Japanese maple Bloodgood in May

Hostas unfurl at the base of a Japanese maple

The early spring bulbs around the Japanese maple, Bloodgood, are replaced by unfurling hosta leaves in May as the maple foliage becomes intensely red. Hostas are ideal for hiding the dying foliage of little spring bulbs like the blue scilla, white chionodoxa and the very early galanthus or snowdrops. The pairing of hostas and Japanese maples is classic and despite being used frequently, remains satisfying. The added advantage of hiding fading bulb foliage is not to be missed, giving this combination two distinctive phases before spring slips into June. This corner then returns to prominence in late summer or early autumn when the hostas bloom. If it is sited near a seating area, it is worth considering using some of the fragrant hostas. Royal Standard is a lovely stalwart with lily-like white blooms and mid-green ribbed leaves, a large variegated form that is fragrant and easy to find is Guacamole, but there are also newer fragrant varieties on the market. The enduring pleasure of this pairing is from the contrasting foliage — it might be considered the textbook example, but is much more satisfying in the garden than any description could suggest.