In the distant north-west, Spring is hovering, oscillating beween damp, dreich days, spells of cold, wet, windy weather, with the odd gale thrown in for dramatic relief and rare calm sunny days. There is hardly a dandelion flower to light up the verge along the track to the vegetable garden and my gardens remain in a stubborn state of hibernation. A meander around the gardens produces little more than a few battered daffodils, some tired looking scillas and the odd clump of shredded foliage. Less I turn into a garden voyeur sighing over magnificent displays of spring flowers, I decided that there must be something in my garden to appreciate.
Areas of moist shade are a rare commodity in my garden, restricted to a narrow bed between the solar panels and the alpine house and a small raised bed at the end of the in-between garden. Over time I have added shredded bark to try to raise the pH of the soil to something mildly acidic and to increase the organic matter. The conditions in the shade bed are not ideal; some plants thrive, others tolerate it and the rest are short-lived. I’m still experimenting, and currently have an eclectic mix of hostas, paris, arums, erythoniums, primroses, ferns and arisaemas, plus a few snowdrops and a few gems such as Sanguinaria, Anemone ranunculoides and Haquetia.
The small raised bed was built specifically to house my small collection of arisaemas, so the soil is rich and moist. For variety it also includes a few bulbs, arums and small ferns and hostas. Ariaemas are not to everyone’s taste, but I like the architectual forms and variations in leaf and spathe shapes between the species.
I am intrigued by the shapes and quiet gren hues of these shade plants and particularly enjoy watching how the leaves unfurl and the emergence of a small discrete elegant flower. They are easy to overlook and usually eclipsed by the bright colours of the traditional spring melange of crocus, tulips and daffodils, but there should always be a place for a little cool verdure.