I have views of the garden from all the back windows of the house. I can see it at ground level, and from above. It’s fascinating watching the garden emerge from winter to spring. The sunlight starting to move across from north to south as it gradually gets higher in the sky and creeping from the bottom of the garden to the terrace at an ever increasing pace.
As I’ve looked out this year, the thing I have been most enchanted by has been the early spring bulbs and flowers. I think these often get overlooked in planting a garden. They seem so humble and uninspiring when the bulbs arrive in autumn but from late January, and sometimes earlier, they are such a welcome and festive sight.
In London the weather this year has been perfect for early flowering plants. It has not been too wet, which usually does for crocuses, and has remained cool which has meant the bulbs have kept going for weeks.
First it was the Cyclamen coum. They had been threatening to flower since before Christmas and the little pink flowers were hiding beneath the marbled, heart shaped leaves. I thought they were never going to emerge properly but of course mid-way through January they raised their heads. They look so delicate and vulnerable but are as tough as old boots. Here we are in the middle of March and they are still going strong.
Not long after the early narcissi started to show signs of yellow flower heads and a few weeks later they were coming out. These early varieties are usually the little ones – February Gold and Tête a Tête. I know some people think they are common but I love them. Splashes of colour dotted through the border cosying up to the primroses that always flower early in my garden.
Crocuses have been wonderful this year. I have two large clumps of Crocus tommisinianus Barr’s Purple. They are such a stunning colour and I have planted some Cream Beauty near by. The combination of cream and purple can’t be beaten in my opinion. I have vowed to plant hundreds more this autumn in all the gaps that show themsleves at this time of year. For the colour and mood enhancement they bring they are a very economical way of alleviating those February blues. I must put in some form of marker so that when the garden fills up as the spring and summer wears on I will know where to plant.
Another star of the late winter/early spring garden are the hellebores. Even the most mundane ones, Hellebore x orientalis, which have two-tone pale pink and pale green flowers are lovely. I have a massive clump near the compost bin and I am always happy when the flower spikes push up their heads and droop so demurely. I splashed a bit of cash on some slightly more glamorous colours and they are lovely but the cheaper orientalis is a reliable joy.
I know there are later narcissi to come and I planted some more tulips in the autumn which will add some drama in late April/May in this garden but these early beauties lift my heart and keep me positive til the garden really wakes up. And even better you don’t need a garden to benefit from their heartwarming prettiness. A pot will do. Fill a pot with Narcissus February Gold and have it on your balcony or near the back door or where you can see it and it will lift your heart every time you see it.