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6 reliable perennials for spring garden colour and foliage

The ideal spring garden needn’t rely solely on bulbs for colour and shape: there are lots of reliable late spring perennials that can also add great splashes of colour and texture to your garden borders given the right conditions. There are too many lovely perennials to list here, but here are 6 of Ladybrook Nursery’s favourites.

Azalea japonica ‘Florida Red’

Azalea japonica Florida Red is an evergreen shrub that has dark green foliage and bears beautiful velvety red flowers. The blooms appear in April/May and June and attract wildlife into your garden. It will eventually grow to a height of 1 metre and a spread of 90 cm. Plant in well drained acidic soil, ideally in an area of the garden with partial sunlight exposure.

Type: shrub

Height: 1m

Foliage: evergreen – glossy dark green

Flower colour: rich red

Flowering: April to May

Aspect: full sun to partial shade

Ceanothus thyrisiflorus ‘Victoria’

Ceanothus thyrisiflorus ‘Victoria’ is a dense, hardy evergreen shrub with upright branches bearing narrow, dark green leaves and clusters of dark blue flowers in late spring and summer. It is a bushy, dense and upright perennial and will reach a height of 2m and a spread of 1.5m after 5-10 years. Plant in well-drained soil in a sheltered position in full sun.  

Type: shrub

Height: 2m

Foliage: evergreen – dark green

Flower colour: dark blue

Flowering: late spring to summer

Aspect: full sun

Choisya ternate ‘Sundance’

Choisya ternata ‘Sundance’, or the Mexican Orange blossom, is loved for is bright gold evergreen foliage. Grow it in full sun for the very best colour. This Mexican Orange Blossom is reliable and easy to grow, with a neat, compact habit that requires little maintenance. Choisya ternata plants are also very tolerant of difficult growing conditions, and will happily grow in coastal gardens. This RHS AGM variety is ideal for adding a splash of year-round colour to mixed borders. Height and spread: 2.5m.

Type: shrub

Height: 2.5m

Foliage: evergreen – bright yellow becoming yellow green

Flower colour: fragrant pink-tinged white

Flowering: late spring then again in summer or autumn

Aspect: full sun to partial shade

Euonymus fortunei ‘Emerald ‘N’ Gold’

‘Emerald ‘N’ Gold’ is a spreading, dwarf evergreen shrub with broad yellow-edged leaves, tinged pink during the winter months. Sometimes it produces a few small, inconspicuous greenish flowers in late spring. ‘Emerald ‘N’ Gold’ is a clump-forming, spreading plant and has been awarded an RHS AGM (Award of Garden Merit). Plant in well-drained soil in sun or partial shade.

Type: shrub

Height: 60cm

Foliage: evergreen – green with yellow margins

Aspect: full sun to partial shade

Sambucus Nigra ‘Black Lace’

Sambucus nigra, or the common elder, bears sprays of tiny white flowers in early summer followed by small black fruit. ‘Black Lace’ has very finely cut, almost black foliage, which is the perfect foil to the pink-flushed blooms. In autumn, its leaves turn a rich red. To produce the best coloured leaves, prune plants back to ground level every year in early spring. It works well when planted on its own or as part of a hedge. For best results, grow Sambucus nigra ‘Black Lace’ in moist but well drained soil in full sun to partial shade.

Type: shrub

Height: 3m

Foliage: black dissected

Flower colour: pale pink with red berries in autumn

Flowering: May/June

Aspect: full sun

Clematis montana ‘Tetrarose’

Clematis montana var. rubens ‘Tetrarose’ is a fast-growing deciduous climber with bronze-tinged leaves and mauve-pink flowers in summer. It will reach a height of 5m and a spread of 2.5m after 2-5 years. Plant in fertile, well-drained soil particularly chalky soils, though it will grow equally well in loamy, clay or sandy soils.

Type: climber

Height: 5m

Foliage: bronze-tinted

Flower colour: deep pink with yellow centres

Flowering: May to June

Aspect: full sun to partial shade

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