Thursday, 13 October 2016

Choice Perennials in Early Spring

Bright spring sunshine has coaxed my favourite little perennials into fresh new growth, leaves, and now flowers as well. Barrenwort (Epimedium) in pink, white, yellow; semi-double bloodroot (Sanguinaria 'Tennessee Form', above), a blue Hepatica (below) and a gorgeous petite white meadow rue (Thalictrum minus if memory serves, grown from seed from the UK, third pic), all white flowers and blue-green maiden-hair foliage, barely 15cm high. A small Omphalodes with unusual lilac flowers and a Corydalis with copious sky-blue flowers over grey leaves tinged purple (some variant of C. flexuosa, second last pic).
I've just found a sweet little perennial, Uvularia sessilifolia varigata, with tiny yellow flowers, in the shadehouse and rescued it, and popped it near the front door where I can enjoy seeing it every day.

Somewhat taller, is Lamprocapnos  (formerly Dicentra spectabilis alba, below), white `bleeding heart' flowers on arching sprays as I watch it's new brother, `Valentine' (left) push up red-tinged leaves and extraordinary flowers of red hearts seemingly dripping white blood.
In the garden, romping away (says J) is a handsome variegated Solomon's Seal (Polygonatum odoratum `Variegatum'), spreading slowly over many years, happily surviving the wet winters and dry summers.
Perennials are just so...splendiferous, at this time of year. You do nothing, zilch, zip, zero, and up they come with fresh growth, leaves that may be wonderful (pleated Veratrum, feathery Astilbe, maiden-hair Aquilegia and Thalictrum, ferny Dicentra. The leaves of Hostas, Sanguinaria and snow poppy (Eomecon chionantha) are just too beautiful to describe); and flowers, too, from tiniest Epimedium `Spring Wedding' (last pic) to peony roses, lush and richly coloured.

Many are rhizomes, like my pale pink lily-of-the-valley, Trillium, Anemone nemerosa and many iris; they are diageotropic (grow perpendicularly to the force of gravity), which is all a fancy way of saying that the thickened roots grow horizontally.

The dahlias - tubers - haven't shown a spark of life yet but that's fine; they are heat-loving creatures of summer. I'm enjoying the spring show, the early perennials that follow the bulbs, the daffodils and tulips. It's like the first act has started and I'm bouncing in my seat with anticipation, knowing all the later perennials are still to come, and humming along to the first movement of my favourite symphony. (The poets daffodils, fragrant, the last ones, are still blooming; and the tulips are still flowering, too: white pink, plum, 'black', so beautiful, I almost gasp as I look at them. Really.)
It doesn't get much better than this.
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 (

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