Winter aconites (Eranthis hyemalis) are less well-known among gardeners than are tulips and daffodils. They spring from very small bulbs, the size of a dime or smaller. Each bulb bears only one two-inch to three-inch stem and one blossom. Planting them in small drifts under trees and shrubs makes a pleasing patch of yellow in the early spring garden. Try partnering them with blue Scilla siberica ‘Spring Beauty,' which blooms at the same time and is just now beginning to show its first blush of color. Both bulbs are planted in the fall.
The advent of a new gardening season brings with it a flurry of new plant introductions and trends. A mono-chromatic color scheme, running throughout the garden or through an individual bed, continues to be popular. This scheme involves designs in which the blossoms of various annuals and perennials are all different shades of the same basic color. That may sound like a somewhat boring color scheme, but it is quite effective and can be punctuated every now and then with plants bearing blossoms of a contrasting color. Here is what the author of an article in "Perennial Resource" (see link 1 below) has to say about it: "Monochromatic colors paint a harmonious picture which conveys a feeling of serenity and comfort to the viewer. This continuity of color allows one's eye to focus on the details, naturally bringing the plant's texture and form to the forefront rather than only the fleeting color of the flowers." This is a practice I've followed for many years. It's nice to know that our gardens are suddenly in style!
Another practice being touted by trendy landscapers is the use of glass as a mulch (see link 2 below). Yes, you read right, it really is "glass" and not "grass." My first response when I heard about this was: Isn't that dangerous? Fortunately, the recycled glass is in the form of tumbled nuggets with no sharp edges or points. I had occasion to see it used in landscaping exhibits at the Chicago Flower and Garden Show. It comes in bright, bold colors of red, blue, and green. When coordinated with the colors of the flower bed in which it is used, it is quite striking--but definitely too flashy for my taste, especially in the context of our historic garden (see link 3 below).
Among the 2008 plant introductions (see link 4 below) that have caught my eye and struck my fancy are Achillea millefolium ‘Pink Grapefruit' (introduced by Blooms of Bressingham, zones 5 to 8), Echinacea ‘All That Jazz' (introduced by Walters Gardens Inc., zones 4 to 8), Gaillardia ‘Tizzy' (introduced by Novalis Inc. zone 5), Heuchera ´ ‘Moonlight' (introduced by Monrovia Growers, zones 4 to 9), Hibiscus moscheutos ‘Strawberries & Cream' (introduced by Monrovia Growers, zones 4 to 9), Polemonium ‘Heaven Scent' (introduced by Walters Gardens Inc., zones 3 to 7), Brunnera macrophylla ‘Emerald Mist' (introduced by Walters Gardens Inc., zones 3 to 8), Hosta ‘Adrian's Glory' (introduced by Van Hoorn Nurseries Inc., zones 3 to 8), and Typha angustifolia ‘Zebratails cattail' (introduced by LilyBLOOMS Aquatic Gardens, zones 3 to 10).
If I were to recommend only one new flower for you to try in your garden this year, it would be Corydalis lutea (zones 5-8) (see link 5 below). I was fortunate enough to be able to trial it in our gardens, beginning about five years ago. It is just now becoming available in local garden centers. Its ferny leaves are very attractive and its lemon yellow flowers are present from spring to fall. Best of all, it doesn't seem to be fussy about growing conditions in our gardens, doing well in sun or shade and in moist soil as well as dry. In moist semi-shade it self-sows, but has not proven to be weedy, an attribute sometimes ascribed to it. Mail order sources include Forestfarm (offered this year) and Munchkin Nursery and Farms (offered occasionally; inquire about availability).
Happy spring gardening!
© Larry Rettig 2008
Winter Aconite photo courtesy of Dave's Garden and member Larry David
Corydalis lutea photo courtesy of Dave's Garden and member Equilibrium
2. Glass as mulch
3. Our historic garden
4. 2008 plant introductions
5. Corydalis lutea
(Editor's Note: This article was originally published on April 5, 2008. Your comments are welcome but please be aware that authors of previously published articles may not be able to respond to your questions.)