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The Winter Garden

Articles: The Winter Garden

Not a garden that recalls summer with winter flowers, but one in which the season is relished with plants whose wintry aspect is worth a walk to see.

Throughout the great length of our Pacific Coast Mediterranean climate region winter can be a special, rewarding time in our gardens. This is obviously true in the mildest areas where there can be tree dahlias flowering above walls, aloes among rocks and dozens of Australian and South African shrubs coming into their own with the onset of what, in their native habitats, is growing weather. But it can also be true of all our other sub-climates. Winter need not be a time when our gardens stagnate, waiting until nights are again above forty-five degrees to put on new growth, to flower, to come to life. A garden without this period of stagnation — one we want to walk about in, almost above all things in winter, does not, however, happen by itself; planning is required, and work, and coming to terms with our climate (all of which are intimately bound up with the rewards of gardening).

Our winters are not those of western Europe, nor Western Australia, nor even the Riviera. In general, of course, winter is a cool, moist season as it is in other Mediterranean climate areas of the world, but the differences are telling. With our hilly coast line, our long valleys backed by high moun­tains and our lengthy north-south exposure to the great storms of the Pacific, winter is not as gentle as on the Riviera or in the Cape or north and south of Perth. Indigenous to our coast are many of the most wind-resistant shrubs in the world, matched only by those of the west coast of New Zealand. Our exposures and land configuration also means that we have more micro-climates than anywhere in the world, making communications among gardeners often difficult. The length and severity of our dry season also plays a role. In central California, for example, complete summer drought is as long as in Israel or Algiers and considerably longer than on the Riviera or in mainland Greece. Even in Oregon, the dry season is longer than in southern France. Winter is therefore a time of great awakening; a time for replenishment of ground-water for the hungry and thirsty chaparral, the re-growth of grasses and the greening again of mosses in the forest.

What is a great time for nature is also a great time for me. Like a native plant prior to the onset of winter, I have lived through many delightful, dry, warm days, but also a number that were too hot and dry. I am satisfied with the ever-blazing sun and the seemingly end­less succession of days, one exactly like the other. When the long calm of late summer and autumn descend, I begin to long for the return of turbulence and water and coolness, and when they come I am as happy as a continental climate dweller with the return of spring. Winter may be a time of the onset of rain, a number of cold days and some frosty nights, but there are also many days — over the years they seem innumerable — of the very best walking weather when, with the protection of a sweater, a jacket or light rain clothing, outdoors has it all over indoors as a place to be. It is this I refer to here, not winter as the time of preparation for another, more overwhelming spring, although it is that, too, but winter as it is, a complete and wonderful if somewhat quiet surround of its own.

By winter, I mean December, January, February and March, although it can often include November. On average, this period of storms, cool days and cold nights is a month or so longer in the Northwest and two weeks or so shorter to the south of us from Santa Cruz to San Luis Obispo. The possibilities of the garden during this time have only slowly been revealed to me. At first, I thought of winter almost solely as a time of work — of transplanting, clearing and pruning — but it is impossible to be in the garden at this time without becoming aware of changes in foliage color, of the peculiar qualities of skeletons of deciduous trees and the quietly beautiful, and sometimes spectacular, displays of fruiting shrubs. Gradually winter came to play as great a part in my imagination as any other season and plant associations were planned for this time. Any good thing calls out to be made a special project — to be made even better.

Most of the plants I have in mind for the winter garden are hardy ones. This, I suppose, is because of the qualities of our sub-climate. Our winters are relatively mild and we can grow numerous Australian, South African and other near-tender plants, but these are often not at their best in midwinter; our rainfall is too high, there are too many cool, misty days and our storms are an experience to live through. Although it is in a protected place, the poor tree dahlia is totally wrecked nearly every year by the great winds of mid-December. It was, therefore, in the colder parts of the garden, down among the deciduous trees and the hellebores, that the best possibilities for winter in our garden were discovered.

Winter leaves on a hybrid plant of Berberis wilsonae
Winter leaves on a hybrid plant of Berberis wilsonae.  Photographs by Hetty Kraus, except where noted.

