Plants to look for in March

In 2018 the beginning of March was very cold and snowy. In 2019 the last week in February broke records for the highest winter temperatures. It will be interesting to see which plants tolerate such swings in the weather. These are some of the plants featured as previous March Plant of the Month
Aloe ferox S Trees Camellia x williamsii 'Brigadoon' K Keeton Corylopsis pauciflora K Keeton Crocuses_on_lawn_I_Turner
Aloe ferox (2014)
The West dome of the glass pavilions contains the exquisite flora of South Africa. Aloe ferox, also known as the Cape Aloe, can be found in one of the side-beds. It is a shrubby succulent indigenous to South Africa’s Western Cape, Eastern Cape, Natal and Lesotho, although it will grow quite successfully in arid climates with low fertility soils. It has a single woody trunk with a dense rosette of lance-shaped leaves which are bluish green with a spiny surface. It produces vivid orange-red blooms which appear in a thick, round, brush like terminal cluster on a single, slender stalk.
Camellia x williamsii ‘Brigadoon’(2012)
The camellias continue to brighten up the Asian Garden, as more and more varieties come into flower. The majority of plants are Camellia x williamsii hybrids which enjoy the acid soil and are fully hardy. These are possibly one of the most valuable hybrid shrubs ever produced, and the best camellia for general planting in the British Isles. Camellia x williamsii ‘Brigadoon’ follows on from the very early variety ‘St. Ewe’, (pictured in February), and is a real delight in rose-pink semi-double blooms.
Corylopsis pauciflora (2017)
This delightful plant usually puts on its show after the winter flowering shrubs have finished and before most spring ones have started into flower. Corylopsis pauciflora is an eye catching little shrub at the steps going down to the water garden, opposite a Weigela bed. It is covered in delicate pale yellow, scented flowers, 2 to 3 in each raceme, hanging from slender stems. The leaves appear after the flowers and are at first coppery pink. The other members of this genus have more flowers per raceme, hence the species name 'pauciflora' or few-flowered, but this is only relative. Robert Fortune introduced C. pauciflora in 1860. It grows wild in scrub and forest edge in Japan and Taiwan, though in Taiwan it is at risk.
Crocuses in the lawn
One of the most welcoming sights at this time of year is the great number of crocus on the lawns and tree mounds. It is always a miracle that they manage to survive so many little footprints. These old cultivars have been obtained by selection over several centuries from Crocus vernus and survive well in grass, increasing by division to form solid patches. Due to the hot February weather the crocuses flowered early this year.
Daphne bholua A Hunter Daphne laureola subsp. philippi A Hunter Euphorbia mellifera S Turner Leucadendron salignum S Turner
Daphne bholua (2013)
There are a few of these small shrubs dotted around the Garden, but the most beautiful, and most accessible, to smell the exquisite fragrance, is on the left hand side of the entrance to the Bear Pit (area E). It is interesting to know that these daphnes were only introduced as recently as the 1930s from the Himalayas. It is an evergreen shrub with leaves just like a laurel, with fragrant flowers from midwinter to spring. The colouring of the flowers is variable, from white to pinkish. A particularly good form of this shrub is Daphne bholua ‘Jacqueline Postill’.
Daphne laureola subsp. philippi (2013)
Follow down the path to the Rock and Water Garden, (area H) and you find a fine little group of low growing Daphne laureola subsp. philippi, (also known as the spurge laurel). This small group has been here many years, and if you look closely you will see it seeding around, a good indication that it is perfectly happy in this sheltered spot under the trees. An evergreen shrub/shrublet this plant originated in the Pyrenees. It has the most unusual lime-green flowers, displayed so well with the glossy green leaves.
Euphorbia mellifera (2016)
Euphorbia mellifera, a very handsome shrubby plant with striking foliage all year round, comes into flower usually towards the end of the month. The narrow leaves grow in whorls round the stalk, each finely edged in maroon with a pale midriff. With a rosy brown flower head atop each stalk and the stalks forming a dome 2m wide and tall, a most pleasing patterned effect is created. As the flowers develop they produce a wonderful strong honey scent (common name is Honey Spurge) and last for many weeks. E.mellifera will grow in a variety of situations, with size of plant and leaf depending on warmth and humidity (it does not like to dry out); in its native Canary Islands it will grow to 5m with 30cm leaves. It is easily spotted on the bottom terrace of the Mediterranean Garden.
Leucadendron salignum (2016)
Also in the Mediterranean Garden, in the South African section, near the top of the steps, a rare sight is the flowering of Leucadendron salignum with most attractive bracts in subtle shades of pink and cream enclosing the cone-shaped flowerheads.
This is a member of the large Proteaceae family.
Rhododendron praecox Ribes_'White_Icicle'_K_Keeton Parrotia persica K Keeton
Rhododendron 'Praecox' (2015)
Rhododendron ‘Praecox’, is one of the first rhododendrons to flower. Unfortunately, because of the earliness of the flowering the blooms may be caught by frost, but this plant has been sited is a sheltered spot in the Four Seasons Garden (Area A), in the hope that it will have some protection.
It has an interesting history dating back to 1853 when a nurseryman named Isaac Davies, from Wavertree, nr Liverpool, crossed two rhododendrons - Rhododendron ciliatum, an evergreen shrub, discovered by Joseph Hooker in the Himalayas in 1850, and Rhododendron dauricum, a native of Russia, and growing in English gardens since 1760. This produced a fine compact shrub with early flowers of purplish crimson in bud, and funnel-shaped flowers of rosy purple when fully out.
Ribes sanguineum 'White Icicle' (2018)
When March comes in like a lion, it is hard to believe that in a couple of weeks Ribes sanguineum 'White Icicle' should be covered in pendulous racemes of pure white flowers, long lasting and noticeably earlier than the species. The genus Ribes (from the Arabic 'ribas' meaning 'acid tasting') comprises around 150 species, including the edible currants and gooseberries. R. sanguineum was introduced in 1826 by David Douglas while on a 3-year plant hunting expedition sponsored by the Royal Horticultural Society. He sent seedlings from the banks of the Columbia River, Oregon. This cultivar, R.s. 'White Icicle' was introduced by the University of British Columbia Botanical Garden in 1986 and holds the Royal Horticultural Society's Award of Garden Merit. In SBG the shrubs grow behind the Pavilions alongside the Clarkehouse Road railings
Sarcococca hookeriana var. digyna
Sheffield Botanical Gardens are home for the National Collection of Sarcococcas. From mid to late winter, the Sarcococcas (commonly named Sweet box) produce small, tassel-like flowers that shed sweet fragrance around. The female flowers are insignificant, but produce the occasional berry, which may still remain on the plants. Sarkos in Greek meaning flesh, kokkos, a berry. Many different varieties can be found all around the Garden and a free information leaflet may be obtained at the Education Centre. Sarcococca hookeriana var. digyna was introduced into this country in 1908 from Western China.