Home My garden Planting perennials in early spring

Planting perennials in early spring

Sedum with bee
Sedum with bee

Blog: bed’s a little threadbare but give it a chance to fill out…

Well, the top half of the long bed’s finished at last! After a three-hour stint on Saturday, I finally got the ‘short’ plants fitted in around the new Magnolia Sunsation and Acer shirasawanum Jordan (Full Moon maple).

They are joining the established Rhododendron Goldflimmer, Eucalyptus gunnii, severely hacked-backed golden marjoram, Euphorbia griffithii Fireglow and white rose trio Desdemona.

By the way, what is it with this wind every weekend? I hate gardening in the wind!

So, from the back:

Dryopteris erythrosara (Autumn fern) and Asplenium scolopendrium (Hart's Tongue fern)
Dryopteris erythrosara (Autumn fern) and Asplenium scolopendrium (Hart’s Tongue fern)


In the shade that will eventually be created by the Magnolia and Acer are Dryopteris erythrosara (Autumn fern) and Asplenium scolopendrium (Hart’s Tongue fern).

Ajuga Catlins Giant
Ajuga Catlin’s Giant

Ajuga Catlin’s Giant

Edging the shady end of the path is Ajuga (bugle) Catlin’s Giant, which makes excellent ground cover as it soon knits together to form an evergreen carpet. Catlin’s Giant has large, glossy, bronze-purple leaves with dense, upright spires of purple flowers in April/May. It’s one of the bigger bugles, having larger leaves and reaching to 45cm in height. It does well in shade, sun and poor soils but doesn’t like to dry out.

Brunnera macrophylla Looking Glass

Breaking up the bugle is Brunnera macrophylla Looking Glass (Siberian bugloss). The large, heart-shaped, silver leaves, which get more pronounced as the leaves develop, form a large dome with sprays of small, bright blue flowers in April/May. It likes a shady spot/partial shady spot and grows to 60cm x 60cm.

Top of the long bed fully planted up
Top of the long bed fully planted up, March 7

Astrantia major Claret

Moving down to a slightly sunnier spot (but still in partial shade) is Astrantia major Claret (masterwort). It has fresh green leaves followed by large, deep red pincushion flowers on wiry stems, forming a decent clump, spreading by underground runners. If cut right back after flowering, a second flush of foliage and flowers is produced. Astrantias like rich soil in partial shade, flowering from June-August, height 60cm x 45cm.

Sedum spectabile

And finally, right on the cusp of partial shade and full sun is a recycled clump of Sedum spectabile (now known as Hylotelephium spectabile but let’s stick to the ice plant). I’ve had it for years and have no recollection of its variety – but it isn’t Autumn Joy. It was in a shadier spot and sulked a bit, so I hope these divisions will be far happier in their new home.

I’ve tried to create a balance between evergreen and deciduous, so there’s something to look at in winter without excluding the delights of spring and autumn foliage. I’m also a great fan of leaf shape and colour, so even when they’re not in flower, there’s a balance and contrast – bronze, dark green, bright green, silver and pale blue-green.

As for flowers, the palette is purples, pinks, blues and deep red, merging into the neutral white/cream of the roses – and then the colours will get hotter as they move towards full sun – but more on that another time!

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Mandy Watson is a freelance journalist and an incurable plantaholic. MandyCanUDigIt grew from the tiny seed of a Twitter account into the rainforest of information you see before you. Gardening columnist for the Sunderland Echo, Shields Gazette and Hartlepool Mail and editor of the Teesdale Mercury Magazine. Attracted by anything rebellious, exotic and nerdy, even after all these years. Passionate about northern England and gardens everywhere. Falls over a lot.


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