If today’s walk through your garden yields satisfaction, congratulations!
If it tilts toward disappointment, a good time for seasonal planting would be now.
Many plants need a dormant period to prepare for the spring, but many other plants will bloom while most are dormant. We can’t turn winter into spring, but with a bit of planning we can enjoy color in the garden at any time of the year.
The moderate climate of the Monterey Bay area supports year-round color possibilities that are elusive or non-existent in many other areas.
Here are examples from my garden.
Salvias originate from several parts of the world, and some species from Mexico are in bloom now.
S. wagneriana (Wagner Sage) stands as one of my favorite blossoms, with pink corolla and white calyx. This large shrub does best in partial shade, and tends to sprawl in full shade.
S. karwinskii (Karwinski’s Sage), another large plant, displays pink-coral and green blooms from fall to spring.
S. holwayi (Holway’s Sage), our third example, grows only about three feet high, but spreads to cover an increasingly large area. Its small blooms are red and purple, and prolific.
Aloe arborescens (Torch Aloe) produces numerous vibrant red-orange inflorescences (called racemes) about eight-to-ten inches long. The plant grows easily and can rise to nine feet tall. In South Africa, where it is endemic, it is called called Krantz Aloe. The Afrikaner word ‘krantz’ means a “rocky ridge” or “cliff,” indicating its natural habitat, but it thrives in deep fertile soil.
Helleborus argutifolius (Corsican Hellebore) comes from the Mediterranean islands of Corsica and Sardinia. It grows in sun or shade and produces many seedlings that germinate readily. (I have many plants in a growing swath.) It grows to four feet tall and wide, and produces many pale green flowers from late December to March. After flowering, it can be cut to the ground to stimulate a new cycle of growth.
Daphne odora “Aureo-marginata” (Winter Daphne), which comes from China and Japan, is appreciated for its evergreen, gold-edged foliage, and prized for its beautiful rosy-pink flower buds that open to white, sweetly fragrant flowers in winter and early spring. The flowers grow on the stems, so they are not useful in arrangements, but can be brought indoors to float in water.
Edgeworthia chrysantha (Chinese Paper Bush) is a relative of the Daphne odora (both from the family Thymelaeaceae) and another sweetly fragrant winter bloomer. To be quite honest, both the Daphne and the Edgeworthia in my garden are in bud at the moment, but they will be in flower in January through March.
It is always a pleasure to have flowers in winter. Still, many conifers and succulents provide foliage with much visual appeal.
Enjoy your winter garden.
Several garden writers have listed plants that bloom in each season of the year. One of the better books is The Perennial Garden: Color Harmonies through the Seasons, by Jeff Cox and Marilyn Cox (Rodale Books, 1992).
A book that I refer to often for various purposes is The California Gardener’s Book of Lists, by Catherine Yronwode, with Eileen Smith (Taylor Publishing, 1998). Among its other treasures are lists of “Perennials that Bloom in Winter” and “Shrubs That Provide Winter Interest.”