Spring Containers

Using plants for spring containers.

After a winter of black grass, milky snowdrops and white double daisies, we have changed the planting in this terracotta pot for the technicolour flowers of spring. Blue anemones and muscari perfectly complement golden tulips. The colours are linked together in this spring container: golden tulips match the faces of the little viola and the whole is framed by white in the tulips and daisies.

Spring Container at Easton Walled Gardens IMG_0878

This pot is placed in the corner of the little meadows outside the history room.

Osmanthus burkwoodii IMG_0885

Behind, the hedge Osmanthus burkwoodii is in flower. In between squally wintry showers, the sun is strong enough to bring out the scent from the small white flowers dotted along the stems. This shrub is fairly slow growing but will eventually make a dense evergreen hedge. Osmanthus hedges should be clipped immediately after flowering.

Tulips at Easton Walled Gardens IMG_0879

Here’s a close up of the tulips. The purple white tall tulip is Tulipa ‘Blueberry Ripple.’ We have grown this for a few years (always from new bulbs each spring.) It is particularly good for pot work.

The golden apricot tulip is Tulipa praestans ‘Shogun.’ Usefully, it starts to flower just before the main tulip season. It’s distinctive feature is that it is multi-headed, so the flowers in the bottom left hand corner of the picture join to one stem. Those that were left in large containers for a second year didn’t manage to make big enough bulbs so they only have one flower.

Anemone blanda IMG_0882

Anemone blanda is, perhaps, a surprising choice for a pot but it has proved to be excellent. The clean blue-violet petals (for the botanically minded they are actually sepals) surround the yellow stamens which makes them very satisfying to look at. (Hence the latin name; blanda = charming.) Peeping out from their foliage is the double daisy Bellis perennis which has been in the pot for some time, flowering all the way from February to April without complaining.

Fritillary meleagris IMG_0881

Nestling into the foliage near the bottom of the pot is fritillaria meleagris. We have trouble with this beauty but are trying to get it established in the meadow along the river. Lily beetle, pheasants and slugs all like the taste. We grow a few in pots each year and then transplant them after flowering to the river meadow (also known as the ‘soggy meadow’ because it floods regularly.) We haven’t had great success but here’s a white form that survived this year so I am going to persevere.

white fritillary at Easton Walled Gardens IMG_0890

Look at how elegantly the narrow leaves frame the flower; they swirl around the flower like a courtier doffing his cap.

Speaking of elegance, I wanted to include this picture of some of our very old daffodils in this meadow.

Narcissus barrii cv at Easton Walled Gardens IMG_0892

We split the bulbs last year (after flowering but before they died right back) and have been rewarded with ten times the number of flowers this year.

Back to the pot, this scheme doesn’t need a huge container to work. Here are the same flowers, with a change of tulips (Tulipa ‘Apricot Beauty’), in much smaller pots outside the tearoom.

Spring containers at Easton Walled Gardens IMG_0901

In this arrangement, the muscari are more prominent. This is Muscari latifolium (which could be loosely interpreted as a ‘musky grape hyacinth with broad leaves.’) Like Tulipa praestans ‘Shogun’ it flowers at a very useful time; after the big hyacinths but before the main tulip season. In the pickery we have combined it with the acid green flowers of Smyrnium perfoliatum (this time the latin means ‘pierced leaf’ – you can see that the stem appears to go straight through the leaf)

Smyrnium perfoliatum in the pickery at Easton Walled Gardens IMG_0888

Here is Smyrnium on its own in the cottage garden sheltering under Rosa ‘Cottage Garden’ while we get on with jobs in the sunshine. It’s the epitome of the bright green new growth of spring.

Smyrnium perfoliatum at Easton Walled Gardens IMG_0897

The Woodland Walk now

The Woodland Walk in Spring.

Visitors will brave any weather in February to see snowdrops in their thousands. But, as summer approaches, a poor forecast will put off all but the most dedicated garden visitor. Undaunted, this elite group of visitors know that spring weather offers the forecasters no guarantees and a glimpse of sunshine or soft rain can illuminate the awakening landscape with heart stopping beauty.

Nature gives us thousands more bulbs in every shape and colour and the display is every bit as enticing as late winter. Add the birdsong, the green vegetation and a warm tearoom and I am amazed that anyone can keep away. I don’t have to, of course, I can see the changes every day and they come thick and fast.

Now, the woodland walk unfurls in an unstoppable succession of growth and flower power. Dog’s mercury, feverfew and grey-green snowdrop foliage cover the ground and give a verdant backdrop to our bulbs; narcissus, hyacinths and imperial fritillaries. Weaving through these beauties are perennials including scented wild violets, the hellebores in their third MONTH of flowering and brunnera which creates a haze of forget-me-not blue.

woodland walk in spring

They have only this time to make their presence felt before they have to give way to the Aquilegias and foxgloves. Every day is a changing display of colour, scent and form.

There are chaffinches who hop and call in the big black walnut, still bare of foliage. They are easier to spot than the quiet treecreepers who search the fissured bark for insects. I’d love to know if their view from above is as good as ours as we walk along the winding path flanked by the shrubbery and woodland walk towards the Cedar Meadow. Another story is unfolding here too.


Spring at Easton

March, April and May. The days just get better. The gardens are full of Spring flowers AND there is still the feeling of anticipation for the warmth and big flowers of summer. Our meadows are filling with a succession of daffodils, from our native varieties right through to the pheasants eye narcissus at the end of the season. Around the fringes are wild flowers providing early nectar for queen bumblebees and a food source for larvae.

This year is a good violet year. Dark purple, lilac and white wild violets edge the woodland walk and clumps of violet draw your eye on the snowdrop bank.


The marsh marigold. Introduced by us from a wild form further up in the gardens, it is flourishing in the ditch on the snowdrop bank.


Native ladybirds. When the big brute of an american ladybird arrived here we thought it was curtains for these little fellows but they seem much better adapted to our climate than their cousins and continue to flourish.Now they are coming out of hibernation.

At this time of year even a glimmer of sunshine is enough to take me outside to weed, if its too cold to work for long there is always pricking out in the greenhouse.