Spring flowers that will add a splash of colour to any display

FOR spring colour most people will think of bulbs, the most popular of these being snowdrops and crocus, followed by daffodils and tulips.

But there is more to having colour at this time of year. It can be shrubs, such as forsythia, ribes (flowering currant) and the many types of pieris and prurius, or some may prefer pansies, primroses (pictured) or polyanthus.

There is yet another plant and this one will flower year after year. It will spread year after year as a great ground cover and is fully hardy.

This is what is called heather, but of course flowering at this time of year is not the iconic Scottish common heather of the moors (that’s the lime-hating calluna which flowers in August).

The one in colour now is erica carnea, often termed the winter flowering heather, which will tolerate ordinary garden soil. The predominant colour is reddish purple but there are also white varieties, the former providing the best show.

It can be used in the rockery or at the front of a mixed border. Given ideal conditions, it prefers full sun, it will spread readily and is one of those plants that virtually looks after itself. All that it requires is a light ‘haircut’ immediately after flowering but never into old wood.

The previous column was on the subject of pruning, in particular when to prune. As was mentioned, pruning or flowering shrub at the wrong time of year can mean no colour when it should be at its best. As a help, it’s a good idea to keep the label when a shrub is purchased from a garden centre or other outlet as it will usually give all the information required for its success, including when to prune.

Polyanthus is a group of plants synonymous with spring and there is no better example of this at the moment than the large bed at the Mart Street/Weensland Road roundabout.

What a marvellous show of colour it is for Teries and visitors to the town with a mix of white, yellow, red, orange and purple. It really is a credit to the council’s gardening staff.