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As we start to see the days lengthen in early spring, nature and our gardens start to wake from their winter dormancy, with the first flush of snowdrops, crocus and narcissi brightening up our flower borders and catching our eye. However, don’t leave it to those showy little flowering bulbs to do it alone. With a little thought you can companion plant these with some interesting perennials that will also flower from February onwards, and take over long after the bulbs have flowered and are once again invisible, but busy restoring themselves for next spring. Here are six of my favourite perennials to plant for early spring colour and will sit alongside early flowering bulbs.:-

Raspberry Splash

(Lungwort) Pulmonaria RASPBERRY SPLASH

Lungwort is a low growing hardy perennial which has long been a favourite in cottage gardens. Pulmonaria 'Raspberry Splash' is a beautiful cultivar with slender, silver spotted foliage. From March to May, clusters of raspberry pink blooms appear above the leaves, and slowly mature through purple to light mauve, creating an intriguing tricolour effect.
Planted in the shade of trees and shrubs with snowdrops (Galanthus Navilis) this low growing ground cover perennial is a great choice for attracting pollinating insects to wildlife areas.

Height: 30cm (12"). Spread: 45cm (18").

BRUNNERA macrophylla

Brunnera are often known as perennial forget-me-nots with their sprays of bright blue flowers, which are held above their green leaves that are veined in silver. Together they really are a stunning plant for early spring, once the flowers have finished the foliage takes over and gives this plant real power and appeal in a shady border.
It looks fantastic when accompanied by small flowering narcissi and later season flowering perennials, such as day lilies.
Two cultivars are my choice, the lower growing Brunnera "JACK FROST" with its very silver foliage and taller larger leaved Brunnera "ALEXANDER`S GREAT".
They should be planted in semi shade for the best foliage effects, but is quite happy planted in an area that gets spring sun. Cut back foliage as it becomes tatty in the later parts of the season for a second flush.
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dicentra spectabilis bleeding heart.

Dicentra Spectabilis (Lamprocapnos spectabilis)

Often known as Bleeding hearts this perennial is a must for any spring garden with frothy finely divided fern like foliage and arching flower stems that are adorned in nodding heart shaped pink and white flowers. The flowering season can be short if grown incorrectly. Grow in moist, fertile, humus-rich soil, preferably neutral to slightly alkaline and site in partial shade, although dicentra will tolerate sun if the soil is moist Plant with taller summer flowering perennials that can fill the space as the plant starts to die back ready for next spring. There are many other forms of Dicentra with Spectabilis “Valentine” offering a much darker pink almost red flower, and the lower growing “Luxuriant” with its very fine silver foliage.
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hellebore double ellen red


Hellebores (commonly known as the Christmas or Lenten rose) are perennial garden plants with elegant, cup shaped nodding flowers. They are perfect for brightening up shady areas during late winter and early spring. Some species are grown for their striking evergreen architectural foliage.
Flower colours range from pure white, through shades of yellow to pink and dark maroon, with spotted throats. Single and double flowered forms are also available.
You can under plant hellebores with spring flowering galanthus, crocus and dwarf narcissi to both compliment and attract the eye.
The subtle flowers of many hellebores are often hidden by the large leaves, so ensure they can be seen clearly by removing the old leaves on stemless types in late winter or early spring as the flower buds emerge. This is particularly important for diseased foliage that can harbour hellebore leaf spot, an unsightly fungal disease. Exposing the flowers in this way will also help insects to pollinate the flowers and ensure a good seed set for new plants that can be propagated from the resulting seed.
Ellen Double- Red


Herbaceous peonies will add that wow factor to your herbaceous border with their large showy blooms, which make excellent cut flowers.
They will flower from March into May with a full pallet of colours and flower forms, many are also scented.
Peonies are considered difficult to grow but if you follow a few simple rules these plants will provide colour and enjoyment for a lifetime.
  • Plant in full sun, in neutral to slightly alkaline soil which drains well.
  • Do not plant to deep. The eyes of the plant should be no more than 2cm below the surface.
Peonies are relatively drought tolerant when established, though flowering may be impaired during particularly dry spells at the time of flower bud development. It is important to water very well for the first year after planting.
You should feed your peonies with a balanced general fertiliser, such as Growmore in the spring, but avoid over-feeding with high nitrogen fertilisers.
To conserve moisture and suppress weeds, mulch around the crown with organic matter such as composted bark, garden compost or well-rotted manure. Making sure not to cover the crown itself.
The flower stems may not be strong enough to keep the often heavy flamboyant flowers upright and staking is often required.
You should also cut the foliage to ground level as it dies back in the autumn to reduce risk of peony wilt.
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Bearded Iris

Tall flowering bearded Iris is a classic plant found in many herbaceous borders and starts the transition from spring to summer flowering plants. Large Bearded irises are one of the great joys of spring and early summer, because of their almost limitless flower colour and the bold flamboyance of the flower shape.
These irises are extremely easy to grow. Planting them in full sun is essential as these plants originate from Croatia, where the summers are long and hot.
They should also be planted in soil that is only moderately fertile, with the crown of the plant visible on the surface.
It is important to cut back to the base of the plant any old flower stems and tidy up the foliage in early winter to around 100cm.
Mulch around the plant annually and lift and divide every three to four years as the rhizome grows, as the plant will only flower on the new outer sections of the rhizome. Dividing encourages new flowering.
As the Spring merges into the Summer continue to plant summer flowering herbaceous perennials that will grow into the spaces left by the Spring plants that now die back and restore themselves for the following year. This will give your garden a continuation of colour, along with a whole new look. .
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