Blossoms in WInter

At this time of the year, gardens could be at rest and —let’s be blunt—relatively bleak.

Still, depending on the plants in your landscape, there could be a gratifying display of blossoms and foliage, or at least scattered bright spots that mimic the spring.

This year, of course, the weather has been extraordinarily dry and warm, fooling some plants that the warmer season has arrived. My many daffodils, liberated by last fall’s division of crowded clumps, are beginning now to bloom.

My daffodils are all the same cultivar, Mon Cherie. There are other varieties as beautiful or more beautiful, but for larger areas I prefer massing the same plant rather than collecting multiple cultivars. A floriferous hodgepodge could bewilder the beholder.

My garden, like most, has only a few winter bloomers. They get attention simply because they are surrounded by plants that are declining.

Here is a sampling of what’s now in bloom in my garden.

Winter Daphne (Daphne odora ‘Aureomarginata’)

This evergreen, shrubby plant from Japan has leaves with yellow margins and pinkish buds that open to pure white. Its great value in the garden rests on the fragrance of its blossoms, which rank among the most pleasant in nature. The species has several potential problems with insects and diseases and a reputation for sudden death but my specimen has had no health issues for several years.

Paper Bush (Edgeworthia chrysantha)

This relative of the Winter Daphne carries the name of Michael Edgeworth, a 19th century plant collector. The plant, a native of China’s Szechuan province, produces clusters of buds that open into buttery-lemon colored, very sweetly fragrant flowers in early March. (I check it regularly!) The Chinese use its bark to make high-quality paper for currency.

Corsican Hellebore (Helleborus argutifolius)

This robust Mediterranean species, with pale-green, cup-shaped flowers, is probably the most common of the genus. It proliferates freely in my front yard, and often attracts attention. I whack its three-foot stems in the spring, for renewal, and it comes back stronger than ever.

Winter-blooming Iris (Iris unguicularis )

The evergreen Grecian iris, which has just finished blooming, offers off-season iris blossoms as complement to the familiar tall bearded iris. Its flower stems are shorter than the leaves, so the pretty blossoms are not easy to find, nestled within the plant.

Torch Aloe (Aloe arborescens)

This big South African plant is widely grown on California’s central coast for its dramatic coral-red flower spikes, rosettes of soft green succulent leaves and minimal demands. My plants bloomed later than others in the area, probably because they get some shade.

What’s blooming in your garden? Survey your landscape now to appreciate the present color and consider planting more that would enliven the dormant days.

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