GARDEN GURU: January and February are difficult months in our climate but the sight of a tiny delicate bloom doing its thing in deepest winter never fails to bring a smile. Here are five brave little plants who choose this time to shine as recommended by The Amateur Gardener: Eranthis hyemalis (aconite), Crocus sieberi ‘Violet Queen’, Galanthus ‘Magnet’ (snowdrop), Narcissus ‘Cedric Morris’ (mini daff) and Iris reticulata ‘Cantab’ (just 6-8 inches high but cute). For more details see below:
The golden glow of this charming low-growing winter perennial is a heartwarming sight indeed. The flower is set within deep green leaves. The winter aconite will thrive in any soil that is well-drained during the summer. They prefer dappled shade, reaching up to about 6ins (15cms) and growing so thickly that the vigorous leaves soon cover every piece of bare earth. And there’s a bonus if the temperature plummets – experts say that the colder the weather, the better and brighter the flowers. Best planted out when in growth. This plant has been given the Award of Garden Merit by the RHS. These plants are easy to grow and virtually maintenance free so very easy to care for.
- Crocus sieberi ‘Violet Queen’
‘Snow crocus’ is the name given to several early-blooming species of this popular spring flowering bulb and this variety is one of the loveliest, and easiest to grow. ‘Violet Queen’ is a particularly lovely amethyst colour with bright orange pistils that are exposed when the flowers open during the day. Plant under deciduous shrubs or trees in the autumn (3ins/8cms deep), where they will naturalize rapidly.
- Galanthus ‘Magnet’
This tall-stemmed snowdrop may be well over 100 years old but it’s a favourite in many gardens because of its large early flowers that dangle enticingly on long stems, and the fact that on sunny days you’ll get a waft of its delicious scent.
- Narcissus ‘Cedric Morris’
Is the first daffodil of the year – often in bloom as early as Christmas! It continues flowering for a long time, too, sometimes until March. Beth Chatto named this little daffodil after her old friend, artist and plantsman Sir Cedric Morris who introduced it from northern Spain more than 50 years ago. Give it a well-drained site that has plenty of winter light but is shaded by the leaves of shrubs or perennials in summer – and watch out for slugs!
- Iris reticulata ‘Cantab’
The reticulated irises range from the palest blue-green to deep purple. All have beautiful markings, from tiger-spots to stripes but ‘Cantab’ stands out for its delicate pale blue colouring. You could also try deep blue ‘Harmony’ or ‘George’, a rich purple. They all flower at between 6-8ins (14-18cms) and need a reasonably moist position in dappled shade. They seem to prefer an alkaline soil. Plant them deeply and they should grow on year after year.