My top 10 early spring plants
For most people, the gardening season doesn’t start until late March or early April, depending on the weather. However, there are plenty of beautiful early spring plants to get into your garden before then to give wonderful bright colour and scent. Here are my favourite 10…
Given to Beth from artist and plantsman, Sir Cedric Morris, these beautifully bright jewel-like flowers can be seen planted all over the Gravel Garden in many shades from March into early April. We grow ours from seed so it’s possible to get any colour from deep rose, crimson red, cherry, salmon pink and creamy white with most having a navy-blue eye. They require a sunny position and a well-drained soil and will look lovely for weeks. After flowering and setting seed they will die down and be dormant through summer and autumn.
Elephant’s ears are still thought of by a lot of people as boring (Dave would disagree!), evergreen ground-cover that you stick in the shady corner that no one sees. But give them a prime position in full sun at the front of a border and you’ll be amazed at what they can bring to the party, particularly in winter. Varieties such as B. ‘Admiral', B. ‘Eroica', and B. ‘Wintermarchen’ all have leaves that turn a rich red that look brilliant in low winter sunlight and the flowers follow shortly afterwards in spring.
Easy to grow and guaranteed to perform. This winter flowering species of cyclamen is great in dry shade under shrubs or trees, or lovely intermingled with snowdrops. Standing only a couple of inches above the ground, these bulbous perennials are small but stand out wonderfully with their pink and white flowers that will spread over time. Interestingly, their seed is carried and deposited on the back of ants.
4. Daphne odora ‘Aureomarginata'
This evergreen shrub is a slow growing, yet wonderfully scented plant that is great near a front or back door. This way you can take full advantage of the perfume that’s released when the sun hits the small clusters of waxy pinky-white flowers. Its prime time is early spring but, as an evergreen with attractive variegated foliage, this shrub can do a job all year round.
The winter aconite gives bright, intense yellow colour from as early as late January. This low-growing, tuberous perennial does best in a shaded or part shaded position and will seed around and spread when happy. The bright yellow flowers are followed by lime-green foliage that then dies down to be dormant through summer and autumn.
The snowdrop is the first treat of every gardener’s calendar year and when starting out with gardening, it can seem like a snowdrop is a snowdrop. However, when you bend down and look at the flowers up close, you’ll be able to see that every variety has its own charms and quirks. And if you’re not careful, you could find yourself hooked and with a rather large collection on your hands. We now have over 100 different varieties of galanthus here and as we increase our stock, we hope to be able to offer some more unusual types for sale over the coming years.
The queen of early spring flowering plants. Hellebores are a delight to every garden with their saucer-shaped flowers that hang delicately from stiff upright stems. The oriental hybrids offer terrific colour variation and are easy to grow if you have a rich soil and can provide full or part shade. At this time of year, we have a lovely range in our nursery and it is worth taking a look.
Bulbous, dwarf irises with intense colour in late winter. Taking up next to no space, they are perfect for popping into any empty spot in a sunny position with a free-draining soil. I’m sure there’s not a gardener out there who would reject having this pretty little flower in their garden.
This perennial has bright fiery-orange, sword-like foliage all year round but, it’s at this time of year when it is noticed the most. We have a particularly nice clump of it just outside the tearoom, in the Gravel Garden, where it attracts a lot of attention. Needs full sun and a free-draining soil and when happy will start to spread. For a really showy display try planting the bright blue bulbs of Scilla or Chionodoxa in between and around the fans.
Another beautifully scented shrub. Christmas box or sweet box, should again be planted somewhere you can make the most of its fragrance. It has long, narrow foliage and clusters of creamy-white flowers up its stems. Low maintenance and unfussy, this evergreen does best in part shade but will tolerate a wide range of soil conditions.