Winter sun is a wonderful name for this Mahonia, its daffodil yellow flowers contrasting with its red winter foliage.
This lovely shrub has started flowering and is a valuable source of food for any bees still out and about.
Although a deciduous shrub, it flowers throughout the winter, producing fragrant pink blooms, set against cinnamon coloured bark. The leaves in spring are beautiful bronze, turning red in the autumn.
Aquilegias, also known as Columbine or Granny’s Bonnet are a lovely cottage garden plant which has put on a magnificent display this year.
Aquilegias are hardy perennials which propagates by seed in a big way. They are very promiscuous and cross pollinate with one another and the self-sown plants grow all over the place. Sometimes you can get some absolutely stunning flowers on the next generation as a result, but equally the flowers can be small, bland and uninteresting.
Free plants are always welcome, but like to weed out the ones that are in the wrong place, perhaps because they are too close to something else. I move other small plants either in the autumn or early spring, to where I want them to flower.
I never have the heart to pull up the plants when they are in flower, even if they are a bit insignificant, because the bees seem to enjoy them so much. However, whilst they are still flowering I always go round the garden with a ball of brightly coloured wool and tie a piece onto the stems of all the Aquilegias that I want to keep. That way I can dig up all the less interesting ones once they have stopped flowering, knowing I will be keeping the best.
Have you noticed how the bees cheat to get at the nectar in aquilegias?
This Ceanothus ‘Yankee Point’ is in full bloom at the moment and it is positively hums all day long with bees visiting the flowers!
I would certainly recommend this shrub, commonly known as a Californian Lilac, if you are looking for a relatively quick growing evergreen shrub that is easy to look after. It likes a sunny, sheltered spot.
This Ceanothus covers an ugly, south-facing wall and every Spring is a mass of colour. It is self-supporting so doesn’t need wires. After flowering I prune it back to stop it getting top heavy, and restricting its width. It was labelled as growing to five feet in height, and eight feet wide, but it has reached around 15 feet high and wide and I keep it to this size by pruning.
This exotic looking flower is Eccremocarpus scaber, otherwise known as the Chilean glory vine. When you remember how cold it was in March, this little beauty not only survived, but seemed to thrive. It is a well established plant, which grows at the foot of a conifer hedge, it doesn’t get any special treatment and seems as tough as old boots. During the winter I cut it back to ground level to keep it in check, but it regrew very quickly and has been flowering for weeks now.
It is such an easy-to-grow plant which flowers continuously from Spring to Winter. It climbs using is curly, twining tendrils and will quickly cover a trellis, old tree, fence or conifer hedges with its delicate evergreen foliage, reaching a height of about 3m. The stems are quite brittle and will snap if you try and train it, so best left to scramble where it wants.
The tubular flowers of red, orange and yellow are attractive to hummingbirds, but unfortunately we don’t have any in this country, so I cannot vouch for that. The seed pods are interesting and when they are ripe the paper thin seeds fly every where – just don’t leave your windows open! I have found the odd seedling in the garden.
Eccremocarpus is often sold as an annual and will flower in its first year. However, in my experience, I have found that this plant to be tougher than it looks and it has survived many cold winters.
Semi-evergreen Shrub. Flowers April-May. Height 2.5m
For most of the year this is a fairly unremarkable shrub, but when it flowers in April and May, it is the star of the garden. When in bud, the flowers are delicately edged with pink and when open they have the most exquisite scent – it’s a pity it can’t be bottled! Plant near a path or doorway to make the most of the fabulous fragrance.
The wild primrose is pale yellow with a darker yellow centre and is commonly found on banks and in woodland clearings. It’s name means ‘first rose’ and is also known as ‘Easter Rose’, although it is not a member of the rose family. When you see it flowering, it is a sure sign that spring is on the way. The flowers are edible. Easy to grow and will self seed. Perennial, flowers March-April
The brightly coloured primroses sold in garden centres are cultivars and are treated as annuals.
Although we are just into autumn, now is the time to think about spring flowers in your garden. Daffodils, hyacinths, tulips and crocuses are widely available right now and will give you a stunning display for very little cost and effort. There is something quite uplifting about the thought that in a few months these lifeless, uninteresting shapes will herald the start of a new gardening year.