Growbag Blog

Ten of our best spring plants

We’ve all learnt that gardening can be a panacea in troubled times so let’s take a little break from the world outside and focus on what brings us joy.

This week we’ve each chosen a selection of our best spring plants to lift spirits and for a moment, concentrate on the good things in life. If we’ve missed your favourite, let us know in the comments section and we’ll pull together a list of our combined choices ?


Me first and I’m going to kick off with a spring flowering clematis. There are many lovely ones in to choose from but my favourite is Clematis armandii. Exotic, sumptuous but a challenge to grow – I’ve lost countless specimens in numerous different positions in the garden over the years so I’ve now resorted to cheating. I’m growing two of them in pots in my glasshouse (the plain species and a cultivar called ‘Apple Blossom’) and have a plan to keep them going – outlined in a short video at the end of the blog.

Clematis armandii ‘Apple Blossom’
I’ve finally succeeded in growing Clematis armandii ‘Apple Blossom’ – but only by cheating

Prunus mume ‘Beni-chidori’. Every garden should have at least one spring blossom tree and never has one been so eagerly awaited as my recently acquired ornamental apricot – a present from my work colleagues last autumn- and it hasn’t disappointed. A beautiful deep cerise with creamy stamens and exceptionally early to flower

Prunus ‘Beni Chodri’
Prunus ‘Beni-chidori’ a really scintillating colour

Irish primroses. Our native yellow primrose is delightful but I can’t wait to see some of the lovely Irish cultivars like ‘Dark Rosaleen’, ‘Drumcliff’ or ‘Guinevere’ throw up their blooms against the deep bronzy green of their foliage.

Primula ‘Dark Rosaleen’
I love these sultry Irish girls, this one is ‘Dark Rosaleen’


AT LAST! A plant I can grow better than Laura can! My Clematis armandii is so enormous I’m forever hauling it out the trees in the neighbour’s garden. But the starry flowers and sweet, nutty scent fill that corner of the garden in spring, though, so I forgive it.

There is absolutely no need to go seeking oddities when it comes to  spring-flowering plants – they are ALL so welcome after the darkness of a UK winter and it’s been hard to narrow down my choices……..

Hellebore orientalis – there is very little to match the beauty and grace of these hellebore flowers.  The colours have a subtlety to them that few flowers can match, and I adore the way they cross-pollinate, so across a large bed of them you will have a delicious range of darks and lights, freckles and plains, faces turned up and faces turned down.  I have never been so bothered about the doubles, though I know they have many fans, but a sweep of oriental hellebores in March always makes my knees go weak.

Hellebore orientalis – irresistible, and that’s all can say about it.

Amelanchier lamarkii – The snowy mespilus is a total joy in spring.  It is a small tree perfect for most gardens, and at the end of March (here, at any rate) clouds of charming white blossom burst from the cinnamon-coloured shoots.  Not so in-your-face as all the cherry blossom, and all the more beautiful for that.

Amelanchier lamarkii – just a joy in spring

Anemone blanda – Now I confess I have never been able to grow this one successfully in my own garden –I don’t give the corms enough space, not the right dappled conditions, I keep accidentally digging them up……..who knows? But there is a shaded bank near here and the sheets of white and blue Anemone blanda are simply glorious to behold.  They look like a piece of bright spring sky brought down and laid on the earth.

Anemone blanda – a piece of the spring sky laid on the ground

Magnolia ‘Pink Beauty’ – I’m not sure there has ever been a magnolia I didn’t like immediately. The dark-flowered ones like ‘Susan’, the starry ones like M.stellata (especially ‘Leonard Messel’ – WHAT a colour!), the huge goblets like M.sieboldii or M x soulangeana. I think I’m going to plump for M. ‘Pink Beauty’  though – how can buds so pinkly exquisite emerge from those coarse hairy seed-coatings? I’m back to my starting point – they are the very essence of glorious spring emerging from the drear of winter.

Magnolia Pink Beauty – the perfect name…….

picture of Caroline

Oh dear (small sigh), how many times have I told Elaine the best magnolia is ‘Star Wars’? (I’ve added a link at the end where this has been clearly outlined to her). Elaine can be very drippy about romantic plants….. she loses focus on key things like length of flowering and frost resistance.

