There is one colour that’s inextricably linked with early spring, and that’s yellow. Whether it’s canary, lemon, sunflower, primrose or golden, yellow is the colour that heralds the start of the gardening year. Yellow flowers spread their sunshine at a time when very little is forthcoming from above. But when the sun’s rays do target their glossy petals, they beam the light back, bathing the garden in a golden glow. Soon they will be joined by the cool, complementary blues of the pulmonarias, brunneras, bluebells and forget-me-nots, but for now they alone brighten the dark corners where little else stirs.
My golden greats include diminutive Iris danfordiae, above, one of the easiest dwarf irises to grow and one of the cheapest to buy. Try peppering them in amongst blue cultivars of Iris reticulata, where they will pick up the yellow flashes that are characteristic of many irises. Give it sun and well drained soil and Iris danfordiae should come back to greet you year-after-year. Personally, I like to grow these little irises in pots, so they can be lifted up and admired at close quarters.
A great companion for snowdrops, revelling in similar conditions, is the winter aconite, Eranthis hyemalis. Looking at the flowers it won’t surprise you to learn that aconites are closely related to our native buttercup, although they come originally from the deciduous woodlands of the Balkans, Italy and southern France. These tiny bulbs, rarely reaching more than 10cm in height, love to romp around in light grass and under trees, spreading gold dust as they go. They prefer a consistently moist soil and spread vigorously by seed when happy with their lot. Plant near snowdrops and blue pulmonarias for a succession of early colour.
Finally, spring is not spring without crocuses. I grew up with the bold, brazen Dutch-type crocuses, which have their place, but I prefer the natural look of smaller species and cultivars in my own garden. I wrote about Crocus chrysanthus ‘Herald’ a few weeks ago when it was still in bud. Now, at the faintest sniff of warmth, its flowers open wide to invite in pollinating bees. When the crocuses fade forsythias, narcissi and yellow tulips will continue the gold rush, and before we know it Easter will be upon us.
Have a great weekend and happy gardening!