Trade the winter gloom for winter blooms!
Winter 2023 has been incredibly mild to start off, and nature is taking notice. It's only mid-January and spring bulbs like daffodils and crocus are already starting to take a peek above the ground in warmer gardens on Long Island. There are some plants that take it to the next level and will bloom during mild spells like this in the winter. Here are a few to consider for your garden.
This is a plant that can handle full sun or full shade, the heat of summer and the bitter winter cold. Hellebores are a low growing evergreen perennial that deserve a spot in the front of the garden bed. They're often available in local nurseries in spring when they are in full bloom but are sometimes lumped in during the holidays as houseplants. Hellebores are sometimes nicknamed Lenten roses because the blooms coincide with the Christmas season. Now you know the secret, they're perfectly cold tolerant in our winters, and during mild spells will actually bloom in December or January. Watch out if you have curious pets - like many landscape plants, these are toxic.
This genus of flowers are perennials, but with a twist! Cyclamen dieback in the summertime and resprout for winter! They're another common plant made available during the holiday season, but the variety for sale at most stores are strictly indoor houseplants for New Yorkers. Cyclamen persicum, also known as florist cyclamen can be grown as any other houseplant in the wintertime and can be brought outside in a shady spot during the summer where it will go completely dormant and shrivel into the ground.
There are many species of hardy cyclamen that will survive and stay green through our winters. I'm personally growing cyclamen hederifolium on Long Island with great success. The plant sprouts blooms in the autumn, but the beautiful foliage sticks around through even the coldest winter days. They prefer part sun and are a great plant to sprinkle in with other groundcovers.
Hamamelis (witch hazel)
For gardeners looking for a larger feature in the landscape, this winter shrub will delight! It looks like a forsythia from the distance, but these frilly flowers bloom several weeks earlier - usually starting in late February. Hamamelis virginiana is a beautiful alternative for those looking strictly for native plants.
This is a large shrub that stays green all year long in New York. Mahonia repens (also known as Oregon grape) is native to the Pacific Northwest but handles our winters with ease. They look similar to holly, but a gorgeous cascade of yellow blooms in January or February followed by berries in the summer, which is what inspired this plant's common name.
These grass-like spring bulbs don't get very big but have a huge impact in the late winter garden. During mild years, expect these to start blooming in New York in mid-February. They are a great choice to sprinkle in between dormant summer perennials or in between a front lawn for a splash of color.
These plants are traditional and easy to find cold weather annuals that will survive through the winter in New York during mild years. They require full sun to bloom their best during the wintertime but will survive through most of summer in spots that are cool and shady during the afternoon. It's best to bring these plants inside the house or garage when temperatures drop into the 20s in the morning or heavy snow is in the forecast.
These are just a few of the many plants that provide winter interest. Let us know what is giving you joy in your garden this winter.