Anemone ranunculoides a spring flowering native that carpets open woodland. The long spindly stems arise from delicate rhizomes that colonise moist organic soil. Atop these spindly stems are foliage and a single terminal flower. This, held above the foliage on a short stalk. Opening a fresh yellow in spring sunshine. A welcome alternative as undercover in woodland to the more common, at RBGE, A. nemorosa. Also look out for the semi double form, A.ranunculoides ‘Pleniflora’ on the raised bed between the two alpine houses.
Look inside the open flower of Fritillaria imperialis ‘Aurora’ at the base of each of the six petals is a perfect white circle that magnifies the nectar pool. A botanical feature to attract pollinating insects deep into the cup of petals thus brushing against the pollen laden anthers to disseminate to the next flower.
There was a double take when looking up from the new growth of Polygonatum x hybridum shooting up with closed stems to the hooded parasols on the terrace. These shoots develop rapidly at this time of year sent up from rhizomes spreading horizontally just beneath the soil surface. A good plant for naturalising in a woodland situation.
Two Daffodils, two completely different flower forms. Narcissus ‘Golden Cycle’ a clump filling a crevice in the rock garden with the early morning sun making the golden colour stand out perfectly. In comparison; N. ‘Telamonius Plenus’, a misshapen, ugly cultivar that is grown as a botanical curiosity. Double or semi double green tinged flowers. Originating in the Netherlands it dates back to 1620. Having many synonyms through the centuries, one of which was ‘Master Wilmers Great Double Daffodil’, none of which would make me want to grow it. However as a Botanic Garden we grow a wide range of botanical specimens that exhibit the diversity of the botanical world.
Warmth in the air and a lack of frost will give a good flowering season amongst the Rhododendron collection. One worth searching the copse for is Rhododendron davidii. Collected in evergreen forest within Sichuan province, China near Dujinyan at 1900m. A strong growing evergreen with magnificent trusses of almost purple flowers. Appreciate the colour, being so different to the rest of the plants set out through the copse. But also look more closely at the individual flower, up to 14 can form one truss. Inside the corolla one or two of the fused petals have a subtle mottle mark.
Primula allionii seen in pots in the traditional alpine house and colonising the tufa wall in the modern structure too. Also worth a mention is Saxifraga dinnikii alba. Flowering for the first time in the tufa. Once the roots are established in the planting pockets flowering should be assured.
Amongst the array of fine spring flowering bulbs in the alpine house is a pot of Erythronium grandiflorum ssp. grandiflorum. A native of western North America found growing in woodland where the soil retains moisture the year round. Growth rises from an elongated bulb, fresh green foliage and a yellow cluster of dropped petals envelop protruding white anthers. Just one of many spring bulbs providing an early show of colour.
Think remnants as you get out into the garden to tidy up now the days are longer. Birds are looking about for pieces of vegetation to use as nesting material. Do not be too tidy with the rake when scraping it through the lawn. Herbaceous leaves that have lain through the winter are now shredded and ideal as nest lining. The dead leaves soft with indumentum on Phlomis, are perfect as a lining for the egg laying. In the vegetable plot, last year’s Strawberry foliage and dry brown stalks of Rocket will be carried off nest-ward. But more than anything, birds need hedges to construct their nests in. If you are contemplating a boundary division, choose plants to grow a living hedge, not a fence. The pleasure of increased bird life in the garden will add to the enjoyment of the garden. Hedges also add to the natural corridor that enables birds, mammals and insects to move through an area forming local hotspots of biodiversity.
Arabis purpurea is a mat forming evergreen of loose habit. Interestingly the seed was collected from a plant growing on a dark shady dry bank in Cyprus. Here, situated open to the sun and flowering well. The long stalks hold four petalled flowers of a delicate pink with an equally delicate scent. Gradually the individual flowers open around the centre of the terminal whorl of buds. Once flowered and if the seeds are not needed, clip over to refresh the foliage or this species will outgrow its space. It also becomes woody at the base and left too long develops much dead dry leaf at the centre. The growing leaves are covered in a mat of fine white hairs giving a grey appearance to the foliage.
Plants are sending out growth as we approach spring. This is the last opportunity to complete any formative pruning. Take the opportunity to manage your plant collection and develop frameworks for the coming growing season before cuts bleed with the flow of sap.