Lee Behegan is Lismore Castle Gardens youngest team member and has just finished his RHS level 2 exams. One of Lee's jobs is to pick out ten of his favourite plants every week as part of the display in the Riding House, which includes plants of current interest that week. The following is Lee's blog on his top 40 for the Spring season.
I have included a selection of bulbs, perennials, herbaceous perennials, biennials, shrubs and small trees that are all spring flowering plants that I think are worthy enough of growing in any garden. We grow all of these plants successfully here in Lismore Castle and so can you with careful plant selection and soil preparation. There should be a plant here for everyone no matter what your garden style, size or soil. 'Right plant right place'
Narcissus 'Jack Snipe'
Jack snipe is an intermediate size daffodil, standing at only 8-10 inches tall. This plant is perfect to grow in the front of a border, a rock garden setting or if your stuck for space you can grow it in a nice clay pot. Wonderful white petals and buttercup yellow trumpet held strong by nice straight stems which make it a great cut flower. Grows in average, well drained soil in full sun or partial shade.
S. praecox is an elegant large spreading deciduous shrub that has arching stems creating a graceful vase like habit and, in late winter, early spring the display of pendulous, creamy yellow flowers that benefits pollinating insects. This shrub is a must have it would be suitable in a mixed border, shrub border or woodland area. Avoid planting this shrub in an exposed area it will
do best up against a wall in full sun or partial shade. Grows in light moist, but well drained, neutral to acidic soils.
Epimediums are really useful plants they can tolerate drought and shade but often perform better with some sun. Attractive usually evergreen foliage which may turn red, orange purple and bronze in winter. Once established they tend to spread and create a superb ground cover in a woodland setting. Clouds of delicate almost spider like white flowers in spring. This plant is perfect to grow beneath tree cover in a woodland setting where the soil tends to be dry since the tree takes all the moisture from the soil. Not fussy on soil type.
F. meleagris is probably one of my favorite spring flowering plants. Commonly known as the snake's head fritilary, it’s a bulbous herbaceous perennial with linear leaves and nodding bell shaped flowers with a beautiful chequered pattern. Very useful plant to naturalize in grass or a meadow since
they seed around and bulk up quite quickly making a great addition to a meadow for early interest. Grows well in most fertile humus rich, but well drained soils.
P. macrophyllum is an evergreen herbaceous perennial that forms a nice clump with heads of pure white flowers in early spring. I do not understand why more people do not grow this plant it is dead easy to grow tolerates shade and would look wonderful in a woodland setting mixed with tall flowering Helebores, alternatively you could grow it in full sun to the front of a herbaceous border. Grows well in humus rich well drained but moisture retentive soil.
Muscari is a bulbous herbaceous perennial commonly known as the grape hyacinth, they have narrow arching green leaves and erect stems bearing dense spikes of white tipped, deep violet blue, egg shaped flowers that flowers in spring they are 20cm in height. Since the low habit and spreading abilities of this plant it can have many uses in the garden from underplanting shrubs,
garden edging, ground cover, gravel garden and used in spring containers interplanted with striking tulips, its a very useful plant but keep in mind it can be invasive. Plant in fertile well drained soils.
Brunnera 'Jack Frost'
B. 'Jack Frost' is a herbaceous perennial grown for its heart shaped silver leaves and veined in green which are very striking, and sprays of small blue flowers in spring. This plant will work well with any garden style and looks great in a border or planted in drifts through some woodland planting. This plant does well in full shade or part shade so its very useful to brighten up a dark corner of your garden. Grows well in fertile humus rich soil that is moist but well drained.
V. carlesii is a broad deciduous shrub with a height of about 2m, this shrub has dark toothed green leaves followed by pink buds in spring that open up to pure white domed flower heads very scented. The plant also has attractive red foliage and red berries in fall. This shrub is suitable for a mixed border or a
shrub border. Grows well in moist but well drained soils in full sun or part shade.
L. aestivum commonly known as the summer snowflake is a deciduous bulbous perennial with strap shaped green leaves and umbels of bell shaped white flowers with green tips, these plants are often mistaken as snowdrops. They require full sun so you can grow them in a border or underplanted beneath tall shrubs. Grow in moist humus rich soil.
