Fleeting flowers

The joy of the snowdrop, cherry blossom and tulip. The fritillary and daffodil, the allium and poppy. Momentary pops of colour punctuating the seasons. 

Often as gardeners we’ll steer our borders toward plants that flower for months on end like floribunda roses, geraniums and of course, dahlias. Surefire colour and healthy foliage lure us and certainly these garden heavyweights go gangbusters to keep our gardens looking good for most of the year. Which is a good thing, I’ll never tire of each new Dahlia bud opening.

However increasingly it’s the plants that signal the change in the season that excite me. Those plants that pop up for a week or two in the spotlight, changing the mood of the garden completely and then fading away for the next in line.

Snowdrops are the perfect example. So small you could be forgiven for asking “what’s the point?” but in the worst weeks of the year, there they are.  Slightly strange looking with a pure white glow in the low light levels.

They’ll be gone soon, to be replaced in our garden by Ornithogalum nutans, Narcissus triandrus ‘Thalia’, Fritillaria meleagris var. unicolour subvar. alba, Pulsatilla vulgaris ‘Alba’ and Tulipa ‘Greenstar’. Short lived flowers supported by various Hellebore cultivars and the clouds of Brunnera macrophylla which will continue right into summer. At the same time, ferns start their annual unfurling – another short lived annual spectacle.

This ethereal state of coming and going is weighted heavily to our winter-spring garden where low growing flowers are all white. A stark contrast to the purple and pink to the rest of the year. These are my symbolic burning white embers of the garden flaming back into life. A dying fire in rewind. Fleeting flowers suit our garden well at this time of year, conveniently disappearing as our brightly coloured heavies step in to take the baton until autumn.

It’s well worth looking at our gardens and asking how can we squeeze in one more of these moments-of-glory plants without sacrificing another. Perhaps a bulb squeezed in here, or some seeds scattered there. Look for little gaps.

At the end of the year our garden has one last short-lived moment of colour with Nerines tucked into a corner. A fitting and grand full stop.

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Jack Wallington

I'm an RHS qualified garden designer living in Clapham, London who loves growing plants and designing with them. Follow me on Twitter.

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2 thoughts on “Fleeting flowers

    1. That’s one of my favourite cut flower combos, they just work so well. The Dahlia is one of the largest which helps show how big the nerine is too. They’re both a good size.

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