I don’t usually think of myself as the jealous sort but when it comes to winter flowers like snowdrops, I confess that when I see photos where these jewels have naturalized in great masses and are thriving, the single bloom in my woodland leaves me wanting more.
Fortunately, I have success with other plants including hellebores, daffodils, daphne, euphorbia and even Edgeworthia chrysantha (having only one of these hardly seems like enough). Supporting cast members at this time of year include poet’s laurel, Danae racemosa, Christmas ferns, hardy gingers and large evergreen azaleas I inherited when we moved to our property about six years ago.
It’s true that the weather here in Atlanta, like many other parts of the country, is predictably unpredictable, and yet, there are a surprising number of plants that brighten my garden in February. According to the calendar, some are blooming ahead of schedule (whose schedule is the question) while others live up to the descriptions we read in books and on blogs. Here are a few plants that please me this February.
Helleborus x hybridus, hellebores come in all shades and are easy to grow. Ideal for the shade, they also do surprisingly well in sun, just make sure to give them plenty of moisture. Don’t be timid about cutting off tattered leaves, in my experience the plants recover quickly. I enjoy the range of flower colors, white, pink, lavender, dark purple, green, maroon, and these are just seedlings. There are numerous named selections too, some with high price tags, and while I’m certain many are garden worthy, my favorite is ‘Ivory Prince.’ I have grown it for four years and despite drought and heat, it thrives. I plan to add more of them to my woodland. I also like Helleborus foetidus with the unfortunate common name of stinking hellebore. Don’t worry you have to get down on your hands and knees to sniff the flowers, but not to appreciate their lime-green blooms and interesting foliage.
Euphoriba wulfenii has been around for a long time and in my garden it moves around, a new clump appears and an older clump disappears. Its texture, the color of the foliage and the chartreuse flowers all contribute to this perennial favorite.
Edgeworthia chrysantha , paperbush or Chinese rice paper plant, has survived in my garden for about 3 years, in spite of drought. The unique fragrant blooms are a delight (blooming now ) and the spring and summer foliage are welcome in my shade garden. I must admit that I am drawn to the cultivar ‘Rubra’ with its red tinted flowers and think it would be a welcome addition to my garden.
Lecojum aestivum, called summer snowflake, is beginning to bloom in one part of my garden but elsewhere the foliage is just emerging. Just reminds me that microclimate and source, (some of these I dug up from an old abandoned garden and others I ordered from Brent and Becky’s bulbs) play a role in when plants bloom.
Hydrangea arborescens ‘Annabelle’ flower heads dried on the plant, appeal to me and offer a different perspective on the winter garden.