the top showing, try burying them completely just below the surface. I have found this stops inquisitive birds pulling them up and it may be my imagination but it improves establishment and cropping. The bulb will still form as normal.