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Blossoms of Winter: Flowers

Perennials can brighten up your winter garden as well.

To the delight of the gardener, most herbaceous (dying back each winter), woodland plants and bulbs are destined to complete their season of blossom before a canopy of foliage forms overhead from deciduous trees or nearby grasses. These plants spring forth early, providing a splash of color to keep us happy until the doors of spring are thrown fully open!

The genus Cyclamen favors the change of seasons and can give twelve months of continual color with the proper selections. The florists' cylamen, C. persicum, with imposing silver-mottled leaves and gigantic, flared flowers, is sadly tender here in the PNW.
cyclamen persicum.jpg

However, more diminutive versions with considerably more charm do very well in colder climates. The most common one is C. hederifolium.
cyclamen hederifolium3.jpg
The stems appear in autumn from which spring delicate blooms in shades of deep rose through pure white. As flowering finishes, the stems curiously coil to pull the developing seed packet in to mature under the protection of the dark green leaves.
cyclamen coiled to pull seed packet.jpg

Here is one of my favorites, C. hederifolium 'silver-leafed'. Amazing, isn't it? I got it for the fantastic foliage - so the white blossoms are a bonus! It actually blooms in late autumn but is so fantastic, I couldn't leave it out!
cyclamen hederifolium silver-leafed.jpg

Plainer but no less treasured, is my C. hederifolium f. albiflorum 'Ash'. An early winter bloomer, here the buds are just beginning to develop.
cyclamen hederifolium albiflorum in bud.bmp

In early January, the magenta-to-pink flowers of another species, Cyclamen coum, appear from the barren floor of the woodland and are soon joined by round and marbled leaves that are among the most lovely in the garden. This species easily naturalizes in semi-shaded stands of unmown winter grass.
cyclamen2 in snow.jpg

I have 2 different varieties,'Maurice Dryden'
cyclamen coum Maurice Dryden.jpg
and 'Rose Ash'.
cyclamen coum rose.jpg

I would love to add this one to my collection, 'Arnold' (every time I read the name, I pronounce it Ahnold, lol). I covet plants with variegated leaves ;-)
cyclamen coum arnold.jpg

Close-up of C. coum blossom.
cyclamen coum closeup.jpg

Starting as early as mid-December, bright yellow flowers surrounded by brilliant green foliage emerge on short stems of Hacquetia epipactis. Flower buds can emerge as early as Thanksgiving and bloom through March! This relatively unknown plant deserves more attention in our gardens as a lovely, early-winter-blossoming herb.
hacquetia.jpg

Parochtus communis, a ground cover whose foliage is strikingly similar to that of shamrock, pierces the monotony of the season with brilliant blue flowers of exceptional quality. It slowly colonizes stretches of shaded ground and the handsome foliage lasts all year!
parochetus communis.jpg

The delightful winter-blossoming Iris unguicularis (winter iris), is a handsome plant for both it's upright evergreen swords of foliage and the lovely blue flowers which bloom from December through March. Be patient; it is extremely slow to establish from divisions, and may not flower for two or three seasons after planting.
Iris.unguicularis.ho3

Lathyrus vernus, the spring vetchling, offers an unusual pairing of blue and magenta pealike flowers in late winter. The display from this small-tufted perennial continues unchecked until early summer.
Lathyrus_vernus_2.jpg

Similar to Lathyrus is the genus Omphalodes, with two species that have similar starlike forget-me-not flowers of lavender blue. O. verna differs from O. cappadocia by its prostrate and snaky growth habit; both are cheery additions to the late-winter woodland.
Omphalodes verna. This is one of my all-time favorites and creates an illusion of tiny white sugary strips dividing each petal. Truly an amazing plant.
omphalodes verna.jpg

A newer cultivar I have in my garden, 'Lilac Mist'.
omphalodes_lilac_mist.jpg

Here is the Irish cultivar, O. cappadocia 'Starry Eyes". They will form sizable clumps over time.
omphalodes cappadocia.jpg

Pulmonaria augustifolia produces a month of intensely blue blossoms from mid-March to mid-April. This small species of lungwort with felted green leaves is more than happy to give up its space in the summer garden to adjacent perennials, as long as it gets enough winter sun to feed the emerging foliage.
pulmonaria angustifolia1.jpg

P. rubra gives us six weeks of rich salmon-pink flowers from a tuft of lime green foliage, beginning in mid-February.
pulmonaria rubra.jpg

P. rubra is earlier than the many good cultivars of P. saccharata, which are grown as much for the pewter-spotted summer leaves as for the stems of blue-fading-to-pink flowers. You can see why it is nicknamed 'boy & girl plant'.
pulmonaria_saccharata.jpg

To illustrate the wild diversity of these plants, here are some of my favorites; P. longifolia ssp. cevennensis
pulmonaria longifolia cevennensis.jpg

a hybrid, 'Apple Frost'
applefrost1.jpgapplefrost2.jpg

P. rubra 'David Ward'
pulmonaria rubra David Ward.jpg

and another hybrid, 'Blue Ensign'.
pulmonaria blue ensign2.jpg

Finally, there are the two winter clematis, one rare and one common in cultivation. C. armandii is the better known of the two. The evergreen and glossy foliage of this slightly tender Chinese species is a lovely wintertime component to the trellis or scrambling on shrubs. In late February or early March, large trusses of fragrant ivory flowers appear en masse on stems that may reach 25' over time.
armandii1.jpg

Clematis cirrhosa, with its finely cut, ferny foliage, is native to the Mediterranean region. From January to March this evergreen presents 1"-2" wide blossoms with creamy white petals often with a blush of lavender. Mine has yet to bloom.
clematis wisley cream.jpg

I've been on the lookout for C. cirrhosa 'Freckles' since it is the only speckled clematis I have ever seen and, also, because I have freckles ;-) A nurseryman told me not to bother with it. I think I'll ignore his advice, what do you think?
clematis cirrhosa freckles.jpg

I hope you have enjoyed this 3 part "winter blossom" series and that you can incorporate some of these wonderful plants into your own garden. I will try to fit in winter effects of bark, foliage and berries for future posts...unless spring gets here first!

Posted by floranista on Jan 26, 2006 12:12 am

10 comments, latest by Ashwani at 11:55 am 12/13

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