Snowdrops are a popular spring plant flowering plant, dwarf bulbous perennials with grey green strap shaped leaves, and often honey scented cheerful nodding white flowers often iner tepals are marked with green. Snowdrops can be grown in a border, woodland planting and shown off in a spring container. The bulbs clumps can be divided after flowering and spread
elsewhere in the garden. They grow well in partial shade and humus rich, but well drained soil.
This wonderful species Tulip is native to turkey and is commonly known as the horned tulip with long spidery petals, flame red at the tips shading to light orange yellow. This tulip will be a definite talking point in any garden. Grow in full sun dotted through a mixed border for best impact they look great growing up through other plants and can get quite tall once established. Grow in fertile moisture retentive, but well drained soil for best results.
Erythroniums are a must have in your garden they are a glorious little thing, commonly known as dog 's tooth violet, they are bulbous perennials with paired broad ovate leaves and tall leafless stems bearing one or more nodding, star shaped yellow flowers with recurved petals. Plant in partial shade to the front of a mixed border or underplanted under a key shrub. Grow best in humus rich, moisture retentive but well drained soil.
Dicentra spectabilis alba
A garden favorite for many years commonly known as the bleeding heart, this plant has soft lush green foliage and 1 inch long white heart shaped flowers in spring for up to several weeks! Foliage goes dormant in summer so choose companion plants wisely! Grows best in partial shade looks beautiful in a border or a woodland setting, it requires humus rich, moisture retentive but well drained soils.
Narcissus poeticus 'recurvus'
This Narcissus is definitely in my top favorites of this huge varied genus, Commonly known as the old pheasants eye, these are bulbous perennials with linear leaves and leafless stems bearing a fragrant pure white slightly recurved with a red rimmed short yellow cup opening in late spring. Useful late spring daffodil! This Narcissus works really well naturalized in a meadow or grown in containers to show off on a patio if your stuck for space and don’t have a meadow. Grows well in fertile, moisture retentive but well drained soils.
Tulipa 'apricot beauty'
I am going to include a handful of my favorite tulips we grew this year in the gardens. I love the calm color and striking beauty of this tulip, washed with silver on the outside and apricot within. This flowers well in shade if your garden is shaded. Grow dotted through a border or in a spring container planted with a darker tulip lower down in the pot to give a nice tiered effect. Grow in fertile well drained soil, use a multi purpose compost for containers.
Tulipa 'black swan'
This is a an elegant almost black single flowered late tulip, slightly fragrant, and an excellent cut flower for its long stems. This tulip is a good solid investment for your garden as far as tulips go, it’s a great repeat flowerer. You must be careful when choosing what tulips to grow as some of the larger more showy types will only flower well on their first year and their second year wont be as great as the first and so on. Black swan should be grown in a border I wouldn’t grow this in a pot just for the sole reason that it’s a great repeat tulip so once its planted you wont have to disturb it like you would from lifting the tulip from a pot, and another reason is this tulip spreads over time so flowering will get better year on year as they establish and bulk up.
Tulipa 'west point'
These lilly flowered tulips have goblet-shaped flowers with pointed out, with curving petals opening in late spring. This tulip is great for a spring container planted with muscari it makes a lovely combination. You can also grow this in a flower border in full sun no problem.
Tulipa 'blue diamond'
Blue diamond is a large almost rose or peonie like flower it has a double set of petals. This double late flowering tulip displays impressive large deep violet petals that cant be missed. You can combine this late flowering tulip with another double flowering tulip called 'Angelique' this makes a classy combination the two tulips really work well together.
Spiraea nipponica 'snowmound'
A popular medium sized deciduous shrub with beautiful arching branches bearing small obovate leaves and short lateral shoots ending in rounded clusters covered in small white flowers. Easy shrub to grow can tolerate all soils and full sun or part shade. This shrub can work well in a mixed border or just as part of a shrub border.
