February can be a rather dismal month, but the winter aconite provides a welcome foretaste of spring. It’s golden yellow, balled buds – later opening to starry rays of sunshine – certainly lift the spirits at a time of year we need it most.
Small tuberous perennials, with ruffs of glossy green leaves surrounding each flowerhead, they provide a bright carpet in shady areas, even growing well under inhospitable trees such as horse chestnuts and sycamores. Associating well with snowdrops, they can become a little too vigorous for crocuses or other slow-growing bulbs. Having said that, they only do well where they are happy, and my mother has struggled to establish them.
Good drainage is essential, and they are always best planted ‘in the green’ – bought in flower rather than as dried bulbs. The leaves must be left to die down naturally, which they do in April-May, so companions such as geraniums might be an idea, to help obscure the foliage. But the beauty of aconites is that they can be planted towards the back of the border, as they flower when little else is out, and are eye-catching enough to be noticeable wherever they are placed.
Meaning of the Name: Eranthis From the Greek ‘er‘ for spring plus ‘anthis‘ for flower. Hyemalis belonging to winter, ‘hyems‘
RHS AGM (Award of Garden Merit)