Spring garden delights

A new month ushers in new sights in the garden. To help you know what to look out for on your next visit, we have asked Head Gardener Dan to round up his favourite blooms.

Sometimes a ‘Looking Good this Month’ type article can be a bit of a struggle. Flowering plants can be thin on the ground through the winter and inspiration even thinner. By the time we get into late January – despite our best efforts to convince ourselves (and everybody else) otherwise – we gardeners are just wistfully longing for the seasons to get on with it.

But we have no such problem in March. This is what we’ve all been waiting for. Now the struggle is a different one: what to pick? There’s so much breaking and budding and bursting into life that it’s hard to single out just one plant.

Some stalwarts like miniature daffs and hellebores have been flowering for over a month now – if not more – and are still going strong. Narcissus ‘Tete-a-Tete’ has long been a staple daffodil for us here at Winterbourne, but this year we’ve tried to introduce some different, more interesting, dwarf varieties to compliment them.

Narcissus ‘Arctic Bells’ has perhaps been my favourite. It’s a bulbicodium type and has really unusual wide bell, or funnel, shaped flowers – as the name suggests – as opposed to the more commonly seen trumpet-shaped blooms.

Narcissus ‘Minnow’ has been another success. This diminutive but sturdy daffodil produces up to five little cream-coloured flowers per stem. It may be small, but you really do get good bang for your buck per bulb.

Narcissus 'Arctic Bells'
Narcissus 'Arctic Bells'

The above all grow up to 20cm tall, so suit small pots well. They also look great naturalised in drifts in the fronts of borders and rockeries.

So, what else? Well, I love daphnes; we have a gorgeous specimen of Daphne bholua ‘Jacqueline Postill’ on the corner of the Winter Border, beneath a stand of beech trees.

Daphnes might be slow growing, but they are well worth the wait. ‘Jacqueline Postill’ is one of the best with semi-evergreen leaves and pinky-purplish flowers that flower from winter all the way into spring. They’re highly fragranced and are followed by little black berries.

Primulas are great at this time of year too. Cowslips, or Primula veris, are my favourite. Not the rarest plant in the garden by any means – you often see them growing on roadside verges – but nothing says spring to me more than their bright, butter-yellow clusters of flowers.

They look great growing in combination with another reliable March flowerer: Bergenia. There are loads of really good varieties out there. ‘Dragonfly Angel Kiss’ is a lovely white variety that flushes pink with age. ‘Abendglut’ is commonly sold and has much stronger coloured flowers, closer to magenta, whilst ‘Purpurea’ comes in a shade closer to cerise and has rich-red foliage to boot.

There is so much more I could mention. There are forsythias and camellias. Anemones and mahonias. Aubretias and euphorbias. I could go on and on – there is such an embarrassment of riches in the garden in March. I for one, am just glad it’s finally here.