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Leopard's Bane (Doronicum)

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Part of the Asteraceae family and blooms early spring. Great for a border.

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      03.02.2009 11:10
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      A beautiful plant which brightens up any Spring garden

      I want to start by saying that I owe this review to my dear father who taught me everything I know about plants and the garden. He is a wealth of knowledge and his garden is a picture admired by many as they walk past it along an Essex seaside town.

      One of his favourite plants and mine is called Doronicum or Leopard's Bane. It is a stunning plant which has beautiful sunny daisy yellow flowers at a time of year when it is unusual to find daisy like plants in flower at all. If you have read any of my previous reviews on winter flowering plants you may know I enjoy seeing colour in the garden. It isn't a problem in the summer when you can go mad with bedding plants, but in early spring it is so nice to see a pretty display, and for me seeing the doronicum in flower is part of the joy of a sunny spring garden.

      It is a hardy perennial which means it will grow year after year, as long as you plant it in sun or partial shade. It won't like a dry dark corner, so give it a good position. You can buy a small plant at any garden centre for a small cost of around £3. It won't look much to begin with especially if you buy it in the winter as it dies down a lot, but it will soon spread out and each year you can dig it up, and carefully tease it apart to make new plants if you wish. The time to do this is in September to November. You can also grow them from seed in pots, which I have done successfully too. For this you just plant in the spring and pot on as they grow, and then the following year you should have several good hardy plants to enjoy.

      What I do with mine is I plant them in front of daffodils, as the great thing about this plant is that when daffodils finish flowering they often look tatty, but it is really important that you don't cut off the foliage, as it gathers in goodness to feed the bulb which ensures flowering the next year. By planting doronicum in front of the daffs you hide all this mess and you have stunning bright yellow daisies to enjoy as well. Growing to 2 feet tall it really does make a stunning display throughout April and May.

      It is one of the lesser known spring flowers but one which I am often asked "where did you get that and what is it?" I actually have given away plants to many friends over the years. This is actually how my father first discovered his when he was visiting a friend in Wales who has these planted on a sunny grassy bank with cowslips.

      The leaves themselves are very attractive being rounded and heart shaped towards the base and they are a rich green. It prefers a slightly acidic soil (5.5-6.2 pH) and may well struggle if it is too alkaline, so if your soil is verging on this you might have to add some ericaceous compost to give it a better chance. It isn't however as acid loving as say a camellia would be. If you dead head the flowers you may be lucky and get a second flowering!
      There are new varieties of this coming available all the time. Look out for one called Little Leo which has really bright almost orange flowers.

      The flowers attract many nectar loving insects to your garden which is lovely, and in my garden because they flower at the same time as my Morello cherry trees, which have gorgeous white confetti blossom, the picture is a yellow and white delight. With my great tits testing the garden is alive with new life and it is really pretty.

      Doronicum is actually a very easy to plant to look after it is in my school of gardening being easy maintenance! It's a sunny reminder that summer is coming and it is cheerful and bright and golden display. Mine come up every year, and I have a clump to mark the grave of one of my most loved cats who lies in peace beneath. The lemon flowers remind me that he is there and will never be forgotten.

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