Little bowls of sunshine

With galanthophiles staring intently at the ground at present, there is more than enough white around the garden. So a brilliant burst of yellow at soil level is more than welcome.

Winter aconites, or Eranthis hyemalis to give them their botanic name, grow from small tubers, usually planted in the autumn. Some gardeners complain they are difficult to get established, but that may be because the tubers they bought have dried out and will not grow. Buying them ‘in the green’ just as they finish flowering may offer a better chance. According to the RHS, it doesn’t even matter if the tubers are planted upside down, they will still grow; if I am unsure which way up to plant a bulb or tuber, I plant it on its side as the shoot will always grow upwards and the roots down.

Originating from damp woodland and shady places in Eurasia, winter aconites are perfect for naturalising under deciduous shrubs and trees in a soil rich in humus that doesn’t dry out in summer. Although they tolerate part shade, a position in full sun in early spring ensures a bright display on sunny days as the yellow goblet-shaped flowers open fully over their ruff of green foliage.

Eranthis hyemalis - 2018

As with all bulbs, let the foliage die down after flowering to feed the bulbs for the following year. They will then soon bulk up into sizable clumps and self sow, so excess plants can be moved around to other parts of the garden to start new colonies.

For several years, I grew the paler Eranthis ‘Schwefelganz’ with the standard ones but was disappointed with the result as the pure yellow ones made this one look muddy.

Eranthis 'Schwefelganz' - 2013

Eranthis x tubergenii ‘Guinea Gold’ is a hybrid between two eranthis species, and has larger flowers over bronze-tinted foliage. Again, it is probably advisable not to mix the two.

With sunshine often in short supply in January and February, winter aconites can be relied on to brighten the gloomiest days.



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