The lazy old grasses are only just beginning to stir, and the roses are weeks away from flowering, but there are some unassuming, hardworking plants out there, doing their diligent duty day after day after day.
At this time of the year, there are certain stalwarts in the garden, filling it with colour, scent and foliage, and I just couldn't imagine the garden without them. They are not the divas of the garden, and would only ever play a supporting role, but they underpin the garden structure at the moment, as we wait for the stars of the show.
Erysimums - both biennial and perennial wallflowers - are giving me more pleasure than just about anything else at the moment. I am growing more and more every year, and trying to get diversity of flower colour, as well as scent.
The ones pictured on the header of this post were sown last summer, and are biennials 'Scarlet Bedder'. The photos do not do the true colours of the flowers justice, as the rich, fiery reds really glow in the late spring garden. They grow to about 30 cm high, and are becoming quite bushy plants now. I grew them in the greenhouse and planted some out last autumn, then ran out of steam and time, and planted the rest in early spring. There are also some 'Persian Carpet' wall flowers, a variety which contains a mix of colours from yellow through to russets and reds.
It is a variety I will be growing again. They were very easy to germinate and grow on, and are such an economical way to fill the garden with scent and colour.
The perennial Erysimums are still an absolute joy, and there is a wide variety of colours in some young plants I bought last year. Some of the older plants are getting leggy and woody now, as they are very short lived, so I will be propagating them later in the year, to ensure continuation.
Another of my favourites at this time of year are the Brunneras, and they are of interest throughout their long growing season. At the moment, they are still small - leaved but are wreathed in clouds of forget - me - not flowers in a clear, mid blue. As the flowers fade, the leaves begin to take over, as they grow larger and larger.
I'm sure there must be lots of different - and excellent - varieties, but I tend to stick to two know and loved ones, which are 'Jack Frost' and 'Sea Heart'. The silver variegations on both of these is superb.
Cheap to buy, and quick to grow and bulk up, Brunneras are a superb choice. they cope with many different situations but are especially useful in deep, dry shade. The are at home in a traditional cottage garden , or as part of a sub tropical scheme.