This is an underrated spring perennial, perhaps because of its alliance with the common vetch. From neat basal clumps emerge wiry stems bearing 6-10 hooded flowers, characteristic in shape of the pea family, but without tendrils, so not intent on scrambling through neighbouring plants. Flattish emerald pods follow; these ripen to a glorious red before snapping open and jettisoning seeds in all directions. Not content to stay meekly where originally placed, this plant contributes uncertainty to woodland layouts – just as nature intended.
HEIGHT/SPREAD 35cm x 30cm.
ORIGINS Woods, scrub and rocky ledges of most of Europe.
CONDITIONS Tolerates most loam soils; mulch with organic matter in spring.
SEASON Late March to April.
The other eight plants chosen by Chris this month are:
Doronicum x excelsum 'Harpur Crewe'
Sanguinaria canadensis f. multiplex 'Plena'
Epimedium x versicolor 'Cupreum'
Melica altissima 'Alba'
Erysimum cheiri 'Blood Red'
Salix hastata 'Wehrhahnii'
You can find out more about these plants in the April issue of the magazine - issue 184
Chris suggests places to visit to enjoy spring at its peak
A trip to Nottingham at this time should include a visit to the medieval manor house of Holme Pierrepont Hall, where on Tulip Sunday (15 April, 2pm to 5pm) you can venture to outlying fields and take in the splendour of Tulipa sylvestris naturalised in great multitudes. Also open this month on 22 and 29 April.
Holme Pierrepoint, Nottinghamshire NG12 2LD. Tel 0115 933 2371, www.holmepierreponthall.com
The jewel-like precision of auricula primulas has led to their being collected and displayed in formal ‘theatre’ stagings for hundreds of years. Gardeners in the upper half of the country might care to visit the walled gardens in Temple Newsam Estate east of Leeds. Here, amid 1,500 acres of landscaped parkland, there are six National Collections, including one of alpine primula auriculas. Free entry to the estate daily during daylight hours.
The Walled Garden, Temple Newsam Estate, Leeds LS15 0AD. Contact Mark Darwell, National Collections co-ordinator, Leeds City Council. Tel 0113 2605173, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
On selected Sundays in April and May, The Old Rectory Farnborough, once the home to the late Poet Laureate John Betjeman and now owned by Caroline and Michael Todhunter, opens under the National Gardens Scheme. The imaginative and accomplished planting combinations grow in formal and informal areas, with woodland walks especially good at this time – the multitude of Allium ursinum cascading in a white froth is a sight to behold. Borders contain many rare and interesting plants.
The Old Rectory Farnborough, Wantage, Berks OX12 8NX. www.ngs.org.uk.