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Blooms, Berries, and Bark for Winter Interest

From across the drive into Aldridge Gardens I noticed the flowering apricots.I took a photo from a distance, but I decided a closer view could be worth it. The air was frigid, and low, gray clouds threatened to dump icy rain as I hauled myself out of the car and headed across the soggy lawn. Only a dedicated gardener, I thought...


I smiled and congratulated myself on an unexpected reward, as a deliciously sweet, spicy clove scent welcomed my approach to the beautiful little trees in front of the entrance to the Gardens. These tough trees grow to about 15' to 30' tall and often nearly as wide; and their winter blooms, which can occur from December to early March, are a welcome sight in hardiness zones 6 to 8. 

Prunus mume 'Bridal Veil' has a strongly weeping form and palest pink, semi double blooms, opening from pink buds:

Prunus mume 'Kobai' has semi-double, deep pink flowers:

Prunus mume 'Josephine' has pale pink, single blooms:

Blooms are alway a delight in the depth of winter, but I found other beautiful features at Aldridge Gardens, as I hurried through on business. Hurried? No, that is the wrong word! My feet slowed, and my camera automatically started shooting when I passed Ilex latifolia, AKA lusterleaf holly, full of brilliant berries:

Lusterleaf is one of those hollies that needs a male companion for fruit production. This one is obviously having a pretty good love life! The trees are good for wildlife, providing both food and shelter. These hollies do well in dappled shade at the edge of woodlands. They will grow in most soils in hardiness zones 7-9, but they need space, as they will grow up to 32' tall and about 16' wide.

Closer to the office, my ultimate destination, my feet slowed again. I am a lover of crepe myrtles, and I am always filled with joy to find a mature specimen that hasn't been "murdered". ("Crepe murder" is the term given to the bad habit of whacking crepe myrtles back to thick stubs in an effort to control their size.) This 'Natchez' crepe myrtle has been judiciously pruned over the years to allow it to reach its full potential:

While there is nothing prettier than a crepe myrtle covered with summer blooms, the sculptural quality of the tree and its peeling bark is an outstanding feature in the winter landscape.

So a quick visit to pick up papers turned into blessings from the garden. Winter interest is all around. We just have to keep our eyes open and let our feet slow a bit to appreciate it.  

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Reader Comments (22)

With all blooms, spring can't be too far off. Hope you survive the rough weather. Here in Florida it is raining and 48. A miserable combination for us but my Dad said he saw a robin today.

February 12, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterLinda Jones

Oh my, the Flowering Apricots are amazing. I can't imagine blooms like that in February (or January or December, depending on the location)! Especially 'Bridal Veil' -- wow, that is dreamy! Too bad we can't grow them here, but I guess our Crabapples (which of course flower a little later) serve a similar niche. I like the Crepe Myrtles, too--another tree that is not right for our climate but I enjoy seeing when I travel.

February 12, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterPlantPostings

That prunus mime 'Kobai' took my breath away. Like spun sugar all over the branches. The fact that you can have such sweet pink color at this time of year is amazing and the tree itself is such a pretty shape. What a winter sight!

February 12, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterLaurrie

Deb - I could almost smell that apricot tree- your description was excellent. I can hardly wait for our trees to come into bloom - so pretty.

February 12, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterAstrid

Yes you're right, winter interest is all around us, we just sometimes need to take the time to look at them :) Love Crepe Myrtles, big fans of them!

February 13, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterMark and Gaz

you're right Deb - slowing down and getting up close and personal certainly has its rewards. I love those crepe myrtle trunks, and of course the blossom.

February 13, 2014 | Unregistered Commentercatmint

As always, beautiful! I am in love with those flowering Apricots. Z6 is becoming my dream zone. Z4 is just too darn cold and winters too long. Love that Crepe Myrtle, too. My eyes are always drawn to their bark. Nothing beats brilliant berries. I have some very young Winterberry that I will enjoy watching mature. The berries are buried in snow right now if the birds haven't gotten to them. Thank you for such a wonderful, much needed, tour.

There are 'birding Apps' for birders, who track the numbers and movements of bird populations. Here in the Healing Garden, we enjoy very much seeing snaps of what is blooming when and where. Shots of the small tell us how well this plant grows. Portraits of the whole tell much, too. Very helpful and beautiful way to connect gardeners everywhere. — The Healing Garden gardener

February 13, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterThe Healig Garden gardener

The flowering apricots are delightful, so spring like on a winters day. We have the common myrtle in our garden here, and it too has tan bark just like the one you saw, very tactile.

February 13, 2014 | Unregistered Commenterpauline

Gorgeous trees! Spring blossoms are such a beautiful thing.

February 13, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterJeannine

Hi Deb, I love, love, love your photos of the flowering trees. The whole body shots and the close-ups are gorgeous. I was quite astonished to see these trees with their delicate flowers already blooming in your neck of the woods, with the cold temperatures that you are still having! They are certainly quite tough! Wishing you a nice rest of the day!

February 13, 2014 | Unregistered Commenterchristina

Lovely photos, as always! Your winter must have been a bit milder than ours, since I have not noticed many Prunus mume blooming yet this winter. Here's hoping you missed the latest ice storm. I have a feeling those flowers will not be happy.

February 13, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterSarah/Galloping Horse Garden

They do have the loveliest fragrance don't they? They don't all have the same scent either. Your pictures are beautiful!

February 13, 2014 | Unregistered Commentersweetbay

The blooms on 'Kobai' are breathtakingly beautiful - as are your photos. I have never heard of crepe murder - what a crime. This post is a sight for tired wintery eyes. I love all the promise blossom brings with it. Spring will soon be with us!

February 13, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterThe Gardening Shoe

The trees are beautiful! I hope the blooms are unaffected by your latest winter storms. Even I, comfortably unaffected by the "polar vortex" and its descendants in sunny (albeit dry) southern California, am wondering when this winter madness is going to stop.

February 13, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterKris P

Trees flowering already! I'm surprised. But, oh, they are so pretty! And Natchez is my favorite crape myrtle. Love it's cinnamon bark.

February 13, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterHolleyGarden

Seriously these trees are blooming now. How absolutely stunning....visions of spring keeping me buoyed...thank you Deborah!

February 15, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterDonna@Gardens Eye View

Oh my, how wonderful to see those flowering trees. We can expect to see them here in southern PA in another 6-8 weeks.

February 16, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterJean

What a pleasant reward for braving the cold. Those cherries are beautiful especially the Bridal veil.

February 17, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterChristina

Certainly worth getting out of the car for! Your photos are lovely, just wish I could smell them too, I have never smelled apricot flowers before –from your description I bet they are wonderful :-)

February 17, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterHelene

Oh what a delight to see anything pink and fresh and so lovely on such a snowy day here.

Beautiful, delicate little pink drops...I can't wait.


February 18, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterJen @ Muddy Boot Dreams

How my heart would sing to see blooms right now, in the dead of winter. But therein lies the problem. Winter here is "dead". But there's hope! Temps are heading upwards this week and the snow is melting quickly. Before long I too will have sweetly blooming flowers to enjoy!

February 18, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterRobinL
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