I do, though, agree a bit of height is important. Laura sent us a picture of a tiny and obscure spring flower in her garden last week, but one unsupervised squelch of my Size 8 wellies and it would be history. So I’m going to recommend:

Euphorbia ‘John Tomlinson’ – I don’t think there’s a euphorbia I don’t like (although I agree, only a flame-thrower will stop amygloides). This one looks so fresh, so vibrant and already so…big, even though we’re almost bound to get more snow yet (I’m in Scotland remember). It’s like having a big boy on your side shouting ‘Back Off!’ to Winter.

Euphorbia ‘John Tomlinson’. Great to have this big boy on your side!

Rhododendron ‘Christmas Cheer’ – If you’re fed up with the plethora of the yellows and whites in Spring, get one of these. They grow very well in dampish, acid conditions aka Scotland. Bizarrely I got mine from Millais nurseries in leafy Surrey (I heard it mutter ‘Holy cr*p!, when it arrived here, lol!) but actually it’s hardy to minus a gazillion. Apparently it’s called ‘Christmas Cheer’ because it used to be forced in hothouses to grace tables at Christmas. The beginning of March out in the garden will do for me – love an early Rhodi!

Rhododendron ‘Christmas Cheer’ – technically more of an Easter pick me up but it’s in full bloom elsewhere in the UK and on the verge of doing its wonderful thing with me in the Scottish Highlands.

Pulmonaria ‘Blue Ensign’ – OK so this is a little plant but big on colour and stamina. Reticulate iris and crocus run up the white flag quite quickly in my late winter weather. Their little stalks are too frail. What you need is the coarse stamina of a pulmonaria and specifically this blue belter. It may lack the fine features of spring bulbs but ‘handsome is as handsome does’ and this hairy-leaved street-fighter does it well!

Pulmonaria ‘Blue Ensign’
Pulmonarias have a bit more ‘heft’ than other brightly coloured Spring flowers. ‘Blue Ensign’ tends not to spread either.

What’s your favourite spring plant? Let’s share the love this week and spend a little time on putting together a combined list of the best spring plants.

Watch Laura explaining how she has had to cheat to succeed with Clematis armandii.

And here is that post where Caroline puts Elaine right on the best magnolia to get.

Louise showcases a bulb that must surely be everyone’s list of favourite spring plants as her Great Plant this Month – click on the box below to learn more.

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By the3growbags

We're three sisters who love gardening, plants and even the science of horticulture but we're not all experts. We'd love everyone even remotely interested in their gardens to be part of our blogsite.

7 replies on “Ten of our best spring plants”

Thrillled to say I have a few of these favourites and that has inspired me to get out and do some tendering so they can look their best! Thank you!

Glad to be of service, Joan! It really is a wonderful time of year for a gardener, isn’t it, with so much coming up and looking eager to do their best. I didn’t even mention simple native primroses in my bit, though they touch my heart as much as any other spring flower – we three sisters as little girls in Sussex used to box some up in cotton-wool each year, to send to our Granny who lived in an industrial part of Preston. Their fresh scent always takes me back to the excitement of it. Happy gardening, from Elaine (and the other two, of course)

What about the hebes? Their scent just knocks you off your feet as it wafts past your nose. It also looks pretty!

Hi Janie, I’m not sure I’ve heard of scented hebes, especially at this time of year. Might you be thinking of daphnes, which certainly do flower now and have the most WONDERFUL perfume? The one I have is actually just about finished but boy, I have really appreciated it this last month. All the best, Elaine (plus L and C…)

Euphorbia is such an interesting texture in a garden but the sap is really toxic so not one for a garden with children around.

Hello Anne,
Yes euphorbias of any sort add a touch of class in any garden situation don’t they, but thanks for the reminder about the sap. It’s not just children you have be careful about, us adults can have a nasty reaction to the sticky milky sap which pours out of any cut stem. Definitely one to deal with wearing gloves! Happy gardening, Laura

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