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kitsch Spring

Updated: Dec 19, 2019

There's no doubt that the positive vibes of Spring, brought on by a change in weather and the beginning of new plant and animal life, can bring great joy to us and renew enthusiasm for being outdoors. The cold, dark, wetness of a typical modern British Winter make it a hard sell for us to want to work in muddy gardens and the limited amount of flowering plant material is less engaging than at other times.

Spring is interesting horticulturally for a number of reasons, with colour being one of the most obviously pronounced. In nature, White, Yellow and to a lesser extent Blue flowers dominate natural species colours, especially in spring flowering plants. This is a biological advantage as under infrared and ultraviolet light, these colours stand out over long distances, making it easier for beneficial insects to spot them, pollinate plants and transfer genetic material.

Naturally white flowers, especially Galanthus (Snowdrops) and naturally yellow flowers like most Narcissus (Daffodils) are good examples of how these advantageously coloured flowers appeal to the first Bees and Hoverflies waking after a winter slumber. Outside of these colours though, human involvement in plant hybridization has lead to limitless variations and combinations in many of our favourite plants. While there are many plants that start flowering in Spring and help to colour our gardens, few could argue that the short-term, high-impact, flower-power of bulbs is most dominant in spring.

There are lots of harmonious and delicately balanced, successionally changing bulb planting schemes out there and like all planting designs, 'the fastidious [designer] will make them sparkle with aptness'*. What interests me about much of the bulb planting that you see when walking past UK front gardens, through public displays and when flicking through bulb catalogues, is the blissful abandonment of 'taste' in our colour pallette. Riotous and wonderfully kitsch partnering of vibrant and intensely coloured bulb plantings are a perverse delight, that I've seen in gardens of all sizes throughout Europe. Possibly as a result the joy of exiting the horticulturally 'lean' period of winter, the ability to be over the top in terms of colour use appears to bring out our flamboyant and vulgar side when selecting bulbs for our gardens and good on us too!

Restraint has its place and for much of the year I'd consider myself aesthetically reserved in terms of colour appreciation, but briefly, in Spring, I wallow in the joy of reckless abandon; blissfully happy to see the most aggressively colourful displays showcasing willful disregard for the rules of good taste.

Enjoy colour and embrace, if only for a moment, the wonderfully kitsch vulgarity of spring bulbs.

Why not tweet pictures you spot of planting that relishes colour using #lovespringcolour to @iplantsman to share with me.


*Rose, James C. "Freedom in the Garden." Pencil Points. October 1938, 19: 640-644 See my blog post 'Mantra... You've got to have a gimmick' for more.

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