Prunus cerasifera Nigra
A wonderfully versatile tree, this ornamental cherry has just about everything to offer. In spring it is covered in very pretty soft pink blossom which is well visited and much loved by bees and other pollinators. The flowers are contrasted beautifully against the almost black stems and the newly emerging bronze foliage. Over the summer the leaves turn a deep purple and then in autumn they offer a final flourish of red and orange. A great tree for a small garden or to set off against other trees. It will grow in most stable conditions in full sun and will reach 10m x 10m.
To me, this small tree is at its best when planted as a graceful, high pruned, multi-stemmed shrub. In April it produces a profusion of star-shaped, white flowers with bronze tinged young leaves that turn green as they mature. As it develops the canopy is light and airy creating a dappled shade below which allows for underplanting. It produces berries over the summer months which turn dark red and are quickly devoured by birds. In autumn the leaves display wonderful colour tones of red, yellow and orange. It requires little pruning and is an incredibly versatile and tolerant shrub, coping well with exposed sites and tricky situations.
Exochorda x macrantha Niagara
Exochorda is one of my favourite shrubs and I often include it in my planting schemes. It puts on such a lovely show at this time of year and maintains a good shape throughout the rest of the growing season. 'Niagara' is a beautiful variety that is a hybrid cross between ‘racemosa' and ‘macrantha'. It is compact in habit and grows into a rounded bush with slightly arching branches, producing masses of creamy white flowers in spring. Being smaller in form it is more versatile in a wide range of gardens. Exochorda does well in full sun but will also grow in dappled shaded, it prefers moist well drained soil which is neutral to acid and is easy to grow.