Advice & Guides

Beth Chatto's must-have spring plants

Following is the first of a seasonal selection chosen from Beth Chatto’s 100 ‘must have plants’ and originally featured in an article published by Gardens Illustrated in their February 2012 edition. More details can be found by clicking on each plant.

 

Bergenia These plants are among the most valuable as ground-cover, or for flower arranging. Being evergreen they are always a feature. In garden design, well-placed groups of Bergenia are as important in drier areas, as are hostas, in richer, cooler soil. Many are valued for their rich winter colour when sited in an open, sunny position. 

One of our favourites is:-

B. ‘Abendglocken’. Medium-sized, slightly undulating spoon-shaped leaves form good rosettes, assuming bright cherry tints from late autumn and turning the darkest burnished purple in  winter. Flowers deep pink during late March-May. Height 30cm. Spread 60cm.

 Beth Chatto's must-have spring plants

 

Brunnera macrophylla In spring, long sprays of tiny forget-me-not blue flowers are followed by robust clumps of basal leaves, each huge and heart-shaped, making good perennial ground-cover in shade. A more recently introduced silvered form is B. m. ‘Jack Frost’ Whilst the older B. m ‘Langtrees’ displays leaves splashed with silvery-grey spots as if a paint brush dipped in aluminium paint has been used. Height 45cm. Spread 40cm.

Beth Chatto's must-have spring plants

 

Dryopteris erythrosora A rare fern found in China and Japan. The young spring fronds are glossy, rosy-brown, becoming green later. Continues to produce new young, rust coloured fronds well into autumn. Stays evergreen. For sheltered site and plenty of humus. Height 46cm. Spread 40cm

 Beth Chatto's must-have spring plants

 

Euphorbia characias subsp. wulfenii. Invaluable in the garden and for flower arranging. Makes a dramatic feature plant in the dry garden. Long stiff stems clothed in blue-grey foliage form a great clump, handsome all the year round. All March-April and into May each stem carries a huge head of lime-green flowers. Likes to shelter from wind. Height 122 cm. Spread 1m.

 Beth Chatto's must-have spring plants

 

Fritillaria meleagris Snake's Head Fritillary. Our native species, also found wild in most of central Europe to Scandinavia, in damp meadows. This lovely plant can still be seen in Britain, in a few protected water-meadows. It is easily grown provided the soil never becomes too dry. Standing 25-30cm, the stems are lightly set with narrow blue-green leaves. The tapering chequered bells with angular `shoulders' can be found in many shades. The white and palest pink ones are usually shaded and faintly chequered with green. The warm plum and sombre purple shades have darker chequering, and are sometimes overlaid with a greyish bloom. April-May.

Beth Chatto's must-have spring plants
 

Libertia peregrinans Individual fans form clumps of very narrow, stiff leaves with wide, central veins stained orange. The entire plant makes a distinctive focal point especially so in winter. Increases by running stolons, so babies may appear some way off. I like mine coming through carpets of Thymus pulegioides ‘Bertram Anderson’, but any low growing thyme will do. Also looks charming with blue scilla and chinodoxa close by. Height 46cm. running habit.

Beth Chatto's must-have spring plants

 

Milium effusum ‘Aureum’ “Bowles Golden Grass”. Non-running clumps of soft foliage, bright yellow in spring and early summer, make patches of sunlight in shady places. Many fine stems support a cloud of tiny, golden flowers like shining beads, in early summer. Seeds around but easily spotted and dislodged. Height 60cm. Spread 30cm.

 Beth Chatto's must-have spring plants

 

Omphalodes cappadocica ‘Cherry Ingram’ “Navelwort” Gentian-blue, forget-me-not like flowers, larger than the type, free-flowering, outstanding effect for the shady border edge. O. cappadocica ‘Starry Eyes’ gives flowers of pale and dark blue whilst Omphalodes verna and its white form create looser, low spreading patches of similar and most welcome early spring colour. Height 26cm. Spread 30cm.


Beth Chatto's must-have spring plants

 

Pachyphragma macrophyllum To see under trees and shrubs an established carpet of these large, round, green leaves overlapping to make weed-free cover is very pleasant all summer. Veins and stems become purple tinted in winter. As snowdrops fade showy heads of white cress-like flowers appear early in March before new leaves emerge. A native of wet forests in N. E Turkey. Height 46cm. Spreading habit.

Beth Chatto's must-have spring plants

 

Paeonia mlokosewitschii Grows wild in the centre of the Caucasus, a plant of exceptional beauty. In early spring the buds and young leaves are a rich pinkish-bronze. As they turn to soft grey-green the buds gradually open to full beauty, perfect bowls of cool lemon-yellow, filled with golden stamens in May. 61 cm. We do not sell these plants less than 5 years from sowing. Height 60cm. Spread 50cm.

Beth Chatto's must-have spring plants

David Ward, Garden and Nursery Director

Beth Chatto's must-have spring plants

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