365 days of blooms


For the first time in my years of gardening there will be flowers in the garden every day of the year. Yes, outside in the garden, in northwestern Virginia! In most years I’ve had blooms in eleven months (though usually not every day in February), and in a few years there have been a few scattered flowers for a day or two in January. But, never for every day of every month through a year.

‘Winter Sun’ mahonia (Mahonia x media ‘ Winter Sun’, above) begins to flower late in November and consistently blooms through December, but only rarely into early January. With unusually warm temperatures in December I figured that the flowers would fade more quickly, but at the end of January there are more than a few blooms remaining.

With mild weather the late winter blooming leatherleaf mahonia (Mahonia bealei, above) began to flower very early in January rather than the typical late February. There has been no apparent damage from the ensuing cold nights, though the pace of new flowers opening has slackened. I expect that it will remain in bloom through the middle of March.

In most years winter jasmine (Jasminum nudiflorum, above) will pop into bloom during any period of three or four days of above average temperatures, but I’ve never seen it begin to flower before late January. This year it was flowering in late December, and scattered blooms are likely to continue into late February. Winter jasmine is the rare non-fragrant jasmine, but the arching branches of bright yellow blooms are welcomed in most winters when there are no other flowers.

Vernal witch hazel (Hamamelis vernalis, above) also flowers with a few warm January days, and I’m a bit surprised that only a part of this large shrub is flowering. There are a sufficient number of blooms that the fragrance is noticeable from twenty feet, and if all goes well its blooms and ‘Arnold Promise’ (Hamamelis x intermedia ‘Arnold Promise’, in bud below) and ‘Diane’ will overlap so that the fragrance in the rear garden is inescapable into early March. The hybrid witch hazels showed signs that they would begin to flower several weeks early, but colder temperatures have delayed their blooming, and now they are right on schedule.

In the past several years the hellebores (above and below) have flowered later with snow cover through February, so I was surprised to see swelling buds in late December. Then, one flowered in early January, and a week later several others, with the dark purple flowered types the latest of the bunch. In most years hellebore flowers will persist for several weeks, and I expect that blooms will last longer in the cold (or cool) temperatures of February than in the warming days of March.

Several weeks ago I read that gardeners were disturbed that their snowdrops (Galanthus, below) were blooming, and there was widespread concern that they would be injured in the cold days ahead along with daffodil foliage that had broken the ground by several inches. At the time several of the snowdrops in my garden were showing only a slight indication that the flowers would soon open, and only this week has one flower emerged (hardly early at all).

Several other snowdrops appear ready to bloom in the week ahead, and with several more days of above average temperatures forecast they are likely to flower along with the fragrant winter daphne (Daphne odora ‘Aurea marginata’, below). All these plants were planned to provide some color through the early and late winter, but I didn’t anticipate that there would be a time when there would be flowers every day through the winter. Perhaps this will not happen again, but this year I’ve spent a considerable amount of time wandering through the garden to enjoy it.

5 Comments Add yours

  1. carrietxxxxx says:

    some of my favourite winter plants -&also growing in my garden in UK right now .Spring cannot be far away

    1. Dave says:

      I don’t know what to expect from this oddest of winters. More above average temperatures are forecast for the next ten days, and soon enough March will come along. The flowers in the garden today make the remaining weeks of winter more bearable.

  2. Donna says:

    I really enjoy your pictures and am inspired to shop asap for Winter Sun Mahonia and a snowdrop too.

    We recently moved further out and I’ve been planting transplants from my Fairfax garden weekly since Sept. In March I’ll venture to the nursery to try and find some of the tree specimens you showcased recently. Here’s to a vibrant, showy Spring!

  3. Elena says:

    That we get snowdrops aplenty in temperate southern CA makes this little specimen most noteworthy. Little drops of snow at “sea level.” Doesn’t get more glorious than that.

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