Select Page

Last week we shared some of your favorite plants for winter interest, this week we wrap it up. I’m going to start with a “favorite” that demonstrates what an odd winter this had been – weather-wise – for a great deal of the United States. 

The comment came from Rhode Island: “Well, I suppose that the blooming cherry tree up the street is my favorite zone 6a winter interest plant this balmy year. It’s December 26.”

Prunus subhirtella – photo courtesy Maja Dumat (Flickr: Higan-Kirsche)  Botanischer Garten TU Dresden, April 2009

That comment reminded me of something a friend in North Carolina said when she posted a photo of a blooming Edgeworthia chrysantha on Instragram recently: “everything is 6-8 weeks early here because December was so warm. We have low 20’s in the forecast this week so these open blooms will like get burnt to a crisp. Spring will be anticlimactic here as nearly everything has bloomed already: Okame cherries, all the prunus mume, daffodils etc.”

The weather is always a topic of discussion for us gardeners, right? Onward, to…Snowdrops. I would have worried had we not got at least one mention of Galanthus, but no worries needed, we did: “I just adore snowdrops, I’m a relocated Brit, and have started a (small, because they’re expensive) collection of them here in North Carolina”

Snowdrop / Galanthus sp. – Loree Bohl

The Genus Cyclamen got a nod, but with no explanation as to why. For me it would be the foliage, no doubt for many it’s the flower.

Cyclamen purpurascens Peter Herpst
Cyclamen purpurascens – photo courtesy Peter Herpst

Only one grass was mentioned: Miscanthus sinensis ‘Little Zebra’ (dwarf zebra grass): “Living in Michigan, it’s all about the perennial grasses in the winter. I have a dwarf zebra at the side door that makes a nice rustle sound when there is wind.”

However some were disappointed by their grasses: “Since I garden in pots now I have to choose carefully. I have a Brachyglottis greyi that is looking great, so far, and my olive tree looks as wonderful as it did all summer.  Rosemary and bamboo always hold up well.  The grasses are sad however, much too wet.”

Brachyglottis greyi Loree Bohl
Brachyglottis greyi – Loree Bohl

Burgundy Glow Ajuga was mentioned for its timely color: “A common tough plant that really stands out when others are dormant.  A pop of burgundy, purple and red tones.”

Pale pink Schizostylis coccinea (Cape Lily/Flag Lily) was recommended and came with a story. “They are so beautiful and delicate looking – it’s hard to believe that they can survive everything that winter weather throws at them. I first came across these 35 years ago when my new husband took me to spend Christmas with my in-laws. Mum-in-law put a few of these exotic looking blooms in our bedroom and I could hardly believe that she had picked them from her garden. It is now a tradition that we have pink schizostylis on our breakfast table on Christmas Day – and I pick them from my own garden. A clump of these cannot fail to lift the spirits!” Hmm…fresh flowers in December? I might have to look into this one.

Sage (Salvia officinalis) was also praised for it’s beauty when other plants have succumbed to the force of winter: “Even though we are buried in snow right now, my favorite plant still holds it own. My favorites are my sage plants. They keep their leaves all winter and never miss a beat.”

Salvia officinalis
Salvia officinalis, still in 4″ nursery pots – Loree Bohl

One person wrote about the beauty of a cone-flower (Echinacea) seed-head, saying: “I love cone flower heads in the winter, they are my favorite because when snow falls on them, the snow looks like hats on the flower head.” I’ve cheated and shared a photo of the blooms, because it’s all I had available – however the middle photo on this blog post illustrates what she’s talking about quite nicely.

Echinacea 'Coconut Lime' Loree Bohl
Echinacea ‘Coconut Lime’ – Loree Bohl

Now I have to admit this one is a bit of a head-scratcher: Euphorbia griffithii ‘Fireglow’. In my garden it disappears over the winter months, returning with fresh growth in the spring and bright orange blooms around April. Maybe it acts differently in California, where the person responding is from?

Euphorbia griffithii ‘Fireglow' Loree Bohl
Euphorbia griffithii ‘Fireglow’ – Loree Bohl

Which brings me to the last group of winter interest plants, beauties that prove winter is a very different beast depending on where in the world you garden. I must say I’m jealous.

“The plants that get me through the winter here in Sonoma County are the succulents. In particular those big silvery Agave americanas. ” Agave parryi was also mentioned, and I suppose I should clarify that neither of these were suggestions from me!

Agave parryi Loree Bohl
Agave parryi – Loree Bohl

Blooming Aloes got the nod from a few Californians, and why wouldn’t they? Below is Aloe ‘David Verity’ – photo taken at the Huntington Botanical Garden, December 2014.

Aloe 'David Verity' Loree Bohl
Aloe ‘David Verity’ – Loree Bohl

Another Californian asked “What’s winter?”….”Okay, if I focus on our short cool, rainy season I’d say it’s probably a toss up between Grevillea lavandulacea ‘Penola’ and Leucadendron ‘Wilson’s Wonder’

Grevillea-lavandulacea-Penola Gerhard Bock
Grevillea lavandulacea ‘Penola’ – photo courtesy Gerhard Bock
Leucadendron'Wilson's Wonder' Loree Bohl
Leucadendron ‘Wilson’s Wonder’ – Loree Bohl

Finally, because I want to end this series on a positive note for all of us succulent lovers not gardening in California, we have a response from Corvallis, Oregon. Succulents in the greenhouse! “What gets me through the winter is my greenhouse packed with succulents, a brugmansia in the ground, scented geraniums, cacti and numerous other plants.” Ah yes, a little Zonal Denial in the wintertime is definitely a good thing…

Eric Peterson’s converted garage greenhouse – Loree Bohl

Any favorites we didn’t mention? Surely there are at least a few, please tell us about them…