Don't you love it when people ask you what your favourite plant is? I mean, it's such a “piece of string” question: do they mean my favourite tree, shrub, perennial, bulb? My favourite flower, or foliage? Favourite in winter, or summer - or spring, or autumn? So many answers, so many to choose from.
But at this exact time of year, now that the Eranthis hyemalis are going over, my current favourite has to be Pachyphragma macrophyllum, whose clear, strong white flowers are now shining out at ground level.
It's a really under-used plant, and I don't really know why: it's a bit hard to get it established, and it is quite slow growing, but once it settles down in your garden, it will spread into dense colonies, making quite effective ground cover. I say that, because it's not a classic ground-cover such as Ajuga reptans (Bugle), whose leaves lay flat to the ground: instead, it grows as individual plants, but the leaves are long-stemmed and lay flat all the way round each plant, overlapping and giving good ground coverage.
And right now, in spring, those mounds of foliage produce a short spike of white four-petalled flowers: each of which is tiny, but en masse they have a lovely effect.
They'll be flowering for at least a month now, and for the rest of the year, you have a rosette of rounded, ruffled-looking leaves at ground level, and being what is called semi-evergreen, it will hold those leaves through a mild winter with no trouble at all.
Best of all, it is perfectly happy in semi-shade, so it's perfect for a woodland bed, or for planting under deciduous trees or large-ish deciduous shrubs, where it gets the low spring sun: ah, remember the sun? One day it will return, one day...