Many years ago I started gardening with annuals, planting from seedling punnets. At least whatever died hadn't cost much.
Slowly I tried perennials, then shrubs. We were blessed, already,with a marvellous scarlet-flowering gum tree and a shade-giving walnut tree. Shrubs and trees are scarily permanent to a new gardener.
Later I joined a garden club full of the cognoscenti, and any annuals but the rarest were frowned upon, ever so gently. (There's a good reason for this: the gardens full of colour are rather like a meal of only butter and sugar; great gardens have masses of green too: the meat and vegetables. Wall-to-wall flowers can be indigestable.) But my garden is, of course, for my enjoyment, not theirs.
My new silver-and-raspberry bed is a bit bare this winter, not withstanding the 2 new Guichenotia (pink winter flowers on a silver-grey leaved shrub, a near-perfect match) towards the back, and several winter roses (Helleborus), some `red'-flowered, some with silver-traced leaves.
My love affair with perennials from the late 1980's will, I fear, never fade; I just love their fresh new growth each spring; it's like a dose of ice (I imagine), a hit, a natural high as the plants surprise, each time, with their woosh of wondrous growth and fascinating flowers and foliage.
The bed is a little bare just now, but I think next winter will be better; I'll prune the silver Tanacetum and wormwood less severely; and there'll be more evergreen cover - cranesbills, purple-leaf Queen Anne's Lace, dark-flowered Bergenia. (They'll be bigger clumps, or i'll have divided them and there'll be more plants.)
So when I saw some bright, near-ruby Primula I thought of this bed; and yes, the 3 clumps look just right. (The nurseries were also selling a hectic pink form that made me turn green.) The plants will need pulling out towards the end of spring but this is, I find, easier than cutting perennials.
I like a 4-season garden so I might add Primula every year to this bed; but it's interesting how far a little bright colour can go, even on the coldest, wettest days. So even though it's tempting to add another couple, maybe 3 clumps is enough.
Jill Weatherhead is horticulturist, writer, garden designer and principal at Jill Weatherhead Garden Design who lives in the Dandenong Ranges east of Melbourne, and works throughout Victoria. (www.jillweatherheadgardendesign.com.au)