Jacky Richardson, from Preston Bissett Nursery and Country Shop with her regular gardening column
There are a lot of spring plants to catch our eye.
It’s quite rousing to pop out into the garden and see what has suddenly appeared. A picture of spring is the native Primula veris ‘cabrillio’ otherwise known as the English Cowslip. These are only one variety of the Primula family but they are not to be disregarded as a plant for the wild not the garden.
They are ideal in our heavy clay soils coping well like most primulas in shady positions. I particularly love Primula denticulata which has lolly pop like blooms in whites and mauves. I recently spotted Primula xpubescens ‘Freedom’ which is a lovely variety of these dainty little plants, though more suited to a sheltered corner of the garden. It has rich mauve flowers and foliage more succulent as it is a cross breed with an Auricular primrose. It’s not surprising that these native and easy to grow Primroses are such a highly collectable Genus.
Certain plants shine in spring. I’ve been admiring my swathes of Anemone blanda blubs as they appear under my trees in brilliant blue and the pretty flower of a pulmonaria commonly known as lungwort. As the name suggests it was originally used to treat lung infections. There are a whole host of colours. A great blue variety is ‘Blue Ensign’ it also looks very fresh in the shade in white with its large speckled furry leaves.
Aquilegia another very sweet collectable plant with stalls to represent its popularity at the Chelsea Flower Show every year, has little bonnet like flower heads suspended on stalks hence the name ‘Grannies Bonnet‘. Aquilegia ‘Blue Barlow’ and Black Barlow’ are proving some of our most popular varieties. I love these strong colours but they also have some equally lovely soft pastel varieties.
A remarkable perennial plant is Dicentra. It has delicate heart shaped flowers as the common name ‘Bleeding Heart’ suggests. Possibly it’s a little bit cheeky as I recently heard an alternative common name ‘Lady in the bath’! As you pull the little petals back simultaneously that surround the heart flower it as though a little lady is emerging from the bath. It can be found in reds, pinks and whites but is probably most striking in its deeper shades like Dicentra Formosa ‘Bacchanal’.
The Formosa varieties seem to hang in clusters and the spectabilis varieties appear to have long branches like washing lines decked with little hearts. If you are looking for a traditional tough woodland plant, look no further than Spurge Take or Euphorbia. There are now so many great variations of foliage colour. Colours range from rich red to a silver or a limey green. It has succulent clusters of foliage. It is an outstandingly hardy plant and a constant source of evergreen colour. I am rather keen on a reasonably new variety ‘Ascot Rainbow’ as the name suggests it has a rainbow of colours in its lovely fine foliage.
Carpeting walls with mauves and pinks, aubrietia an alpine plant is now in its full glory blending well with the white arabis and the white iberis or ‘Candytuft’ as it is more commonly known and the many whites, pinks, rose pinks and rich red colours of brilliant mossy Saxifrages. They are some great varieties in deep colours. I partial to these shades so I have them as ground cover. Saxifraga xarendsii ‘Deep Red Rock’ is a wonderful deep red.
Very soon we will find ourselves admiring a wealth of classic English garden plants. The beautiful large bulbous cups of quinticentally English Peonies heads, iris that open only to show off, alliums to be seen in every garden at Chelsea, papaver (poppies), Digitalis (foxgloves), azure blue spikes of tall aconitums and so on.
I have to mention some of the premium shrubs soon to flower. Deep violet blooms and a heavenly fragrance belong to the unsurpassable Daphne mezereum. Spiraea ‘Arguta’ is a good indication that the garden is well and truly waking up. Masses of flowing white blossomed branches give it the common name ‘Bridal Wreath’.
Continuing the wedding theme we have another beautiful plant, exochorda xmacrantha or as it is commonly known ‘The Bride.’ A shrub clothed in dainty cup shaped white flowers on arching stems.
It is true. There is Clematis for every season and every situation. They are versatile complimentary plants. One could cover an old tree stump or grow through a rose bush or even up an apple tree. This time of year we can truly appreciate the Clematis alpina varieties. They can survive any aspect and have the most amazing late spring early summer bell shaped flowers followed by fluffy seed heads. We also have the tall growing montana varieties these too can be planted on any aspect. I can recommend the scented Montana ’Fragrant Spring’ as rival to Montana ‘Elizabeth’, both these clematis will grows up trellis or scramble to around 10m and don’t require lots of fussy pruning.
The warm spring is accelerating and blossom is appearing everywhere. Some ornamental prunus trees are in full flower already and soon the malus (Crab Apple) will follow suit. The leaf buds of most trees are uncurling and in next to no time most trees will have all their leaves.