Plants for Winter Blooms

Why in the world do we gardeners put in plants that bloom in winter? Why the obsession to find a spot of color against a gloomy landscape? I was asking these questions today when a bit of sunshine, after several overhung days, pulled me outside. The temperature was barely above freezing, a bitter breeze blew in my face, and the soil was soggy from recent rains. Nevertheless, there I was, bundled up, searching for those hardy blooms that braved the vacillations of an Alabama winter. Camellia japonica 'Red Candles' is a prolific winter bloomer, despite frosty air.

The fact is, many of us gardeners are greedy people. We want it all. We want a year-round paradise, if not in reality, at least in our dreams. Even northern gardeners who are snowed-in through much of the winter challenge the frozen land outside their windows. They hover around grow lights in the basement or bathroom, nurturing seedlings for a warmer season. They fill sunrooms, kitchens, and other living areas with green plants and pots of flowering tropicals, whose vibrant leaves and colorful blooms are remarkably beautiful against a backdrop of snow. 

As for me, today I needed to be outside, checking on things.Flowering quince, Chaenomeles, is a shrub whose flowers may persist for two or more months.Hellebores are up and producing flowers.This is another plant whose blooms may continue for several months.My garden in January is no paradise, but rather a panorama of bare stems and branches against a backdrop of evergreens. But I found occasional buds and blooms, and I was happy my garden included a few plants that dared to blossom in winter. Daffodils are just pushing up and beginning to form buds, and tea olives are filled with tiny white buds that will soon fill the arbor garden with fragrance.

Variegated Winter Daphne is also filled with buds that will soon open to fragrant blooms.

Distylium 'Vintage Jade' has many tiny red buds. When they open, they are reminiscent of witch hazel.

This Edgeworthia chrysantha bud is just beginning to open.

Another view of Edgeworthia buds. Yes, they feel furry!

Camellia 'Something Beautiful' lives up to its name.

Many of the Camellia 'Something Beautiful' blooms have fallen to the ground because of wind and rain, forming bouquets of blossoms on the earth. Fortunately, many more remain on the shrub.

I felt a hint of things stirring beneath the surface as I examined the blooms in my winter garden, and I am reassured that spring will come.


Best of the Rest: 2018 Garden Images

Every year I like to go back through all the year's garden pictures and choose unused photos from each month. I select only shots I made of my own garden. These are images that never made it into a blog post, for various reasons, but perhaps deserve a look. At the least, they provide a review of the year. So to celebrate the passing of 2018, and to look forward to a new garden year, here are the best of the rest: 2018. 

January:I tucked sprays of Arizona cypress around ornamental kale in a pot to make an attractive winter arrangement.

February:The small yellow blooms in the photo on the left are forsythia, and the white flowers on the right are from the Serviceberry tree (Amelanchier, also called Juneberry. Its edible berries ripen in June and taste a bit like blueberries. But the birds love them, so I let them have them.

March: A fern's newly emerging fiddlehead; ferns have an important presence throughout my garden.

Here is a March view of the walk in front of our house.

April:Left: Trillium in front of autumn fern. Right: Enkianthus blooms.

May:Left: Turkey tail fungus with resurrection fern. Right: Virginia sweetspire.

June:A large gardenia shrub on the edge of the woodland garden fills the area with sweet fragrance each June.

July:A beautiful heucherella and its bloom.

August: Bugs love the hot, stressed-out conditions of August!

September:Garlic chives, on the left, and spider lilies, on the right, both flourish in September.

In spring 2018, we had to remove the beautiful Japanese maple that grew in front of the house, as ambrosia beetles had killed it. In September we replaced it with 'Rising Sun' redbud, seen here on the left.

October:A female American robin enjoyed this birdbath. Her mate was nearby in the grass.

November:The tree in the background with the heart-shaped golden fall foliage is a native redbud.

December:Once upon a time this Cryptomeria japonica was a living Christmas tree. After the holidays, we planted it in the front yard. Look at it now!

Did you have a favorite month? Happy gardening in 2019!