Purple Wellies

One woman's musings of plant lust for intoxicating blooms

Spring Wonders

Spring hails the start of the gardening year for many, with warmer temperatures and some rays of sunshine peeping through. The spring woodlanders are pushing up through the soil and starting their short-lived flowering season before the tree canopies unfurl. For many, classics such as daffodils, tulips and the ephemeral cherry blossom will grace us with their presence now, but there are some more unusual candidates which are so often overlooked, yet make perfectly good garden plants.

Starting to flower in late winter and continuing into early spring is Chrysoplenium macrophyllum. Closely related to saxifrages and bergenias, the green tinged white flowers are held above evergreen, rounded leaves with reddish hues. Runners are produced which in time root to make new plantlets, but never to the point of being invasive. This is a gentle spreader.

Sanguinaria canadensis f. multiplex ‘Plena’ is quite content in an area of partial shade and a leafy soil. The fleeting double white flowers emerge first in early spring before the kidney shaped foliage breaks through the earth. The leaves stay throughout the summer and contrast nicely with ferns and dicenta.

Later flowering Scopolia carniolia, produces bell-shaped purple and yellow blooms from April into May above textured leaves and tolerates shade well. This is one of those plants that everyone seems to of turned a blind eye to.

Lathyrus vernus, a member of the pea family, is a low growing groundcover with varieties ranging in colour from pink, apricot, white through to purple-blue flowers on the species. It is just like a miniature sweet pea, but without the scent and is a magnet for bees. It will look the part whether paired with an acer in partial shade or when teamed with a dark leaved phormium in full sun.
With spring flowering shrubs and trees, we are drawn to magnolias, camellias and rhododendrons, but for a site sheltered from strong winds it is worth trying Drimys lanceolata (also goes by the name of Tasmania lanceolata). Star shaped, cream coloured, scented flowers appear in March and April. Even when not in flower the combination of striking bright red stems and dark evergreen leaves make this a shrub that is pleasing on the eye. For slightly later flowers try Drimys winteri.

This is just a fraction of the varied range of unusual spring flowering plants that deserve a place in UK gardens.
Posted: 01/03/2021 23:59:00 by Pamela Barden