Despite the uncommonly hard winter we had - which BTW makes 2 years in a row - everything in the garden came out in a rush last spring. Or at least, everything that was going to come out, came out early. Anything else that didn't, was not going to cooperate for the rest of its natural life.
Among the precocious performers this year were a magenta-coloured Hepatica (seriously, magenta), Lily of the Valley that flowered weeks earlier than they should have, a Trident Maple that sulked after the hard winter of 2009 but didn't get any winter protection last year either, and a lot of Accent Plants that we didn't think would survive wearing a foot of snow on their heads for nearly 3 weeks. And the reality is that getting the garden geared up to face a similar hard winter will mean several weeks' worth of prep work. Actually we have lost more trees from drying out while we were on holiday in the summer than we have from a hard winter. And we have lost more bonsai pots to cats and birds going on the rampage rather than the ravages of the cold. In point of fact, our broken Bonsai & Accent Pot score for this year is Birds = 5, Frost = 0.
So here was one of our earliest flowering Accents this Spring - a blue Soldanella (possibly carpatica) from Poland which we have had since 2007.
This one self-seeds relatively well and we have also broken up the parent plant several times over. Being an Alpine, it may not be the easiest thing to keep alive in the wet winters of the UK. This guy has been in the same (Japanese) pot since 2008 and is planted in neat Akadama. It's probably also due a re-pot sometime, but at the moment it's still taking in water quite easily. It lives on the shelving right by an exterior wall, and this is all the winter protection it has ever had. I still check the Accent Plants almost every day in the Winter, but watering is done only when absolutely needful.
This second one started out as a planting of yellow Iris - possibly reticulata - in a 'dragon's egg' pot that Walsall used to make a long, long time ago. (David Jones has since stopped making them and we only have three.) I created the planting about 3 years ago and whatever was the companion plant to the Irises has since died; the Irises themselves have done absolutely bugger all, but 2 years ago, this Epimedium self-seeded itself into the mix. This is the first year it has flowered. The first picture shows the flower spike just coming out in February:
And these are the fully open Epimedium flower spikes, with the Iris leaves untidily lying around after having done bugger-all again this year. The Accent Plant in the background is a clump of Hakonechloa, also in a Walsall pot.
And I leave you with this image of the earliest Accent to flower this year - something like late January; a Buttercup with a posh name: Ranunculus ficaria 'Coppernub' in a teacup-style pot by Brian Albright.
We have had this guy for a while now, you can see what it looked like in the Spring of 2009 in this post.