Watkinsville Garden Club
Four Powerhouse Winter Blooms:
Find It, Buy it, and Plant
by Jane Bath
Winter blooms are so numerous but these four are just standouts:
One forsythia billowing out into a fountain of blooms each winter is a joy. Add a cardinal or two for an extra treat. There are many cultivars of forsythia; some more weeping, others rather upright, some mellow yellow and other have brassy gold blooms. We had old-fashioned forsythia when we bought our farm 35 years ago. We corralled it back and pulled out some of the old woody stems for better blooms. Great next to our basketball court where guys pile in but no damage to anyone, except an ego or two. Maybe a hedge of forsythia? But if you want a hedge in an exact shape, maybe try something else. Forsythia was born to be natural, flowing and relaxed.
Winter jasmine is often confused with forsythia. The jasmine blooms first with long…long wiry stems covered with small yellow blooms. This plant leaps, creeps and takes over a space wherever it can. We had a hard steep bank that needed holding, and no one was going on this bank to work…too steep. In a few places at the top of the bank we sheared it back to bare branches. It took about 2 weeks to recover and has been left alone these past 3 – 4 years. Maybe we will work on it again, but right now it is solid with blooms in a lovely billowing manner.
I saw a picture of quince years ago actually growing in a row of forsythia. [Southern Living magazine, of course.] What made it work was that the quince was a strong red, very large, so with the strong yellow of big forsythia, it was a smash. But quinces come in many different sizes, growth habits and colors of red, orange, white, melon, etc. So be sure to look at the tag for your situation. I have one a spitfire red, a small soft melon one, and now a strong upright white to join my one old-fashioned red next to the winter jasmine. As a note, my quince will often bloom for months after the first major show. Not bad!!! But again, quince is also not one to prune into an exact shape. Just remove old stems every several years. Maybe the thorns will keep the clippers at bay.
Camellias and sasanquas are evergreen wonders. Sasanquas start blooming in early fall, followed by camellias. We are close to the top of the climate zone for these lovely plants so weather will determine if this or that plant will be allowed to bloom. Yes, one can have a disaster with a sub zero hard freeze and lose or hit back many. But if one is a gardener, one accepts that as part of the game. Right now the nurseries are full of choices, but if just starting, get the old favorites. They are old favorites because they work. I have some tiny blooms, luscious pink blooms, big white blooms with large yellow stamens, and some reds that are just showboats. These are hardy plants taking both shade and sun and just need mulch and some fertilizer. These beautiful evergreen shrubs are year around winners.