CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Well, it isn’t exactly a burst of springtime bloom, but flowers are starting to open up nicely. Even after the deep freeze that hit two weeks ago, many winter flowers are amazing us with their bravado.
For example, my Lady Clare camellia, which is one of my most favored plants, took a bad hit in the deep freeze, the open blooms ruined by the cold. But none of the buds were harmed and have opened up beautifully and with no damage. And the first of the early crocuses are appearing, small things of such delicate beauty it is hard to imagine winter does not faze them.
So, this is how it goes in the Piedmont winter. We get an Arctic blast one weekend, springlike warmth the next. The plants carry on and send out blooms to let us know all is well.
We are fortunate in the Piedmont area to have a large array of choice plants to help make winter wonderful through the winter. Some are chosen, such as the camellias, for the beautiful blooms between fall and spring and the year-round good looks of the evergreen foliage. As a group, they are our most beautiful and useful landscape shrub, totally rewarding on many counts.
But they and the tiny winter crocuses are not your only choices for cold-weather glory. One of the most popular and best performing perennials, Lenten rose, will be sending up new foliage and flowers in a few weeks, a look that will last for months.
The early cherry trees, including Okame cherry and Prunus mume, are stellar in the winter landscape and still surprise people with their pink flowers in winter. Another tree is wintersweet (Chimonanthus praecox). It blooms very early, rises 10 to 15 feet and prospers in full sun or part shade. Out of bloom, it is not that interesting so give it a background space, but a spot where you can still enjoy the spicy flowers in winter and the yellow fall foliage.
I love winter daphne (Daphne odora) for its appearance and the scent of its flowers in late winter. It requires shade. Even more than shade, it requires perfect soil drainage to avoid sudden death caused by root rot. The plant is pretty, round in shape, and has solid green or variegated foliage. It can reach 3 feet over time.
If you yearn for something bright and bold in winter, consider winter jasmine. This shrub, Jasminum nudiflorum, produces bright yellow flowers on bright green stems in late winter. It produces a very graceful shrub with arching stems lined with blooms. It is often confused with forsythia. But forsythia blooms later, is usually more vertical and taller and has beige stems instead of vivid green.