Iris reticulata are dwarf, bulbous perennials which return year after year to brighten the early spring garden with their deep, violet-purple flowers. Growing to no more than 15cm in height, the flowers are splashed with white and yellow down the middle of each petal which attracts bees and other early pollinators. Not to be confused with summer-flowering bearded irises, Iris reticulata are ideal for planting in rock or gravel gardens.
Daphne Bholua ‘Jacqueline Postill’
Some of the best early scent in the garden is provided by this upright, evergreen shrub which produces fragrant pink and white flowers during late winter and early spring. Daphne is a slow-growing shrub that hardly ever needs pruning so makes an ideal shrub for a small garden. Daphne will thrive in any fertile, free-draining soil and is also happy in containers.
Glory of the Snow, Chionodoxa luciliae
A great choice for naturalising in lawns and under trees, Chionodoxais another of the first bulbs to flower in spring, and when planted in large quantities, makes a dazzling floral carpet. Known as Glory of the Snow, the bulbs are native to Eastern Europe where they flower at high altitudes. Chionodoxa is best planted in full sun or partial shade in well-drained soil.
Camellia japonica ‘Elegans’
Camellia japonica ‘Elegans’ is a bushy, evergreen shrub with dark, glossy, leaves but its glory lies in the deep, pink, double, anenome-like flowers produced in early spring. All camellias dislike lime and grow best in a neutral or acid soil with a pH of 7 or below so use ericaceous compost when planting in a container. Plant in a semi-shaded position in a westerly or sheltered northerly aspect. Emerging buds will need protection from extremely cold weather fronts.
Primrose, Primula vulgaris
Typically blooming from March onwards, this small, woodland plant is an important early source of nectar for butterflies. The wrinkly leaves have hairy undersides and form a basal rosette from which the colourful flowers emerge. These perennial plants prefer damp, woodland-like conditions with light shade and are believed to represent the joy of youth and young love.