Foliage Color

Most of what is ordinarily called fall color — the coloring of foliage in October and November of trees and shrubs native to continental climate areas — has not been a success for us. In warm, dry autumns, which here are as numerous as damp ones, the plants appeared to be dying from drought rather than preparing for winter dormancy, and it is difficult to believe in the approach of hard frosts when temperatures are above eighty degrees. The coloring of foliage prior to leaf drop is still a rewarding possibility for us, but it requires the selection of trees and shrubs that go into dormancy late, sometimes very late, in the year. We now have a succession of plants of this kind coloring throughout the winter.

One of the most beautiful small trees in November, and often December, is Acer palmatum ‘Sangikaku’, the leaves of which are all-over butter yellow, and can be enjoyed for an even longer period if they are left on the ground to decay. This tree, famous for its coral-red bark, is also valuable for winter effect in a group of trees and shrubs with colored bark and twigs. Several other Japanese maples color beautifully in December, perhaps the brightest of all being A. palmatum ‘Osakazuki’, which remains fiery red for a long while. Even those not noted for their color, such as the very distinctive A. palmatum ‘Linearilobum’, turn a soft red which adds to the general background of pastel shades throughout the garden.

At about the same time, the copper and tricolor beeches (Fagus sylvatica) change from the reddish purple of summer to shades of red, pink and yellow. The beeches have a wide range in mild climate areas in Europe which is, undoubtedly, why they lose their leaves late with us, after cool weather has set in. Some retain many of their dead leaves, but I do not find this objectionable.

Somewhat later, Parrotia persica, a small tree from the Caucasus with handsome, rugose, large leaves turns to shades of red and gold. This is at all seasons a beautiful small tree, or large shrub, narrowly upright at first but spreading with age. Its flowers in spring are red stamens surrounded by deep brown bracts; they are not showy, but they give the tree a pleasant reddish glow. Altogether this is an excellent deciduous tree for a small garden or patio.

Taxodium distichum, author’s photograph
Taxodium distichum, author’s photograph

It is in late December and January that one of the major events of the garden occurs — the coloring of the bald cypress, Taxodium dis­tichum. In our mild climate, this great conifer (our young tree is already fifty by fifty feet) from the swamps of southeastern United States remains a bright rusty red for several weeks, when it dominates its part of the garden. This is an excellent, deep rooted tree to shelter a shade garden. Underneath ours, a sizeable space, we grow a variety of daphnes, Crinodendron hookerianum, Hydrangea villosa, evansia irises, alstroemerias and a number of other plants that bloom at different times and seem to me to associate well.

Another major event usually takes place in February (although it can be earlier or later) when the almost evergreen Formosan maple, Acer morrisonense, puts on its brilliant red show. The coloring of this tree has never failed and it comes at a time when the rest of the garden is dormant and most skeletal. This is one of the stripe barked maples and is hardy throughout the Pacific states.

In March, two trees color brilliantly. One is the evergreen Mexican hawthorne, Crataegus stipulacea, which sets an abundant crop of chrome yellow, sizeable fruits in mid-February. Not long afterward, and often while the fruits are still on the tree, the entire plant turns bright yellow for a time before quickly reclothing itself in new foliage. The other tree is an evergreen maple from the Himalaya, Acer laevigatum, but in this case it is the new growth that is colored. This tree colors softly in the middle of March then drops its leaves suddenly, after which the copper-tinted new growth appears with almost magical suddenness. Acer laevigatum is tender and froze to the ground in 1972; it has since resprouted and now is multi-trunked.

In addition to these major events, there are a number of shrubs, small trees and dwarf conifers that add color to the garden in winter. The purple smoke tree, Cotinus coggygria ‘Purpureus’ is not only colorful in summer with its deep purple leaves but also in winter when its foliage turns a soft pink, orange and yellow. Perhaps even more striking are the dying leaves of the red-leaved redbud, Cercis canadensis ‘Forest Pansy’. This astonishing large shrub or small tree has glossy red leaves all summer — they are never green — and these change in December to shades of pink and yellow. And, of course, it is in winter that nandinas show their garden value, provided they are planted in full sun. Only recently have cultivars been selected and propagated among these plants for their winter color. In the best forms, they can be fiery red. This is, in my opinion, a much misunderstood shrub that should be planted here and there along paths for its fern-like effect, together with such plants as hollies and, especially, barberries, to which nandina is closely related. These are all the best of the coloring shrubs for us. The famous burning bush, Euonymous alatus, has not been a success here. There are, however, many softly colored shrubs that make up the general garden background; many barberries have pink or occasional red leaves in winter in addition to their colored fruits; Ternstroemia japonica turns somewhat purplish; and the dying leaves of the eastern dogwood, Cornus florida become a soft pink, but, again, these are all unobtrusive parts of the general pastel effect of winter.

