If you want a wisp of spring to hang onto at this time of year then invest in a winter flowering cherry tree (Prunus x subhirtella 'Autumnalis'). A slip of a thing, this tree is slender and slightly twiggy. Although it can grow up to 7 metres it rarely does and so is suitable for all but the tiniest garden. Crucially its slim build and restrained foliage means that it does not cast heavy shade and so other plants can grow happily around and beneath it. It's unique selling point is that while being a flowering cherry, unlike its brethren it does its thing from from bare wood between November and February. The flowers are blush-white and semi-double appearing on the bare, black branches, not in great fat brash clusters but in a restrained and “less is more” kind of way. Each flower is about half an inch across, emerges from a pink bud and regresses from blush to pink as it fades. The effect is very pretty - especially on a cold, clear day with blue sky behind it. Super-cold weather will halt the flowering, but it returns, and the tree is hardy all over the UK, really unfussy about the soil in which you plant it and pays no regard to its aspect. What a joy! Sprinkle snowdrops, narcissi, aconites and crocuses under and around it in rough(ish) grass for a wonderful winter and early spring sight. The Japanese love it in flower arrangements and so should we. Spring sees handsome bronzey leaves unfold and then in summer it is a bit of a shrinking violet blending in with the background so you can use it as a support for a not too vigorous climbing rose like the apricot Lady Hillingdon, or the pale yellow Leverkusen, or or if you are feeling brash, try the bright red Love Knot. And if climbing roses are not for you then research our range of clematis to similar effect.
Many cherry trees have wonderful autumn colour, and Prunus x subhirtrella 'Autumnalis' is no exception, and actually proves more reliable than most with a tremendous flare of orange and red leaves until they fall in late autumn. And if the winter white flower sounds a little subtle for you, there is a pink version Prunus autumnalis Rosea that is a bit flashier but just as beautiful and again encompasses all four seasons. The only downside is that being a cherry its roots are quite shallow and so it pays to set your mower blades a bit higher when cutting the grass around the trunk in summer but frankly that is a small sacrifice for such a superlative all rounder of a tree.