Choosing just ten top blooms at this time of the year when ‘proud, pied April dressed in all his trim‘ struts the garden is an impossible task. Every day there are new blooms to enjoy. My winter garden is beautiful in its spring dress and I have two spring beds which I call my primavera beds. Look at some of the beauties in bloom there and tell me how to choose favourites.
Fritlliaria imperialis are amongst the oldest garden flowers. Parkinson wrote about them in 1629. Whereas today we have yellow, orange and red ones, Parkinson wrote: ‘whereof some are white, others blush, some purple, others red or yellow, some spotted, others without spots , some standing upright, others hanging or turning downwards’. I don’t know whether he perhaps meant the whole fritillary family or whether our ancestors were incredibly careless to have lost such marvels as purple Crown Imperials. But the ones we are left with are gorgeous.
Over time, legends grew up round Crown Imperials and of course Christians early on claimed for them a religious significance. The story was that the Crown Imperial grew in the garden of Gethsemane and when Jesus was arrested all the flowers hung their heads in sorrow apart from the proud and aristocratic Crown Imperial. When Jesus reprimanded it, the flower hung its head and wept. If you look inside it is beautifully marked and often has a tear drop.
Crown Imperials are best planted on their side because they have a dent in the top and they can rot. They are greedy feeders if they are to flower well. Even if you feed them sometimes they will disappoint by refusing to flower. But they are worth every effort.
My favourite fritillary is Fritillaria verticillata. My clump gets bigger every year. I love the brown flowers. My son in law says they remind him of antique crackle glaze porcelain. They have long tendrils which look as if they would like to climb.
Fritillaria persica has nice dark, plummy purple bells which are almost black and I love it but it doesn’t always bloom.
Fritillaria hermonis ssp. amana spreads slowly, and likes a good baking in the summer. I think it is one of the easiest brown and green striped frits.
And of course for dampish ground the Snakeshead fritillary, Fritillaria meleagris is a must with its checkerboard pattern in shades of pink and purple. As long as you can persuade the pheasants not to bite the heads off it soon seeds around.
The white ones are pretty too.
I like to include a clematis or two in my monthly top ten bloom posts. The very first Clematis macropetela to bloom in my garden is Clematis macropetala ‘Jan Lindmark”. It has huge flowers.
I find that most New Zealand clematis hybrids are not reliably hardy. But this doesn’t matter with the compact, non-climbing Clematis ‘Emerald Dream’ which looks lovely tumbling from its pot. I keep it in the greenhouse in winter but now I have it on the table outside my window with pots of bulbs which are looking good just now.
Last year I had huge hollies and laurels taken out down one side of the garden. They took up far too much room but now they are gone I have an unsightly fence which has had to be braced as it wobbled without the support of the trees. I have put in a rambling rose some jasmine and a fast- growing Clematis rubens .
Another fast growing climber which will soon clothe the fence is Akebia trifoliata ‘Amethyst’.
I love this plant and elsewhere I have the purple one, Akebia quinata which is sometimes called the Chocolate Vine because it is supposed to smell of chocolate, I can’t say that I have noticed.
I have another lovely climber which is related to the akebia. it quickly covers a fence and in spring it has pink flowers which are very sweetly scented. It is supposed to have sausage shaped fruit in autumn but so far mine hasn’t had any fruit at all. But the flowers are very pretty. Mine is a little unusual, I bought it from the wonderful Crûg nursery in Wales and it had a collection number rather than a name.
Arum creticum is an aroid from Crete as the name suggests. It has glossy leaves and large buttercup yellow spathes with a darker yellow spadix. Unlike many aroids it smells sweet. Each year I find it has produced a couple of children.
Wood anemones are early this year. There are several ancient woodlands near here carpeted with them and these pure white ones with a green ruff are beautiful. But of course we gardeners always want variety. I have the delicate primrose yellow Anemone lipsiensis.
I love the starry flowers of Anemone nemorosa ‘Wyatt’s Pink’, they are delicately flushed with pink.
I have seen blue wood anemones in woodlands in Cornwall. The one I have is Anemone nemorosa ‘Robinsoniana’. It doesn’t spread as quickly as some of the others.
I don’t have as many euphorbias as I used to because I don’t like risking getting sap on my hands or in my eyes. I have heard of people ending up in hospital after contact with it. But I wouldn’t be without Euphorbia epithymoides which is nice and compact and has buttercup yellow bracts in spring. It used to be called Euphorbia polychroma; these name changes keep us on our toes.
Euphorbia robbiae is quite invasive so I let it have its head just here. Soon blue camassias will be growing through it. I like the way it got its name, Mrs. Robb’s Hat. It was found by a plant hunter Mary -Anne Robb and smuggled through customs in her hat box. I am intrigued to know why a plant hunter would find a hat box a vital bit of equipment. This plant is useful for dry shade.
I have a couple of variegated euphorbias which have striking foliage. Here is one of them.
And a black eyed one which reminds me of frogspawn.
Euphorbia characias ‘Wulfenii’ comes up everywhere if you don’t remove the seedlings but then most euphorbias do.
Euphorbia mellifera makes quite a large plant and is not 100 % hardy. But it is worth a sheltered corner because the flower smell deliciously of honey.
I haven’t included a tree in my list so far, the one that is delighting me the most at the moment is a crab apple that I bought a few years ago. It is called Malus ‘Princetown Cardinal’ and it is full of dark pink blossom.
It is a perfect match for the pink Ribes sanguineum which has come back happily after a drastic haircut last year. Regular readers of my blog will know what the hosepipe is doing on the right of the picture. Yes, it is marking out where more lawn is about to disappear.
Woodland flowers are such a lovely feature of the spring garden and erythroniums make ever larger clumps if they have a nice cool humus-rich soil.
Now my list of ten is complete and I will have to save some more treasures for another post. I am sure the Easter sunshine has brought ever more beauties into bloom in your gardens, please link with this post and share them.