Almost everyone knows of the startling winter effects that can be obtained from the use of dwarf and slow-growing conifers with colored foliage, which, especially in blue and golden shades, are numerous. Some of them change color dramatically in the cool season. One of the best of these is a cultivar of Thuja occidentalis, which slowly changes from its usual overall glaucous coloration to a deep plum purple when the nights get cold. Unfortunately, this effect lasts only about six weeks for us; it would be longer in the north. I find it worth growing, even for this brief period, for its addition of this beautiful color to the winter garden. The well-known Cryptomeria japonica ‘Nana’ which can scarcely be called dwarf since it quickly becomes a twenty foot tree, turns a rusty red in cool weather. It is a color that can be effectively used, although most people think the tree is dying. The true chameleon among conifers is Platycladus orientalis ‘Rosedalis Compacta’ (Thuja orientalis ‘Rosedalis’), which changes color three times a year. In summer it is light green, in winter purplish and in spring soft yellow. However, once again, its purplish period is, for us, very brief.

If we are to speak about dwarf conifers at all, a note of warning should be sounded about their use. The majority of these so-called dwarfs should be considered slow growing trees (and some of them not so slow at that), and either space appropriate to their eventual size should be allotted, or they should be considered temporary plants to be replaced from time to time. When I saw the quite famous and often photographed conifer section at Nymans in southern England, I realized that these tall, narrow, colorful trees had originally been planted as dwarfs to edge the pinetum on its southern boundary, but had grown tall and now obscure the collection of trees behind them. Fortunately, the boundary is opposite a meadow and there is room for this unexpected growth. It is, however, odd that such a famous planting should in no way be the result of the intention of the person originally responsible for it. This was not the case with the dwarf conifer planting at the Strybing Arboretum in Golden Gate Park, where a once very colorful winter effect had to be destroyed as the so-called dwarfs asserted their tree-like propensities.

One further remark is needed about these plants. I think their placement in the garden should be a matter of great thought and care. More than any other class of plants, they can assume a sugar candy, artificial look when used in masses. I find that most illustrations in books on dwarf conifers show plantings that are, at best, uninspired, and some are beyond the pale. When looking at garden making as an art, this should not surprise us; the use of bright colors calls for great skill. Some know how to use them, others do not. Among painters, those that succeed with bright colors are a justly famous minority.

Not so numerous as the dwarf conifers with colored foliage are the colored heathers, which, however, have the advantage of being more dependable in size. The only note of warning needed about their use is that some varieties are easy to grow in our Mediterranean climate and others are not. Nowhere on the Pacific Coast have I seen heathers growing as they do in the west of England, and an unwary gardener could easily achieve a result more ragged than he had planned. A bed of these plants photographed in very early spring is illustrated on page 25 of Pacific Horticulture for Summer, 1979.

Trunks, Branches and Twigs

In addition to colorful trees and shrubs in winter, there are those with beautiful trunks and those whose branches make remarkable patterns in the landscape. It is our great good fortune that we planted many trees for their summer habit, their shade, their beautiful foliage or their flowers and were often unexpectedly rewarded with this most significant, almost determining aspect of the winter garden.

Deciduous trees with a weeping habit are almost invariably effective in winter, although, naturally, some more than others. The weeping silver pear, Pyrus salicifolia ‘Pendula’, a native of the winter rainfall areas of Asia Minor, is one of the most spectacular foliage plants we can grow. Its combination of weeping habit and silvery foliage are outstanding, and it also produces a reasonable show of white flowers and sets a crop of small picturesque fruits. It is almost too much to expect it to add great charm to the garden in winter, but it does so with its odd mixture of mildly drooping and vertically weeping branches. The English almost invariably plant this tree as a lawn specimen to display its silvery foliage against a green background. I think it is more effective, however, planted among rocks as in its native habitat or with other plants with colored foliage. Also, it should be placed where its winter skeleton shows — as above a bank — and not too far from other interesting deciduous trees to carry out the winter theme.

