After weeks of enduring the Polar Vortex, yesterday's 50 degree temperatures (in New England) felt positively balmy. I opted to spend the day outside catching up on some pruning, moving wood piles, and observing January's demure garden treasures — winter interest plants. Winter blooms are so often overlooked as we hide ourselves away from the arctic temperatures that I thought I would point them out so you don't miss them.
The blushing leaves that will cup the winter blossoms of my Viburnum x bodnantense 'Dawn' are just beginning to unfurl. These shrubs are hard to find in the USA, a fact that I don't understand, as they are very popular and prolific in Europe. Mine has had no problem enduring snowy New England, and is probably a few weeks away from a full on bloom. The sweet clover-like scent of these little pink flowers floating on winter air is always a pleasant surprise.
In a January sea of frosty brown, evergreen plants are eye catching. The leaves of my Hellebores are are the richest, deepest, velvety green, and they will set bloom before the first spring bulb arrives. I have finally figured out the perfect place for them — on the edge of the steps up to our front door. That way our guests can catch of glimpse of their nodding flowers as they approach from below.
A few years ago when the USDA hardiness zone maps were updated, my house went from a zone 5 to a zone 6. I have wondered how long it will take before we become a 7. While I thoroughly regret the effects of climate change, I secretly can't wait to be able to grow Mahonias and Chimonanthus praecox, which would add more scent and and some bright yellow color to my winter garden.
Chimonanthus praecox, or Japanese allspice.
These recent mild days have me pondering what else I can plant and observe this time of year. I've got my eye on some witchhazels, but perhaps there is something that I am missing? If you have something growing and gorgeous in the garden this time of year, let us know what it is... and where you are, so we can all gather ideas.
(Image credits: HarryArthur under CC BY 2.0; pfly under CC BY 2.0; Jean-Jacques Abalain under CC BY 2.0; t-mizo under CC BY 2.0)