Gardening: Plant Hunters Article - April/May 21
Spring Flowering Favourites by Martin Blow
After a long winter it’s wonderful to walk around my garden and see signs of my spring flowering favourites getting busy for a wonderful show from April onwards.
Ajuga, (common name bugle) has kept looking good through the winter but now the rosettes of leaves are looking fresh and glossy and I’m just waiting for the first short spikes of blue flowers to emerge. These are unassuming plants that spread, non-invasively, by sending out runners much like strawberry plants do, creating ground hugging clumps. They do well in some shade but aren’t that fussy. My favourites are the bronze-leaved types like Atropurpurea, the darker Black Scallop and the reddish Burgundy Glow. The flower spikes are short and neat about 6in / 15cm tall. Larger and more impressive is Caitlin’s Giant. Ajuga are easy to grow and propagate as the runners root easily. They don’t seem to suffer from any pests or diseases.
Another tough and accommodating spring flowerer is lungwort (pulmonaria). The name comes from the belief by early herbalists that because the spotted leaves of some species resembled a cross-section of a lung, they should be good at curing problems of the lungs. The plants grow in sun or part shade and prefer moisture. The flowers are loved by early flying bees. They do seed a bit and are best cut back really hard after flowering as the leaves can be tatty and sometimes get a bit of powdery mildew. They soon grow fresh, healthy leaves after this treatment. Good varieties include the vivid Blue Ensign, the paler Opal and the pink flowered Mawson’s Red or Dora Bielefeld. One of my favourites is Cotton Cool, with almost completely silvered leaves that makes a wonderful foliage plant through the year.
Another lovely spring-flowering foliage plant is brunnera, a relative of borage and equally good for bees. The clumps of heart-shaped leaves are crowned with forget-me-not like blue or sometimes white flowers. Modern varieties have introduced incredible silvered leaves, either netted with silver lines as in Jack Frost (blue flowers) and Mr Morse (white flowers) or almost entirely silver like Looking Glass. They are best cut back hard in early summer to encourage fresh, new leaves.
A classic flowering plant of spring is Lady in the Bath, which we know as dicentra. The reason for the common name can be seen if the flowers are turned upside down it resembles a white lady in a pink old-fashioned hip bath. In shade she will grow to 2ft / 60cm or a little more but in rich soil in sun she is considerably taller. There are also pure white varieties available as well as varieties with smaller flowers such as Spring Morning, Stuart Boothman and Bacchanal. All are various shades of pink. Dicentras all spread at the roots and can resprout from roots left in the soil if they are dug up, so choose carefully where to plant them.
Spring in the perennial garden is truly something worth waiting for with lots of easy to grow flowers to perk up your plots and beautify your borders.
Janet & I organise Plant Hunters’ Fairs, specialist plant fairs at wonderful locations. Please see www.planthuntersfairs.co.uk for a full list of all our 2021 plant fairs. (PLEASE CHECK WEBSITE FOR TICKETING INFO AND ALL THE LATEST UPDATES BEFORE TRAVELLING). Plant Fair Dates For Your Diary 2021: Weston Park, TF11 8LE on Sunday 2nd & Monday 3rd May, entry to Gardens & Plant Fair only £4. Middleton Hall, Nr Tamworth, B78 2AE on Saturday 8th May, entry to Gardens & Plant Fair only £3. Bodenham Arboretum, DY11 5TB on Saturday 15th May, free entry to fair. 1620’s House and Garden, Nr Coalville, LE67 2FW on Sunday 23rd May, entry to Garden & Plant Fair £1.