In The Garden, Early Spring
The stoics of the winter garden have done their inimitable best. Bare branches of the Dogwoods (Cornus Baton Rouge or Anny’s Winter Orange), which so brilliantly brought fiery colour to the winter garden, will soon erupt with buds. Architectural conifers such as Cupressus sempervirens Totem, which pointed spires skywards from dormant borders will be re-joined by early flowering shrubs. Standard clipped Ilex or Taxus globes, which threw shapes across frosted lawns, accentuating the dramatic lighting of a low sun, will be repurposed, taking on new roles as velvety green backdrops to vibrant spring bulbs.
Hellebores, that have worked so hard providing colour during the winter, continue to bloom. The delicately patterned heads of late varieties such as Helleborus Painted Bunting provide a decorative link across the seasons. An unusual and attractive backdrop to tulips, narcissi and muscari is provided by the superbly variegated leaves of Fatsia japonica Spider’s Web.
With the onset of spring the intriguing foliage of such shrubs as Thuja orientalis Franky Boy, will abandon the bronze tones of winter, flushing bright green with lime tips, the perfect foil for a clump of daffodils. The same metamorphosis from burgundy tints takes place in the evergreen leaves of herbaceous Bergenia Diamond Drops, which ‘green up’ before producing clusters of sparkling white flowers, wonderful in the front of borders.
Another herbaceous with evergreen foliage is the classic Periwinkle, its flashing, bright flowers illuminating dry stone walls or providing striking ground cover, its relation, Vinca Ralph Shugert, is variegated and has a more restrained habit.
But it is the blossoming spring shrubs that so obviously lift the gardener’s heart in spring. Their breath-of-fresh-air good looks are frequently accompanied by marvellous fragrances. The scented Witch Hazel (Hamamelis intermedia Pallida) produces its idiosyncratic tasselled petals, resembling bright coral. Winter Jasmine (Jasminum nudiflorum) erupts in characteristically loud canary-bright flowers that herald the spring for so many. Also originating in the orient, is the politely compact Deutzia Yuki Snowflake, which produces a profusion of snowy blossom, but it is a visitor from Nepal that produces the sweetest early scent from exotic, waxy flowers, Daphne bholua Perfume Princess, which so lives up to its elevated name.
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