Euphorbia griffithii 'Fire Glow'
The Euphorbiaceae family is huge it consist of annuals perennials shrubs and even succulents. In the gardens we have a forever growing collection of euphorbias, there weird and wonderful plants to garden with I love them. The milky sap is very irritant so always ensure to wear gloves when working with these plants. Griffithii is a rhizomatous perennial with upright stems clothed in narrow, red tinged leaves and showy orange flowers in late spring early summer. This is a interesting plant to grow in a border I would personally position it towards the bank of a border as it spreads a little bit and creates a nice band of tall Euphorbia. Grows well in fertile, moisture retentive but well drained soil.
Euphorbia amygdaloides 'Purpurea'
Purpurea is another stunning Euphorbia with deep purple stems and leaves followed by an eye catching contrasting lime green flowers opening at the end of the stems in late spring and early summer. This Euphorbia is generally a short lived perennial and does will in most soils and even dry shade it would work well to the front of a border.
Camassia are tall bulbous perennials with channelled narrow leaves and erect racemes on erect stems with blue star shaped flowers in late spring. Camassias look well in borders and in wildflower meadows. They grow best on fertile, moisture retentive but well drained soils.
T. lanceolata is a legume and is commonly known as a 'false lupin'. It is a herbaceous perennial, a spectacular upright bloomer with a habit rather like a lupin, sprouting in late spring, fragrant, primrose-yellow blooms which emerge on almost black stems early spring but later turn green. It takes a few years for this plant to reach its full beauty so be patient but it will definitely be worth it they are long lived! This plant should be grown in full sun in a border it requires fertile, moisture retentive soil but also well drained.
Erysimum 'bowles mauve'
Commonly referred to as wall flowers, Bowles mauve is a bushy evergreen perennial with narrow leaves and dense racemes of four petaled blue often fragrant scent off the flowers, it is also a good plant for attracting pollinators. This plant would work well in a gravel garden or a border. Grow in a fertile,
moisture retentive but well drained soil.
Hawera is a dwarf bulbous perennial which reaches no more than 50cm tall, it has slender stems bearing up to five nodding, light lemon-yellow flowers in late spring, with starry, slightly reflexed perianth segments. This plant is great for a cut flowers, it can be grown in a border or container, we combine this dwarf bulb with the Tulipa 'black swan' here in the gardens and it is really effective. Grows best in moderately fertile soil, that is moisture retentive but well drained.
S. trifolia is a large deciduous shrub or small tree it is heavily branched from the base but has a beautiful vase shaped habit. It produces bell-shaped creamy white flowers in spring with a gorgeous scent followed by bladder like fruit which ripen from green to redish brown. I would recommend using this tree as a key focal point in your garden, it would work great in a large informal
bed to add some height to your border. Grow in full sun or partial shade in fertile, moisture retentive but well drained soil for best results.
Commonly known as solomons seal this herbaceous perennial, the graceful arching stems add an exotic touch a shady part of your garden very architectural plant covered in dangling small white bell shaped flowers which are wonderful. This plant is perfect for a woodland garden or shady corner of your garden combined with some hostas and ferns for a nice simple effect. The clumps are slow to establish but are long lived so they are a worth the investment. Grow in humus rich, moisture retentive but well drained soils for best results.
Chaerophyllum hirsutum 'roseum'
Roseum is a perennial with attractively dissected, aromatic foliage and umbels of lilac pink flowers in late spring or early summer. This plant is a great plant I have a real soft spot for umbels they add a real natural vibe to a space, this plant grows well in either full sun or partial shade you can grow it in a
woodland setting or a border. Grow in fertile, moisture retentive but well drained soils.
Commonly known as wild garlic, this widespread plant carpets damp woodlands in April/May with a display of clusters of white star shaped flowers and broad long leaves. Once this perennial is picked it gives a strong scent of garlic which is lovely in a salad. This plant is a very useful ground cover it is invasive so be careful where you plant it. It does however go dormant in early summer. Grow in fertile, damp soil for best results.
Commonly know as a bluebell, this bulbous perennial is vigorous and has linear leaves and erect stems bearing arching racemes of fragrant, narrowly tubular violet blue flowers in spring. This is a great plant to introduce to a woodland area beneath the tree canopy, it looks great when they start to
spread and quickly fill a space when they are happy. Grow in moist fertile but well drained soil for best results, they grow best in part shade !
