Flowering Now - First Days of Spring

Spring's not exactly sprung here yet; there was a warm spell when you thought it had arrived, but then the usual sting in the tail including a dusting of fresh snow to round off the ski season. The snowdrops and early crocuses are over, replaced by drifts of narcissi, but many plants are held back by the downturn in the weather. Nothing much happening in the seedpots either, they are in suspended animation for now. But a few plants are bravely flowering to brighten up the garden. 
A member of the Buttercup family, Callianthemum anemonoides flowers reliably on a small stony scree where it stays tight and compact. The flowers stay in good condition for about two weeks and set plenty of seed.

Another buttercup relative, this is Ficaria verna 'Brazen Hussy'. It used to be in the genus Ranunculus but has recently changed its name. Striking contrast between the very dark slightly glossy leaves and golden yellow flowers. Although one off the celandines, which can spread themselves around too freely, this is quite well-behaved, but not all its offspring have the dark leaves so the lighter variants need to be rogued out.  

Pulsatillas - sometimes referred to as Pasque flowers as they flower in Europe at Eastertime (or in French, Pasque) - are notoriously promiscuous so sadly your favourite colours may not come true from seed.

Here  (left) we have a red form, derived from the 'Papageno' strain of Pulsatilla vulgarisOccasional seedlings are as red as the parent, but most are maroon or a muddy purple and not worth keeping.

Pulsatilla ambigua (below) is very different in form, much taller with nodding rather than upward facing flowers of a delicate pale pink, a lovely thing.

Next a trio of fritillaries. On the left, the diminutive Fritillaria stenanthera. I have two forms of this, one with pretty salmon pink flowers, the other with less exciting dove grey flowers. Being small, they are kept confined to pots, but I do find them rather difficult to keep. Two taller fritillaries F. sewerzowii (centre) and F. raddeana (right) are easier and happily do their own thing in a shady border in the open garden. 

A useful plant for the edge of the border at this time of year is Hacquetia epipactis (above).
The acid yellow flowers form a neat mat (or would do if the blackbirds didn't keep burying it); the leaves follow on later.What appear to be the "petals" are actually coloured bracts, the flower itself being the cluster in the centre. This colour associates well with magenta such as this pretty dwarf tulip Tulipa humilis (left) which flowers at the same time.

Pictured left is Olsynium douglasii a North American plant formerly included in Sisyrinchium. This is a member of the Iris family, though the flowers don't look at all iris-like! The flowers are quite fleeting, but produced in succession over a couple of weeks. The bulbs have been slow to increase, so the clump has had to be bulked up with seedlings, which are easily raised. A friend has given me seeds of her deeper pink version, so when the seedlings reach flowering size it will be interesting to see if the colour really is darker, or if it's just a matter of different soils and growing conditions.

Another North American plant is Claytonia megarhiza, with large fleshy leaves and a ruff of small pale pink flowers. It is related to the lewisias, which do well here, but is by no means as showy!

Lastly for this posting, two Corydalis. The first was supposed to be the fire-engine-red 'George Baker' but turned out to be rose pink. I'm hoping I might get the real thing from the next batch of 'George Baker' seedlings! A recent gift is Corydalis malkensis (right), a lovely clean white which will go in the garden maybe next year when it's bulked up a little.