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What’s blooming in the winter garden now?

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By Staff Brunswick Beacon

Some folks who move to southeastern North Carolina in the middle of summer may wonder if the heat and humidity will ever end, but one of the paybacks for surviving the summer heat is our mild winter. With the right garden plan, we can have something flowering almost every day of the year.

So what’s blooming in the winter garden now?

One of my favorite evergreen shrubs is just beginning to open its clusters of white flowers—Viburnum tinus. Most folks grow named selections of this shrub that sports pink flower buds from fall until the flowers open such as Spring Bouquet or Compactum. These selections are a bit smaller than the typical species, only reaching a height of 6 feet or so. The regular species may reach twice that and overgrow lots of its allotted garden space.

This viburnum isn’t too fussy about where it grows. Average soil that is well drained is fine but you’ll see better performance in amended soils. Even though “the book” suggests Viburnum tinus does great in full sun, my experience tells me some protection from the cold winds of winter is better. I’ve also noticed selections like Spring Bouquet need some time in the garden to get a root system established before they’ll really put on a show.

Use it as a screen or in groupings to take full advantage of the dark pink buds, the winter flowers and the electric blue fruits that arrive after the flowers have faded.

If your Viburnum tinus needed pruning, take care of that in late winter after the flowering period. The new flower buds will be set during the coming spring and summer.

One of the poster plants for winter flowers is the temperamental daphne—Daphne odora. As the Latin name implies, this evergreen—in addition to pink or white flowers—has a wonderful fragrance that’s a real asset in the garden. Selections such as Aureomarginata have creamy-yellow variegation on the leaf edges. Most selections grow into a 3- to 5-foot high shrub with a similar spread if they live long enough.

Growing daphnes will test your horticulture skill and persistence. They don’t like having their roots disturbed, so we usually purchase container plants. Well-drained soil that has been heavily amended with organic matter is necessary. Choose a site that receives shade from the hottest summer sun. Even if you do everything right, it may still check out on you.

I planted one in my garden last year from a 3-gallon container. The soil and exposure should have been ideal. It was irrigated properly to help it get established, but my daphne only lasted a couple of months before it ended up in the compost pile.

If you have a healthy daphne, leave it alone and enjoy the sights and smells. Adding one to the garden is still a good idea. Just don’t beat yourself up if it doesn’t make it.