Lately I seem to be focusing on plants that many would consider weeds. But there is a certain fascination in collecting different forms of native plants and surely no one would consider primroses, in any form, a weed.
So here we have a pair of vincas. Above is Vinca difformis ‘Jenny Pym’ which is notable for the pink colour of the flowers. Vinca difformis is not actually native but a Mediterranean plant and is not always considered hardy though this has never had a problem in the 15 years I have had it. Vinca difformis has a habit of flowering in winter but it is at its best in spring, with odd flowers later in the season. It is most often seen as ‘Oxyloba’ which has large, starry, blue flowers. The name ‘difformis’ comes from the habit of the plant which has two types of stem: long, arching stems that spread it, rooting as they touch the soil, and short, flowering stems that grow from this. In time it can form dense groundcover but when it comes to clear it you find that it is actually rooted in relatively few places so removal is not the nightmare you expect. Thriving in partial shade but also happy in sunnier places than native species, it is a valuable thing to have where you can give it a bit of elbow room. It is too tall, at about 30cm, to underplant with bulbs, but it is nice to have wandering under shrubs. I like the glossy foliage and admire the pretty flowers.
Below is the diminutive Vinca minor ‘Illumination’. This must be the prettiest form of our native lesser periwinkle. There are many forms, mostly with green leaves and with variations in flower colour or with double flowers. Most are blue, a rather liverish purple or white. There are variegated forms too and the best I have is the rather exceptional ‘Ralph Shugart’ which has white, marginal variegation and very good blue flowers. Well, best apart from ‘Illumination’. This charmer has leaves that are flushed with gold in the centre and a thin green margin, with the usual blue flowers. Mine started life in a hanging basket with spring bulbs and then got planted out in a rather bright spot where it struggles under, through and over variegated euonymus. They all get on very well and the bright blue flowers are a welcome addition. It does have a problem (of course) and it has a tendency to revert (produce green shoots) but these can be removed, although they do not seem to dominate too much. This is much flatter in habit than Vinca difformis so you can plant bulbs through it and dwarf daffs or blue hyacinths would be ideal.