Spring is such an uplifting time in the garden. As the days lengthen and spring flowers come into bloom, the anticipation of the wealth of flowers we’ll admire in our countryside and gardens over the coming seasons provides me with an abundance of reasons to be thankful. If your garden is looking a little lacklustre at the moment, don’t worry – there are some delightful spring-flowering perennial plants available at nurseries and garden centres, which will brighten up our gardens this spring and in the years that follow.
One of my favourite spring flowers are our wild Primroses (also known by their botanical name, Primula vulgaris). Primula vulgaris are floriferous, hard-working plants that will bloom throughout spring and sometimes into early summertime, too. These hardy perennials are reliable plants that will come back to delight us each spring.
Plant Primula vulgaris in moist but well-drained soil in an area of dappled shaded. Mulch around your plants with homemade compost or well-rotted manure and add a top dressing of leafmould if you can. In their ideal position, Primula vulgaris plants will enjoy sunshine in the morning sunshine and shade in the afternoon. If you plant Primula vulgaris at the top of a bank, over time they’ll happily self-seed themselves down the slope. Primroses thrive on North-facing banks and flourish planted beneath deciduous trees.
Cowslips (also known by their botanical name, Primula veris) favour sunnier areas than Primula vulgaris, making Primula veris a better option to plant in open areas.
I adore Primula vulgaris flowers’ soft lemon chiffon colour and the golden yellow blooms of Primula veris; however, if vibrantly coloured flowers are more your thing, look out for Primula ‘Zebra Blue’ and the colourful Primula polyanthus plants that are widely available at this time of year. Primula vulgaris, Primula veris, and Primula polyanthus can be planted in beds and borders, or in window boxes and containers filled with peat-free compost.
Another of our UK wildflowers that makes a superb garden plant for sunny areas is the ox-eye daisy (Leucanthemum vulgare). I can’t be without these charming golden-yellow centred, ivory daisies in my garden. Leucanthemum vulgare usually flower from May until September; however, March is a good time to sow seeds on clay and all other soils. I sow Leucanthemum vulgare seeds directly in the soil where I want my plants to grow; there’s no need to bother with compost or containers unless you want to.
This is a great time to forage for faded stems to use to create plant supports for summer flowering perennials, climbers, annuals, and indeed any plants that tend to flop around uncomfortably. Many perennials don’t show their best selves without a framework to grow through and keep them upright. Supports are best added early in the season. Hazel (Corylus avellana) stems and twiggy pea sticks are ideal for this task, but I’ve also used a mixture of last year’s stems taken from Globe Artichokes (NB. globe artichoke seeds can be sown in containers of peat-free compost in a glasshouse or conservatory from March until May), Wisteria, Silver Birch (Betula pendula), Cornus, and other plants.
Insert sticks with ridged stems around a plant that needs support and then use more malleable stems to weave in and around the upright stems and above the plant to form a framework that your plant can grow into and through. If you’re short on sticks to use for this task, utilise individual firm-stemmed, forked sticks as props to keep things going until you can source more materials.
Most edible plants require gloriously bright and sunny conditions to be persuaded to grow and flourish. This is great for gardeners who enjoy optimum growing conditions, but not so inspiring for those with shaded sites. A couple of years ago, I decided to move my Vegepod into a shaded area of my garden to trial a wide range of edibles from seed to see if I could help gardeners discover delicious edibles that will flourish in large containers in the shade. Last year, I sowed seeds of ‘Cutting Celery’ (Real Seeds) in my Vegepod in mid-March. These plants are much easier to grow than celery, producing parsley-like leaves with a strong celery flavour – a single leaf will pep up a sandwich or salad. Cutting Celery leaves can be used to impart a distinctive celery flavour to garnishes and soups. Equally as successful from the same sowing was ‘Parcel’ (Apium graveolens) from Sea Spring Seeds. I found these plants had an even more intense flavour, which was a little over-powering for me, but a small amount added to a dish went a long way. Just one shared row of ‘Cutting Celery’ and ‘Parcel’ plants in my Vegepod provided us with more than enough leaves to flavour a wide range of dishes from early summer until winter. If you’re interested in my Vegepod, find my posts about this raised container growing system and discover which edibles have succeeded in the shade by clicking here.
Another success last year was Cucumber ‘Party Time’, a new all-female, parthenocarpic cucumber bred by Henk van der Velde from Burpee Europe. This variety produces smooth-skinned, half-size cucumbers, which taste delicious and make lovely additions to picnics, lunchboxes, and parties. My ‘Party Time’ cucumbers were grown from seed sown in containers of Dalefoot Seed Compost during March and April in my mini greenhouse. These plants were moved outdoors to a bright and sunny spot in my garden during the first week of June. If you don’t have a cold frame, conservatory, greenhouse, or polytunnel, wait until mid-April and start your seeds off in pots of peat-free compost. Use a propagator if you have one and place on your brightest windowsill. Wait until the end of May, before moving your plants outdoors in the daytime and back indoors again at night for a couple of weeks, before planting outdoors.
For more gardening advice for March, please click here.
For my guide to creating your own meadow, please click here.
To see my plant pages with advice on growing a wide range of plants from vegetables, fruit, roses, perennials, annuals, climbing plants, trees, shrubs, bulbs, ferns, houseplants, and orchids, please click here.
To read about my mini glasshouse, please click here.
For articles about plants for pollinators, please click here.
To visit my Calendar of Daffodil Garden Openings, please click here.
To visit my Calendar of Specialist Plant Fairs, Plant & Seed Swaps, please click here.