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We are finally getting some warm and sunny weather and spring is here at last. This past winter had especially long periods of grey and chilly days; but the large variety of plants that bloom during the winter here in Zone 8 kept my spirit up. I enjoyed their colors and fragrance so much during the dreary days of winter that I vowed to spend more time this year adding more winter bloomers to my gardens.
For some instant color in the garden and flowerbeds, plant pretty pansies, violas, snapdragons, Dianthus, calendulas, or ornamental cabbages. You should find these cool weather lovers in your local nursery or garden center in six-packs or small individual pots. All of these will do fine during the cooler fall and winter weather in Zone 8. Plant parsley, cilantro and dill in the herb garden. All of these will grow from seed, or you can purchase parsley and cilantro plants from the nursery. Dill does not transplant well, so it’s best to always grow it from seed. These herbs will grow throughout the cool weather, and begin to bloom in the warm days of spring.
Camellia reticulate is a broadleaf evergreen in the Theaceae plant family that does well here in Zones 8 when planted in partly shady positions with acidic, moist soils. There are many varieties of camellias with bloom periods that go from October through March. I have been collecting different camellias trying to attain a constant bloom period over the winter and I am almost there.
For more information of the many types of camellia go to: http://www.hometips.com/buying-guides/camellias-types.html.
Corylopsis spicata takes full to part sun and has sweet scented, bell-shaped flowers that appear in dangling clusters late winter or very early spring. Layer bulbs that bloom in early spring such as snowbells and crocus bulbs under your winter hazel for a beautiful late winter/early spring show.
Winter honeysuckle likes to grow in dry to not-to-wet soil that drains well in full-sun to partial shade. This winter blooming shrub will grow to 8 feet tall with slightly arching stems if not pruned and is semi-evergreen.
As with other honeysuckle plants, the winter honeysuckle has highly fragrant flowers that appear as tiny white, or cream-colored blooms in late winter. The winter honeysuckle also produces attractive red berries making it a great plant for year-round interest. Another common name for this shrub is breath of spring. You can prune after flowering to control size.
Daphne odora has creamy-white, pink, or yellow fragrant blooms that open in late winter and persist well into spring. This shrub should be planted in slightly moist soil that is well drained. A sunny to lightly shaded area of the garden is best. Mature size is approximately 4 feet tall and wide. Shrubs can be short lived. Some parts of plant may be poisonous. It is easy to take hard cuttings to make new plants and I recommend you do this to ensure always having Daphne in your garden.
Viburnum tinus produces waxy, fragrant white flowers that open from pink buds in late winter and early spring. Some cultivars bloom in summer and continue blooming through the winter. This shrub likes part sun to shade in fertile, moist, well-drained soil.
Jasminum mesnyi is an evergreen shrub that takes full to part sun and needs regular watering. The primrose jasmine has a loose, open growth habit with long arching stems that grow to 8 feet long. Beautiful yellow flowers appear in the winter and are very attractive looking but not fragrant. Some gardeners tie the primrose jasmine to the desired height and let the branches then cascade back down adding winter interest to the garden. Prune the primrose jasmine as needed for tidiness.
Helleborus orientalis is an herbaceous perennial also known by the name, “Christmas Rose.” This clump-forming plant reaches 12-18 inches in both height and spread and produces red to purple flowers with bright yellow center stamens in December and January. Hellebores prefer humus-laden, rich soils in partially to fully shady positions. The roots, leaves and stems contain toxins. Deer do not like Hellebores.
Chimonanthus praecox is hardy to zero degrees. These deciduous shrubs prefer full to part sun and are semi-drought tolerant once established. In late winter, the wintersweet blooms on bare branches with aromatic flowers. These spicy scented winter flowers make a great addition to a fragrance garden and flower arrangers can cut the branches to add to winter indoor floral designs. Provide wintersweet with good drainage and prune lightly to control the leggy growth.
Other plants of winter interest are: Snow Crocus, Chinese fringe-flowers (Loropetalum Chinese), Flowering Quince (Chaenomeles speciosa), Paper bush (Edgeworthia chrysantha), Silk-tassel Bush (Garrya elliptica), as well as some more that I haven’t come across as yet. We are fortunate to live in a place where we do have a true winter season, but with many flowering plants to beautify and sweeten the process.
Send your gardening questions or comments to: Brunswick County Master Gardener Column, P.O. Box 109, Bolivia, NC 28422, or call 253-2610. Answers may be printed in this column.