Spring is the season that many gardeners look forward to the most, especially if it follows a long cold, dark winter. The official first day falls around March 20 or 21, otherwise known as the March equinox. At this time, in Britain at least, deciduous trees will still be bare or only just showing signs of life.
Some early bulbs will have been flowering already, such as snowdrops, crocus, chionodoxa.
Spring is a great opportunity to enjoy colour in areas of the garden that are dominated later in the year by shrubs and trees – before the tree canopy closes up, higher light and moisture levels at ground level mean that woodlanders and ground cover plants can come to the fore and flower.
Here, expert Val Bourne has chosen a range of spring-flowering plants for different situations around the garden that will take you through from March to June.
1. Lungwort ‘Diana Clare’ (Pulmonaria) – Long, silvered leaves with an apple-green cast flatter deep violet flowers, making this pulmonaria perhaps the best of all. Part shade (30cm/2ft).
2. Bishop’s hat ‘Sulphureum’ (Epimedium x versicolor) – Graceful wiry stems with two-tone yellow flowers above heart-shaped, shiny green leaves. A toughie. Part shade (30cm/2ft).
3. Wallflower ‘Bowles’s Mauve’ (Erysimum) – In flower from spring until late autumn, this bushy wallflower produces sprays of purple flowers above grey-green foliage. Sun and good drainage (75cm/2.5ft).
4. Alpine wood fern (Dryopteris wallichiana) – Black bristly hairs contrast against bright green fronds when this handsome upright fern unfurls its croziers in late April. Good soil, shade (1.2 m/4ft).
5. Tufted pansy ‘Alba’ (Viola cornuta) – A cushion of watercress-green foliage topped by wispy pansy flowers from May. Superb under roses. Shade (22cm/9in).
6. Eastern cyclamen (Cyclamen coum) – Jaunty swept-back flower with a magenta nose. Grow in full sun or under trees and allow to self-seed. Good drainage (10cm/4in).
7. Downy clematis (Clematis macropetala) – Let it scramble over a wall and, given time, it produces ragged, soft-petalled flowers with cool green middles. Good drainage (3m/10ft).
8. Arrowwood ‘Park Farm Hybrid’ (Viburnum x burkwoodii) – Early spicy, sweet fragrance as deep pink buds open to apple-white flowers that show up well against the shiny green leaves. Easy (3m/10ft).
9. ‘Blue Pearl’ (Crocus chrysanthus) – For early spring sparkle, this delicate silver-blue crocus shimmers in spring sunshine and complements yellows, oranges, and purples. Full sun (7cm/3in).
10. Daffodil ‘Jetfire’ (Narcissus) – This vivid yellow-petalled cyclamineus hybrid develops a bright orange trumpet, so it makes a great impact. Easy anywhere (24cm/9in).