Winter bloomers: Flowers to lift your spirits • Stephanie Hudak, Garden columnist
All the bright red and yellow leaves have fallen from the trees leaving us with bare
branches, so what is left to excite the gardener’s heart? For sure the hollies are putting out their bright red berries and the camellias are bursting with color, but what about fragrance? It would be nice to step out into our garden and breathe in a delicate fragrance along with a spot of color here and there.
Yes, Virginia, there really are plants out there that will delight your heart in winter. And now is the best time to seek them out. Local nurseries will have these gems blooming on their grounds and you can see them – and smell them – then bring them home.
Agreeably, Edgeworthia chrysantha is not much to look at in winter, but oh the fragrance… it is show-stopping. Tuck this shrub in at the back of your flower border and it will reward you with soft, lemony scents in the darkest months of the year. Its bare architectural form is intriguing in winter, the soft green leaves are graceful in summer but the fragrance is everything.
Can any plant beat a Daphne odora when it comes to fragrance? I don’t think so. With just a little bit of care you can have a hillside of evergreen shrubs that will knock your socks off in February with its sweet, delicate scent. And if you have the space Clematis Armandii is perfect for an area that needs an evergreen vine– big white flowers and a big fragrance.
Winter honeysuckle – Lonicera fragrantissima – is a scruffy-looking plant, yes, but if you have an area that will accommodate a loose, open shrub, this one will reward you with a beckoning fragrance and a light airy bloom, and one that the deer don’t like... yeah.
A long forgotten, but not to be overlooked, plant is Skimmia japonica. This is a great ground cover that produces an evergreen plant with a tiny white flower that gives off a lovely fragrance, followed by red berries.
Coming on in late winter are the fragrant viburnums. There are so many to choose from, but the first bloomer of the season is Viburnum carlesii that carries a clove like scent with a delicate, pink bloom.
While not fragrant, these two plants should be seriously considered. Folks have been confused in early January by the blooms of Jasminum nudiflorum (winter jasmine), thinking it was a forsythia. This plant is perfect for hillside ground covers. It drapes its long branches over the ground, with bright yellow blooms in January, followed by evergreen leaves the rest of the year. And then there is the simple yet elegant Helleborus, Lenten Rose. They are easy to grow, easy to share plants that love deep shade, benign neglect and are deer resistant. But if you want the newest, grandest cultivars, they are available and come in a variety of colors– the best part is that they keep their heads “up”. Most Lenten roses look downward, but the ones of the “Golden Series” will look you straight in the eye.
So, be brave and plant something new in your garden this year. You will enjoy the bright, fragrant spot in your garden and the birds will also be very happy– a new place to roost and berries to eat.
Printed in the December 20, 2012 edition