Morus alba ‘Pendula’, author’s photograph
Morus alba ‘Pendula’, author’s photograph

The weeping mulberry (Morus alba ‘Pendula’) is more truly pendulous than the pear, so much so that to add height to it at all it is necessary to stake up very young branches. This tree lends itself to many possibilities. You can, for example, allow its branches to droop over a temporary framework to create a small natural outdoor room, or it can be pruned into a remarkable piece of chinoiserie, or it can easily be made to resemble the well known tree of willow-ware plates. In summer, it is a massive, large-leaved, green mop, since its branches reach all the way to the ground.

It is unfortunate that the most commonly planted weeping trees are the largest of the weeping willows, Salix babylonica and Salix alba ‘Tristis’, both of which are enormous and can be accommodated only in the largest gardens or parks. They are sentimental trees, by which I mean that their idea for most people is far more effective than their reality; they are thought of as young trees and that they will, in time, cover a quarter of an acre is seldom realized. Their hanging branches are so numerous that they hide, rather than reveal, their graces. There are many far more beautiful weeping trees with interesting winter skeletons from which to choose, including a weeping alder, four forms of weeping beech, a weeping cherry, and so on.

I find virtually all contorted trees effective in winter, if they are planted with care. E.A. Bowles thought of them as crazy plants and put them all together in a part of his garden he called his “loony bin.” What the effect of this would be I can’t imagine. I have planted them far apart and at strategic places along paths where they can be considered separately. They remind me of many things, from complicated abstract paintings to bonsai magnified many times over.

The contorted hazel (Corylus avellana ‘Contorta’) is too well known to need description here. Our plant is now about fifteen feet high and as wide and its mass of twisting branches and stems in winter are like a Pollack painting. I am not fond of specimen plantings and the hazel forms part of a group with some rather large dwarf conifers, satisfying my preference for plants melding together so that the eye stops only where it wants, not where it is supposed to do so. (If I were successful, which I am not, the entire garden could become background for those melancholy days when all the individual pieces of the world are far away.)

The contorted locust (Robinia pseudoacacia ‘Contorta’) has contortions at the ends of widely and neatly separated branches, creating again an effect of chinoiserie, but in a sparse tree that needs no pruning whatsoever. This lovely small tree also has a contorted look in summer when its leaves seem to gather in masses at the ends of the branches.

The contorted willow (Salix matsudana ‘Tortuosa’) is another familiar tree that needs no description here. We have two, planted in the early days of the garden, and they are now well over seventy-five feet high. Their trunks and the lower limbs have grown large and straight, but all the upper parts are still twisted and curled. Unusual for a willow, this tree is a native of upland locations in northern China; it is surprisingly deep rooted for a willow and makes excellent shelter for a shade garden. I have never been sorry we planted them.

Our contorted English hawthorne (Cratae­gus oxycantha ‘Contorta’) is a young tree, but it shows promise of developing still another contorted effect with the whole plant twisting in odd, unexpected directions. If there were space for them there are two other contorted trees I would grow; the contorted beech, which has a massively gnarled kind of beauty in English gardens, and the jujube (Ziziphus jujuba), which has edible fruits and picturesque zig-zag branches.

There are many other trees, more ordinary in that they are not contorted and not weeping, but which have symmetry of shape or pleasing branch patterns in winter. Among them is Cercidiphyllum japonicum, which is one of those trees that colors too early in the fall but which has such beautiful spring and summer foliage and such marvelous symmetry in winter that we have never been tempted to cut it down.

The native horse chestnut, Aesculus californica, has a naturally strong, symmetrical look when its branches are bare. And, of course, one of the world’s most beautiful trees bare in winter is our native sycamore. This tree grows naturally in moist gulleys in warm areas and is notoriously subject to anthracnose with attendant dieback, often of whole branches, particularly when grown away from its native micro-climate. If our garden were in a warmer and drier area I would certainly try to grow it for its marvelous white trunk and extremely picturesque winter habit.

The peeling bark of Prunus serrula
The peeling bark of Prunus serrula

The colored and textured bark of some trees is another of the great pleasures of winter. Many of these are known as paper-barks because the outer skin repeatedly peels away in thin layers. The fresh, brighter colored inner bark is a delightful aspect of many of them. Such a tree is Prunus serrula whose shiny, new, mahogany-colored bark is always appearing as its thin, old and greyish outer skin unravels horizontally. The foliage and flowers of this tree are unremarkable, and some gardeners graft one of the cultivars of Prunus serrulata on it at the height of about five feet. This practice, unfortunately, sacrifices the beautiful bark Prunus serrula develops also on its branches when they become sizeable.

