There is just a few metres across the west lawn at Compton Verney a stately grove of Lime trees, set a midst the lawn. In early January, when Compton Verney staff return to work following their Christmas break, we’re always drawn across to this grove to see a wonderful, expansive blanket of yellow flowers.
Winter Aconites are the magnet, and they appear at Compton Verney from the earliest days of the new year through to February. It is a little beauty of a flower that keeps low to the ground, and were it not for the intensity of its colour it would go largely unnoticed. However, when the sun shines and those flower petals open; they are indeed a sight to behold.
I’ve worked with Aconites before, but never in such quantity as those established at Compton Verney, Warwickshire. An inspired planting many years ago, they have spread like green and yellow larva, across the ground beneath the horse-shoe arrangement of mature Lime trees. If there is a draw-back, it’s that the grounds have traditionally been closed to visitors at this time of year. But, for 2014 an earlier than usual start to the seasons exhibition programme means that people can visit the grounds and enjoy the latter days of aconite flowering from February 15th – weather permitting of course!
Winter Aconite, or Eranthis hyemalis as it is botanically known, grows from a tuber to around 15cm tall. They generally prefer dappled shade, and will spread if happy in a deciduous woodland type environment; although were it not for regular mowing – they would have spread much farther into the lawns at Compton Verney. They are said to prefer well drained soil, and our trees that provide the necessary shade also control moisture levels throughout the root-zone. Once again however, there’s an inconsistency with general advice; as our clay based soil stays moist for much of the winter, yet doesn’t cause any ill effect to the display.
Worth noting is the very early flowering of this plant, with its brilliant buttercup yellow flowers held above bright green foliage. Although all parts are poisonous, the sight of massed yellow blooms, all angled towards the sun, is particularly uplifting at such a colour starved time of year. When frosty or dull, the yellow petals remain tightly closed and spherical, held above a neat ruff of foliage.
If you’d like to visit, from February 15th you can expect the Aconites to be in their latter stages of flowering, (hence this post to sing their praises,) but hopefully they’ll be looking good still. Picking up the baton however will be our snowdrops; which are growing in number and popularity each year. All-in-all a great location for an early season walk – I hope you’re able to visit to enjoy some of our lovely little flowers, not to mention the stunning landscape. Do check opening information on the Compton Verney Website.
BBC Gardening Plantfinder – Winter Aconite
Wikipedia – Winter Aconite