Thanks to the El Nino weather pattern we’ve been experiencing here along the West Coast (lots of rain followed by unseasonably warm temperatures) my garden is exploding with blooms much earlier that it ever has before.
I’m a bit worried that my poor plants are being tricked into thinking spring has arrived, only to be given a dose of harsh reality with a late freeze or two, but no use worrying about it, right? Instead, I’m just going to enjoy the weather, enjoy the beauty and share some of my favorite late winter plants with you.
The east coast has their snowdrops as harbingers of spring, but we have the Hardenbergia vine. Always the first vine to bloom, the Hardenbergia puts on a show of deep purple blooms that gently scrambles a fence or trellis.
Growing to a manageable 12-15 feet, this is an ideal vine to plant along a skinny space, in full to part-sun. Perfect for a side yard, as it won’t outgrow its space.
Clematis cirrhosa ‘Wisely Cream’
A somewhat new addition to my garden is this Clematis cirrhosa ‘Wisley Cream’ that I ordered through Joy Creek Nursery. I wanted a vine that would remain evergreen and bloom in the winter, and while it may not have the showiest of blooms, I love it nonetheless. Mine has been blooming since January, with the sweetest little white flowers that nod downwards. But the excitement doesn’t end there – just look how they transform into tassles, and then again into puffy seed-heads. I just adore this vine!
Sometimes known as Chinese Lanterns, I have a few varieties of Abutilons that are lighting up my garden right now.
One of my favorites is the large, deep burgundy blooms of ‘Nabob’, that scrambles up through my ‘Sally Holmes’ climbing rose. The abutilon blooms throughout the year (here you can see it in the summer, covering the rose’s bare stems below), but even now, when the rose has lost half of its leaves, it’s still blooming away – a delight to hungry hummingbirds.
Another favorite is the towering ‘Tiger Eye’ that I planted early last year. It quickly grew to 10-feet and is putting on a fiery show right now with the smaller, variegated orange blooms that appear to float high above my garden bed.
Hellebores are some of my favorite, long-blooming late-winter plants that always surprise me when they appear in my garden. I completely forget about them for most of the year, and then all of a sudden I’ll notice a happy cluster of colorful, nodding blooms that seem to have shown up overnight.
I wish I knew the variety of this one, but the tag is long gone. I have so many throughout my garden, for an in-depth look, click here.
Another hummingbird favorite is my ‘Howard McMinn’ Arctostaphylos. A California native, this variety seems to do better in home gardens as it can withstand summer irrigation better than others. It tops out at about 4×4, making it a perfect middle-layer plant to include in your garden bed. The little bell-shaped blooms last for weeks at a time, providing a rich source of nectar for hungry hummingbirds, as well as a rich source of happiness for homeowners. And when the blooms have disappeared, the beautiful mahogany colored bark and oval, olive green leaves continue to add year-round interest to your garden.
I’m a sucker for anything with maroon colored foliage and have tried just about every variety of Loropetalum out there. But in the end, the one that seems to be the hardiest and most reliable in our West Coast gardens is the common ‘Razzleberry’. Sure, its leaves tend to fade to an olive-green during the summer, but the maroon colors always return with cooler weather. And the blooms on this variety are nothing short of breathtaking.
Camellia ‘Victory White’
Of course the camellias in my garden are taking center stage right now, as they have been for the past month or so. One of my favorites is this ‘Victory White’ with its over-sized snowy white blooms. Even though white-flowered camellias that bloom in the winter tend to get disfigured by the brown fungus caused by rain, because we’ve had a dry spell for the past few weeks, the new blooms are more beautiful than ever. I’m bringing loads of them into the house to enjoy floating in a shallow bowl of water before the next bout of rain wreaks havoc on them. To see more of my favorites, click here.
So….what are some of your favorites that are blooming right now?
Oh Rebecca, I can always count on you to add a little needed color to Denver’s winter! What a breath of Spring air you brought to my kitchen with your delicious photos! If only these beauties would be happy in my gardens…
Thank you, Sheila – I wish you could spend a little time in my garden right now, with the crazy warm weather we’re having and spring blooms all around. It’s certainly beautiful (though we’re all worrying El Nino might be on its way out) #prayforrain
Fantastic news that your long drought has finally broken, and your garden is looking gorgeous! I especially like the way you grow abutilon as a scrambler through another plant. One word of caution about recent drought though – here in Australia after our Millennium Drought 2001-2009, we found that big trees, especially eucalypts, started to die AFTER the rains came. Either they’d just been weak for too long and were finally showing the symptoms, or another theory was that their loss of root mass during the dry years had made them unable to cope with high volumes of water in the soil.
I think you’re absolutely right, Catherine. For us it’s been the death of birch trees. Seems everywhere I go there’s another dead birch tree that couldn’t take the stress. There’s been lots of eucalyptus crashing down in Southern California this year – sounds exactly like what you’re saying. 🙁
I have many of the same plants but you seem to be a little ahead of the bloom schedule here. Hellebores, abutilons, and Razzleberry all blooming but the camellias are just getting going. The main attraction right now are the narcissus of several varieties.
Isn’t that funny, I don’t have a single narcissus blooming yet!
Hellebore, check. Also daphne, wild strawberry, prunus Americanus, upright rosemary. Such a nice time of year.
Ah yes, Daphne – isn’t it wonderful right now? My big, beautiful plant up and died last year which just about broke my heart. I think it’s time to find a replacement…