Hurray spring has finally sprung, (let’s hope today’s deluge is a temporary glitch) and there are many reasons to be cheerful. But which spring plants cheered you up the most? Here’s our top 10:
1 Honesty (Lunaria annua– although it is actually a biennial) I have finally managed to spread this simple soul into various nooks and crannies around my garden whilst keeping the upmarket ‘Chedglow’ and ‘Corfu blue’ varieties away from the native riff raff to prevent interbreeding.
2 My collection of early flowering perennial wallflowers bought from Hayloft Plants last summer. I can’t describe how desperate these looked during the reign of the beast, but their recovery has been nothing short of miraculous, all now in bloom and many with that wonderful wall flower scent. I’m fairly certain that the trick is to grow them in stone pots, the nearest most of us can get to their native habitats of rocky walls.
3 Primulas – I started a bank of heritage primrose a few years ago; many have stumbled and fallen along the way but the stalwarts, ‘Dark Rosaleen’ (pictured at the top) ‘Lady Greer’ and the peerless ‘Guinevere’ have stayed the course and definitely earned their spurs. But the most satisfaction has come from my Primula auriculas. If you believe, as I do, that in life ‘nothing worth having is ever easy’ then the palaver that growing these capricious beauties entails is more than compensated for when their buds open to reveal colour schemes reminiscent of faberge eggs. I know in Elaine’s eyes this puts me in the same bracket as train spotters and those who hoover their patios. Caroline gets it (listen to her harping on in this little video) but actually lacks the moral fibre to see the whole process through…..
I LOVE this time of year! Everything busting forth like an East End barmaid, all bosomy and proud, yelling ‘Yeah! Here I am! Who cares about rain, or paying the bills, or an imminent big birthday… (sorry, did you say something, Caroline?)
Trust Laura to have a pampered poodle-y plant like an auricula as one of her Spring Stars. There is no need to go all ‘ To the Manor Born’ over this.
4 A simple cottage garden favourite like Pulmonaria officinalis (lungwort) can make a partly-shaded corner sing with colour in April. The bees love the mauve and pink flowers and their spotted leaves resemble little lungs, hence their Latin and English names. Anything with ‘officinalis’ in its name means that it was once used as a medicine – in this case, for lung problems, in fact! They look rather messy after flowering, so take the whole flower-stalk off and any tatty leaves, water it, and it will renew itself as a neat and attractive mound of leaves very quickly. Powers of recovery I could do with, frankly, after a night out with my Bookclub Girls.
5 My next choice would be Clematis alpina ‘Frances Rivis’, covered in its pretty blue and white flowers just now, ruffling in the spring breeze. This is a group of Clematis that need little or no pruning (hurray!) beyond a tidy-up after flowering. But be careful not to clear away too many of the spent flower-heads – they turn into charming fluffy seedheads which last for weeks.
6 And my final Spring Star is Brunnera macrophylla ‘Alexander’s Great’ (Siberian Bugloss). Some of you may know and curse the more usual brunnera which can make itself a lot too comfortable, certainly down here in Eastbourne. ‘Alexander’s Great’ is a much more refined version, sporting sprays of starry blue forget-me-not flowers in spring and beautiful large netted white leaves for the summer and autumn. SO much easier than Hostas – the snails don’t touch it! – and just as satisfying in a part-shaded spot.
Yes how can I, the baby of the family, be 60 years old? Truly the accent is on the ‘Bag’ rather than the ‘Grow’ this spring what with Elaine’s retirement and Laura’s 40th wedding anniversary (that poor man).
7 I won’t be saying ‘no’ to the champers of course, but in Scotland we like to keep our feet on the ground and I have nothing but praise for the sturdy, evergreen shrub Osmanthus burkwoodii, described as ‘dense and slow-growing’ (L & E spring to mind) nevertheless it stoically produces lovely, scented white flowers at this time of the year. And despite a persistently cold wind it shows none of the ugly windburn which blights the cistus rose and viburnum tinus beside it in my garden. A top performer.
8 Far more tactile, pulsatillas would be my next choice. I love stroking their downy ‘teddy bear’ leaves as they develop, their flowers are divine, followed by delightful fluffy seedheads, and…..you’ll find you value this when you reach 60….they’re yearly dependable. Now if I’m making other flippertygibbet plants like trilliums or meconopsis feel uncomfortable when I say that, well, if the cap fits wear it (you’ll also find you sound more and more like your mother).
9 I would also recommend Euphorbia ‘Blackbird’ because its sizzling lime green and maroon colour combo is exactly the sort of ‘fave’ you’d expect from someone who is, in most respects, 30. And of course, rather than faffing around with feeding, positioning and the clay pots required by Laura’s auriculas, my E.’Blackbird’ comes with the following growing tips – stick in ground.
10 And last but definitely not least – Omphalodes cappadocica, alias Blue-Eyed Betty, it’s Louise’s Plant of the moment….and for those of you who are hooked on Louise’s wonderful plant choices, she will be selling a whole range of her home grown rarities for St Catherine’s Hospice at their Garden and Produce Fair in Cuckfield, West Sussex, on Thursday 17 May
We would love to hear what your Spring Stars have been?