Winter Flowers

Winter isn’t the traditional time of year to have plants in flower, but we do and I can’t help but be rather smug over it.

I’m still not sure whether we did have a flowering gap sometime in December, but the garden started 2019 in flower with this unassuming gem:

Chimonanthus Praecox finally flowering three years after planting

The Chimonanthus Praecox or “Wintersweet” is a woody shrub that is green and forgettable over the summer months. Even its leaves don’t have any notable characteristics, but in winter the bare stems produce unusual, waxy and highly fragrant pale yellow flowers. The fragrance is so strong that it can be detected in the air on a calm day from a few metres away. It’s a strongly sweet smell that also contains clove and spice like some Dianthus can. It’s the equivalent of mulled wine in flower.

In the greenhouse we have Zantedeschia about to flower (just the one flower stem though) and in the other greenhouse we have lobelia in flower. These lobelia are self-seeded from when we had them in patio pots and I’ve just left them to grow in the seed trays. The winter has currently been mild enough that most of the herbaceous plants in the greenhouses haven’t died back yet and are kind of just hanging around, doing the equivalent of twiddling thumbs.

Elsewhere in the garden, Christmas Box (Sarcococa Confusa) is in flower, though it is somewhat late. It’s regularly late actually and this is probably because it’s planted in the shadow of the beech hedge. In winter, the hedge casts a long shadow as the sun doesn’t get high enough, the Christmas Box falls into its shadow at that time and so a colder and darker environment means it takes longer for it to come into flower.

At the very bottom of the garden are some brightly coloured gems. The Cyclamen that we planted last year have survived (they weren’t labelled as terribly hardy) and are gradually coming into flower.

Cyclamen “I came back despite the label”

Inadvertently, they’re in one of the most sheltered areas of the garden. I’ve left the leaf litter around them as some protection, the compost heap in front of them diverts any blasting winds and they’re directly underneath the large trees, which seem to hold the warm air to the ground like a blanket.

Winter “flowering” pansy, which flower, in winter. Hmm

Ironically, it’s the Winter flowering pansies that are not flowering at the moment. They always do this though, I buy them in flower from the garden centre and plant them up into the six trugs at the front. The existing flowers eventually fade and new ones don’t come until the weather starts to warm up in Spring again, at which point they suddenly grow and burst into a mass of flower, not too long before they need to be turfed out for the summer planting of sweet peas.

Coming up next should be the crocuses and the snowdrops. The snowdrops are from a couple of congested clumps from the parents’ garden and so it may take a year or two before they all start reflowering again and that carries us over nicely into March, when the Camellias erupt into flower. The Camellias are the traditional “starting gun” for the main flowering stretch in this garden and with the firing of the gun, the coast is clear right the way through the new gardening season – for which I need to make plans for…

10 Comments


  1. Sunil, how lucky you are to have some winter interest in the garden! That little Cyclamen would certainly lift my spirits. I planted some “winter ” pansies along with Dusty Miller around a miniature Alberta spruce in my planter on the deck. So far it has been quite successful. I did have to add pine cones around every plant to keep the squirrels from digging them up. A success! Tender squirrel feet don’t like the prickly pine cones. I am thinking of making some big changes in my garden after 9 years. Will be writing about it soon in the Dirt Diaries. Take care!

    Reply

    1. Hello Lynn, we’ve had a great deal of trouble with squirrels here, they eaten pretty much all the new crocus bulbs that I planted last autumn in the new border. I had some choice names to call them when I discovered just how much the border had been worked over by the cretins! I shall have to adjust my plan and try again, or try something different.

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  2. Morning Sunil – good to see you back – Happy New Year.
    It’s always lovely to have something out there in the winter, isn’t it? My Daphne has just finished I’m sorry to say, but I’ve just bought myself three pots of white crocus in bud, and also a cream coloured hellibor, so will be planting those shortly. My Tinus has flowered as usual from early December onwards, but I see that narcissus leaves are through the soil so we’ll be having a little show in a few weeks. I keep thinking a bout a sarcocoa. I do have room for smallish trees, and as we live next to a main road they eat up the bad stuff! Someone has just offered me a smallish (14ft max) tree ….. thinks “now was that called a rams horn willow or did I dream that one?”, so must go and collect.

    Reply

    1. Hello Mrs Mac, Happy new Year to you too! Daphne, Tinus and Daffodils are winter plants that we don’t have yet, but I can see room for where they may go. I’m wary of adding trees and shrubs to the garden now as we planted many “small” ones, but they’re already taller than the “max height” on the label. It must be something to do with the soil! I hope your new tree works out great.

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  3. Ouch, that’s simply unacceptable. We’ve just watched a recorded Gardener’s World where they were talking about what to grow and plant for harvesting and flowers over the winter months!

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  4. When I was in Slovenia this summer, I saw cyclamen growing wild on the side of a mountain. It was awesome! I had no idea that was their natural habitat. My garden is sound asleep but I have 50+ pots of seedlings under lights in the basement. :o)

    Reply

    1. Hi Tammy! I bet cyclamen in their natural habitat look amazing, a mass carpet covering a hill or mountain-side! We’re going to need to plant a few more before we get that kind go effect, but we’ve started off with a few to see how they well they will establish, before trying to propagate more. I’m looking forward to reading your “So Seedy” for 2019!

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  5. Sunil, I want one of those Chimonanthus, what a treat on a Winters day. Winter pansies should be renamed Autumn and Spring flowering.

    Reply

    1. Hello Alistair, Chimonanthus are supposed to be a little dicey with winter hardiness, I’m hoping that in the south, we’re OK. If you have a sheltered position our of blasting wind, ideally against a house wall which gets as much sun as possible (especially in winter), then it is definitely worth a shot. Don’t expect much out of it for a good few years though. This first flowering we’ve had was all in the picture. I’m hoping for more as the shrub establishes.

      Reply

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