Fall For Winter Beauty In The Garden

by Tina Mast // October - November - December 2019

In gardening, spring is splendid, summertime is fine, and fall glows – but what about winter? You can still enjoy beautiful and interesting plants in winter, some with fabulous flowers, and fall is the time to find them in garden centers. Check this list of hotties for the upcoming cold which includes annuals, perennials, shrubs, and even trees to make your landscape pop in the chilly seasons. Plant them now to help them get well established before the cold sets in.

Hellebore, Lenten Rose (Helleborus spp.) – Hands down, this is one of my absolute favorite winter flowers with its dazzling and beguiling array of forms and colors. These long-lived perennials feature divided, fan-shaped evergreen leaves and 1"-3" wide flowers in varying colors, usually white, pink, pale yellow, mauve, pale green, light peach, and burgundy. Some are double-form with fluffy, many-layered blossoms. They can be flecked, streaked, or blotched with burgundy markings, or present other variations like lovely ruffled nectaries around the center. One of the best ways to enjoy them is to cut the blooms just at the top of the stem and float them in a pretty ceramic bowl or similar. Bloom time is long, usually mid-February to mid-April. Grows to about 1½'. Plant in partial to full shade.

Golden Paperbush (Edgeworthia chrysantha) – Golden paperbush is a large deciduous, multi-stemmed shrub with attractive feather-like blue-green leaves resembling plumage. After the leaves drop in fall, silvery flower buds stud the branch tips for a nice ornamental effect. In February, those buds will open to clusters of bright yellow flowers similar in look to lantana, but with a deep, persistent fragrance of honey and sweet peas that drifts many feet from the plant. Plant in part sun to light shade. Golden paperbush likes moist, but not boggy, soil. However, I have found established plants to be fairly tolerant of dry spells. It grows to 6'-8' tall and wide.

‘Gold Mops’ Falsecypress (Chamaecyparis pisifera ‘Filifera Aurea,’ ‘Gold Mops’) – A handsome evergreen conifer with drooping, golden branchlets that glow in the winter landscape, ‘Gold Mops’ are great with blue-toned junipers and burgundy foliaged plants such as loropetalum, and are wonderful to cut with other evergreens that have red berries like holly and nandina for winter arrangements. They grow to 5' to 8' forming into the shape of a big, fat teardrop. Plant in full sun.

Camellia (Camellia japonica) – Nothing short of the most beautiful rose or peony will rival the beauty of a camellia. They are the queens of the winter garden (and there are also fall-blooming species, so if your autumn garden needs a little TLC, this is your answer). Stunning, perfectly formed flowers, up to 3"-4" wide, adorn large evergreen shrubs in colors such as coral, red, white, salmon, and many types of pink. To enjoy the flowers indoors, float the blooms in bowls or shallow pans (fabulous with Lenten rose and golden paperbush). Plant in part sun to light shade. They grow to 6'-10', depending on variety.

Pansy/Viola – For colorful flowers, pansies and violas are THE plants for wintertime. No other plant will come close for vivid, showy blooms that last from fall through winter and all the way into early summer. The sheer variety of colors and color combinations is unbelievable with something for everyone. Deer will eat them ... oh, yes, they will. If that’s a problem for you, buy masonry ladders from the hardware store and arch them over the plants, then secure deer netting over that. You’ll hardly see them from a distance. Or, try repellents. Plant in early fall in full to part sun, and dose with fertilizer at planting and in early spring. They grow to 6"-8" tall.

Snapdragons – My second choice for cool-season flower power, also annuals, snapdragons have a tall, upright habit and look well placed behind pansies, dwarf golden sweet grass, liriope, and other short-statured plants. Bright flower spikes in pink, orange, white, cherry red, and fluorescent yellow shine brightly in the landscape. For those who like to plant for pollinators, bees are fond of them, too. You’ll get two good seasons of color, fall and spring, if you plant them in early fall. In winter, they may hunker down, but spring will see them bouncing back (especially with a boost of fertilizer) and bursting with blooms. Plant in sun to part sun. Height varies, but generally they grow 18"-24" or up to 3' tall for larger varieties.

Winter Daphne (Daphne odora) – Deliciously fragrant clusters of purple and white flowers (or all white) in February to March will freshen the air with a deep scent of Froot Loops cereal if you plant winter daphne – think apricot, apple, and lemon fragrances mingling together, strong enough to smell from several yards away. Plant in part shade to shade with well-drained soil. Facilitate drainage by planting the top of the root ball higher than the soil line and building up soil around it to form a berm. Winter Daphne grows 4'-6'.

Winter Jasmine (Jasminum nudiflorum) – Profuse sprays of lemon-yellow winter flowers open over time on warmer winter days on these deciduous shrubs. With their draped habit, they look good spilling over a wall or raised planter. In winter, the stems remain green for a pleasing look in the winter landscape. Tough and durable, you can plant winter jasmine on banks and in areas with poor soil. This jasmine grows to 3' to 4'. Plant in sun.

Corneliancherry Dogwood (Cornus mas) – A charming little woodland tree that is perfect for planting along the edges of a tree line or in front of the house where it won’t take over the world, the Corneliancherry Dogwood’s puffs of dainty yellow flowers glow along the branches in February when little else is blooming. The ‘Spring Glow’ variety is a good choice for our area. Plant in part sun to light shade. This dogwood grows to 20' to 25'.

Tina Mast

Communications director at Homewood Nursery in Raleigh.