This vigorous clump forming herbaceous plant is a must have in your garden, I really like this one and again don’t understand why I don’t see it been grown more, it has dark green divided leaves which produce many branching stems carrying loose showers of single white buttercup flowers with a yellow center. This plant flowers in late spring and flowers for a reasonably long time it grows well in shade or sun. Grow this in a border in full sun or shade. Grows best in a fertile, moisture retentive but well drained soil.
L. annua is a perennial which is grown not only for its bright purple flowers, but its unusual moon shaped seed pods which look great dried in a flower arrangement. Flowers attract butterflies! This is a great plant for naturalizing in a borders, woodlands or wild gardens. Plants self seed ! Lunaria prefers a moist shady position but will also grow in full sun.
Meconopsis also known as the himalayan blue poppy! M. betonicifolia is a short lived perennial that can reach up to 1.2 m when happy, they form a rosette of hairy, oblong leaves, and erect leafy stems which bear a succession of brilliant clear blue poppies. Great plant to introduce into your woodland planting. These plants do best in slightly acidic soil that has plenty of organic matter content, which is moisture retentive but also well drained.
Aquilegia are a clump forming perennial commonly seen in a cottage garden setting. They are long stalked with beautiful fraughty leaves and erect leafy stems that hold nodding bell shaped flowers in various colors. Aquilegia tend to seed around and pop up all around the garden. These plants are grown best in borders they require fertile, moisture retentive but well drained soils.
Allium hollandicum 'purple sensation'
Alliums are a bulbous perennial with linear leaves followed by a tall flowering stalk bearing a sphere of small star shaped purple flowers in late spring early summer followed by almost bean like seed heads which look wonderful in flower arrangements. Alliums are a real useful bulb to add to a border since they flower right after your tulips have done to continue that succession to bring you through to summer. No garden is complete without a drift of these ! Grows best in full sun in fertile, moisture retentive but well drained soils.
Commonly known as ragged robin, it is an upright perennial, with branched stems bearing opposite, lance shaped leaves and in late spring early summer, clusters of star shaped rose pink flowers emerge. This plant is great for a
wildflower meadow it attracts bees. Grow in full sun or part shade in fertile, moisture retentive but well drained soils.
Iris latifolia 'king of the blues'
A hardy perennial which flowers from May to June, it has long flowering stalks which bear an eye catching deep velvety blue and boast white yellow markings down the middle of each petal. Irises are the type of plant that will stop you in your tracks and draw you over to admire their beauty, especially this cultivar. Grow in a border in full sun in a soil which is well drained and fertile for best results.
Cirsium rivulare 'atropurpureum'
Atropurpureum is an upright perennial forming a clump of branching, leafy stems with spherical, deep red flower heads in late spring early summer. This plant is great for pollinators and is also a great cut flower. Grow this plant in
a border or a cut flower border. Grows best in full sun in moist but well drained soils.
H. matronalis is short lived perennial, with leafy stems that produce clusters of white or pale to mid purple flowers in late spring early summer which are fragrant. This plant is best grown in a cut flower border in full sun in fertile, moisture retentive but well drained soils.
S. fimbriata is a herbaceous perennial with rosettes of soft, bright green leaves and in late spring early summer it produces feathery white flowers. This plant can be grown in part shade or full sun I personally think it looks well in a woodland setting rather than a border in full sun. Grow in moist but well drained fertile soils for best results.
This plant is commonly known as flower of the dead, it is a clump forming perennial with narrow, channelled leaves and fragrant bright yellow flowers in late spring. You should grow this plant in a sunny border as it requires full sun, it would also work in a gravel or rock garden in my opinion. It is best grown in fertile, moisture retentive but well drained soils.
Commonly known as woad this plant was popular with the Celts for producing blue dye for body paint. This plant has a fresh wildflower appearance that can brighten any garden. As a biennial it grows one year, flowers, produces seed and dies. This is a tall plant that produces almost oilseed-rape like flowers in spring it’s a good cut flower also! This plant is good for naturalizing a border if your into that look. Biennials are very useful to build up a border id recommend getting into the habit of using more! Grows best in fertile, moisture retentive but well drained soils.
Written by Lee Behegan