It is rarely possible to arrive in a garden and get going immediately. Even following the usual advice of looking over the fence to see what the neighbours are growing will not always prove helpful in finding out what will thrive in your garden. The microclimates in a garden are complex; cold air rolls down slopes, hedges can prevent this and make frost pockets, beds can slope to the north or south, making a vast difference in how quickly it warms in spring, and neighbouring plants can protect from wind, sun and frost.
‘Empress Wu’ that giant hosta has illustrated this well in the garden this spring. I have three clumps, two of which are in a bed either side of a young styrax (which is not exactly ecstatic after the cold spring). Although this bed has a curved hedge around it on the south side (still very young) it is largely sunny and gets morning sun. The persistent April frosts have done what the mid May frost did last year and has turned the first leaves to cling film. They will be OK but they look unhappy.
In contrast, an ‘Empress’ planted not 3m away, in a similar orientation but with an overhead tracery of hawthorn and birch, is fine. Those overhead branches protected the plant from the worst of the radiation frosts. The plant gets just as much light and just as much morning light, but it has a little overhead protection, a natural version of the fleece we throw over plants to protect them.
On a brighter note, a few words of praise (again) for primula ‘Francisca’, (more here) . My plants have had to cope with wet winter soil and are all planted under the embryonic hornbeam hedge. They have been slow to start flowering this year but are now glorious, in a subtle kind of way.