As a child I was enthralled, if a little alarmed, by an illustrated version of the narrative poem Goblin Market by Christina Rossetti. The ‘fairies’ depicted on the pages wore hats exactly like these Fritillaria – slightly foreshortened bells of deep maroon with a jaunty, upturned yellow frill. I grow them in an unheated glasshouse, in a pot on a bench so that I can more easily enjoy the detail within the downturned trumpets. A Turkish species originally described in 1904, the first living specimens did not reach English horticulturists until 1965, when botanists Brian Mathew and John and Helen Tomlinson brought some back from their planthunting expedition. Although once scarce in the nursery trade, it is now relatively easy to get from bulb specialists.
HEIGHT/SPREAD 14cm x 10cm.
SOIL Free-draining, moderate loam.
SEASON Flowers from February to March.
The other eight plants chosen by Chris this month are:
Bergenia 'Bressingham White'
Pulmonaria 'Cotton Cool'
Mahonia aquilfolium 'Smaragd'
Euphorbia x martini 'Tiny Tim'
Veronica umbrosa 'Georgia Blue'
You can find out more about these plants in the March issue of the magazine - issue 183
Chris suggests places to visit to see plants at their spring-time best
The Daffodil Meadow at Exbury Gardens in Hampshire is a glorious, cheering sight on a sunny day, and if you are lucky you’ll probably catch some of the early rhododendrons and camellias, too. In all the gardens comprise 200 acres, established by Lionel de Rothschild between the two world wars. Finish your visit with a trip to the plant centre to secure some mementoes. Exbury Gardens, Exbury, Southampton SO45 1AZ. Tel 023 8089 1203, www.exbury.co.uk
Hodsock Priory has an enchanting woodland garden brimming with snowdrops, cyclamen and aconites. Coloured stems of dogwood, birch and willow are reflected around the lake, and hellebore banks and well-stocked ferneries complete the circuit. Blyth, Worksop S81 0TY. Limited opening times – call 01909 591 204 or see the website
For those who prefer to garden on a smaller scale, Waterperry Gardens is staging a Saxifrage Weekend on 24 and 25 March. The garden holds the National Collection of Kabschia saxifrage and will be supported by plant sales from leading saxifrage growers. The excellent tearoom is renowned for its home baking. Wheatley, Oxfordshire OX33 1JZ. Tel 01844 339254, www.waterperrygardens.co.uk