Rosette plants in the autumn garden


Rosettes shine against the bare soil, whether it’s verbascums, pulmonarias, or primroses. Given a tidy in the autumn they will make this time of year look fresher. Pulmonarias will have plenty of time to settle in if planted in the autumn, and the apple-green verdigris foliage of ‘Diana Clare’ is topped with violet-purple flowers in spring. Remove the seedheads, to avoid unwanted seedlings, but don’t shear this one back as you would the others in spring. A slight tidy suits it far better. ‘Pink Haze’ lives up to its name and the heavily spotted oval leaves are a real winter feature. The rosettes shelter insects and the early flowers satisfy the bumblebee, for like all members of the borage family, the nectar is quickly replenished.

Primroses, lovers of cool shady places, also forms good rosettes and ‘Fransisca’ has unusual greenish ruffled flowers. Spotted on a traffic island in Surrey in British Columbia by a Canadian gardener called Francisca Darts, it’s probably a woodland primrose that’s hybridised with a showy bedding primula. 'Francisca’ flowers far longer than most and sets off the blues that might include the deciduous pulmonaria ‘Blue Ensign’. The purple-tinted new shoots that arrive in March are almost as good as the gentian-blue flowers. But for now foliage is what matters - so learn to love it as much as your flowers.