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The white way to festival of colour; Perennials provide all the answers food and gardening.


THE first bloom of spring sends many gardeners into a wild frenzy of buying.

They head for garden centres across Scotland and spend, spend, spend so they can introduce some much-needed colour to their plots.

Tulips, pansies and polyanthus are particular favourites. There's no doubt their gaudy colours are a welcome addition to plots battered and depleted by our harsh winters.

Many gardeners don't seem to care that they have to buy fresh bedding plants every spring.

Not me. And it's not that I am a curmudgeon. It's a waste of time and money. I much prefer planting perennials, which come back year after year and provide equally stunning colour.

For instance, no spring garden is complete without a clump of trilliums.

Commonly called wake robin, these plants come from the USA and Canada, where they grow in deciduous birch forests.

They flower before the trees get their leaves and a mature clump of trillium grandiflorum will reach 18 inches and spreads out where the soil is good.

Each leaf is in three parts and is mottled with purple spots, setting off the large white blooms to perfection.

Just as good is trillium erectum, which has similar spotted leaves with large claret blooms and a chocolate collar.

The only drawback with trilliums is their extreme dislike of root fiddling. They take a year to settle down and only get good after two seasons. But once settled, they will become the highlight of the spring border. The birch forests are also home to a stunning bleeding heart, dicentra cuccularia.

The plant is a dainty affair with silvery green filigree leaves and numerous white lockets - just like teeth.

This gem needs gritty soil with added leaf mould and also enjoys the shade, making it ideal for a peat bed or among taller plants at the front of a border.

Pulmonarias (Lung worts) are in full flower now and, thanks to the plant breeders, there are plenty to choose from. The leaves are particularly good and several are marbled with grey and silver, while others have cream spots that can spread over the entire leaf.

Try pulmonaria redstart, which produces 12in leafy plumes of tubular coral flowers of decent size and quantity. Sissinghurst white is another stunner and the virginal blooms look luscious against the silver spotted foliage.

The dog's tooth violets are also in full flower and my favourite is our native erythronium dens canis. The foliage is heavily streaked with aubergine and, as a feature on their own, they are superb.

The sumptuous blooms hang like miniature torpedoes then open out to form an open-faced bell.

If you peer inside the bloom, each has a darker red eye and contrasting yellow stamens. Other hybrid erythroniums worth acquiring are eryth- ronium white beauty and erythronium pagoda.
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Title Annotation:Gardening
Publication:Sunday Mail (Glasgow, Scotland)
Date:Apr 22, 2001
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