Okay, it's true that those of us that live in the immediate Bay Area don't get a real winter (ie. snow) but there's a different kind of wonderland that certain flower gardeners can enjoy -- the winter garden. Mind you, no one's going to confuse the more subtle charms of winter with those bright colors and explosion of growth in spring but that doesn't mean we shouldn't seek out and enjoy winter's clothing.
For me that is winter blooming shrubs such as camellias, correas, daphnes and late salvias. It's also a time to enjoy winter blooming bulbs such as Lachenalias, Freesias, Bulbinellas, Ferrarias and Moraeas. And the reason this is their season of course is that they hail from South Africa.
So, to honor the season here are a few photos taken from my archives from this month in years past.
Bulbinella latifolia. One of the showiest bulbs this time of year, this faithful returner puts up a sturdy bloom spike and soon buds covering the entire length of the upper shaft. Gradually, from the bottom upwards, little nectar rich, star-shaped bright orange flowers open, providing a winter treat.
Soon to open, Ornithogalum umbellatum's pure white flowers produce a vivid contrast to the brown soil and green leaves. The genus is referred to as Star of Bethlehem and this species is a low growing, ground cover type.
Melianthus pectinatus. The genus will be familiar to many (African Honey bush) but not the species. It's a dwarf with much smaller leaves and sprays of tiny flowers that seem to bear no resemblance to the huge panicles of M. major. It recently put on a growth spurt and is starting to flower. The leaves still bear that distinctive aroma of peanut butter so one gets to enjoy that scent without a bush (M. major) that will take over your entire garden.
This is the time of the year for Hellebores and here's one of the most vivid varieties -- Wayne Rodderick. A great companion planting to a variety of winter shrubs.
Camellia 'Silver Waves.' One of the earliest blooming varieties, Silver Waves also sports one of the largest collection of stamens. That inner patch of yellow contrasts nicely with the pure white petals.
From the simple purity of the Camellia 'Silver Waves' here is its opposite -- the extravagant showiness of Passiflora actinia.With this species, it's all filaments and barely noticeable white petals.
Speaking of 'showiest of its kind,' this Lachenalia viridiflora might well be the most amazing of all Cowslips. It certainly sports the most otherworldly color.
Hardly ever out of bloom, my Campanula 'Blue Waterfall' is one of the great overachievers in the flower world. Simple, star-shaped purple flowers dangle on the tips of cascading branches, thus its variety name. One of my favorite plants.
Agapetes serpens. There's nothing quite like the brilliant red, dangling, papery flowers of this versatile shrub. It prefers a good amount of sun in milder zones and some shade in hotter climes. The bloom season is a long one, from the moment that the first flowers appear till the last ones are done.
Choisya ternata. Many are familiar with the Mexican Mock orange and why not. It's nearly the perfect plant. Easy to grow, pest and disease resistant, shiny green leaves, grows in sun or light shade, blooms not only in spring but often a second time in fall and then there's that heavenly fragrance.
Once you've been introduced to Aloe plicatilis it's hard to forget it. First off, there's that lovely steel blue color. Then the distinctive candelabrum form. They can get big over time, forming a 2' x 3' mound. One of the loveliest of the large succulents. This photo is from the web as I didn't have a good shot of mine. Ditto for the Correa below.
Correa 'Wyn's Wonder.' One of the most striking of the Australian Fuchsias, this variegated form with the vivid pink flowers is near the top of many people's list for a showy winter shrub.