Acer griseum is a beautiful but slow growing maple. Its leaves are small, distinctive and handsome, but its chief virtue is its peeling reddish-golden bark, which is brilliant when seen against the afternoon sun. The freshly exposed inner bark is cinnamon brown and satin smooth. The entire tree, including its smallest branchlets, has a winged look from the peeling bark.

I have already mentioned the striped bark of Acer morrisonense. Other maples with green trunks and limbs with white vein-like markings are Acer davidii, Acer pensytvanicum and Acer grosseri var. hersii. Although we propagate all these trees in the nursery, we have only A. grosseri var. hersii in the garden. It is the smallest of the trees in this series and grows slowly to about twenty or twenty-five feet. It is perfectly proportioned and especially beautiful in winter when its striped bark is fully revealed. During cold periods its branchlets turn a soft coral color. It cannot be too highly recommended for small gardens.

One cannot speak of trees with beautiful bark without at least mentioning the birches, among which, with the possible exception of the eucalypts, are found the greatest number of beautifully textured and colored barks. The white, pinkish white and silvery trunks of Betula pendula, B. papyrifera, B. jackquemontii and B. ermanii are supremely beautiful, as are the golden brown trunks of B. davurica, B. alleghaniensis and the near-black trunks of B. nigra and B. lenta. The birches, however, are trees of the far north, usually, in fact, the northern reaches of continental climates. I have never seen one on the Pacific Coast, and especially in California, that was anything more than a travesty of the beautiful specimens to be found in Quebec, Vermont and northern Russia; one feels instinctively that they do not like dry air and a long growing season. It also seems to me that they accord poorly with the plants we can grow well. Perhaps if I experimented widely I could find some exception to this assessment, but in gardening, as indeed in other activities, you have somehow to feel that the odds are in your favor.

Another project for our winter garden has been the collection of a number of shrubs, small trees and pollarded willows chosen for their colored bark and twigs. This idea is far from new and is widely used in Western Europe to provide winter color, and it may be thought superfluous in California where we can use so many annuals for this purpose. The answer to this is that these masses of colored stems are not just ‘color’ but also distinctive forms and textures. The overall effect is of a stream-side mass of willows that are variously colored and arranged for maximum effect as a painter would arrange his colors on canvas. Year after year this group of plants provides a durable feature of the winter garden.

The best known of the colored twig plants are the dogwoods and the brightest of these is Cornus alba ‘Sibirica’ with its brilliant red stems and branches. This shrub unfortunately is not at its best in California and a good substitute for it is Cornus stolonifera ‘Isanti’, which is very nearly as bright and considerably easier to grow. Bright yellow shoots, effective on dull days in winter, can be provided by Cornus stolonifera ‘Flaviramea’, a plant I think most gardens should have to enliven shrubbery borders in winter, whether or not a special project is made of colored twigs. Cornus alba ‘Spaethi’, whose red shoots are less bright than those of the cultivar ‘Sibirica’, has leaves with broad white variegations. (Bean called it the “best deciduous variegated shrub in cultivation.”) Planted here and there among the others of this group, this shrub will brighten the entire area in the growing season.

Acer palmatum ‘Sangokaku’
Acer palmatum ‘Sangokaku’

Several willows are excellent for their colored twigs if they are kept dwarf by being cut to the ground every year. The golden stemmed weeping willow, Salix alba ‘Tristis’ and Salix alba ‘Britzensis’, which has reddish branches, are both excellent. I have tried Salix daphnoides, which has red stems with a blue-white bloom and is known as violets in the willow weaving trade, but find its growth so lank that associated plants are dwarfed. In a planting on a larger scale than ours, however, it could be quite effective.

I am still searching for other candidates for the colored twig collection. As I noted earlier, Acer palmatum ‘Sangokaku’ has been a handsome addition. Kerria japonica has green stems but they do not add much to the overall picture. Leycesteria formosa has far more beautiful green stems with a blue bloom, but the shrub does not go completely deciduous in our climate and the scattering of leaves that hang on tend to spoil the effect. After considerable trouble, we obtained a plant of Rubus cockburnianus (R. giraldianus), a Chinese blackberry with waxy white stems. This plant is said to be effective in English gardens, but I found that, while its stems were indeed somewhat white and waxy, they were not white enough. It has disappeared from the garden along with blue flowers that were not blue enough and other marvelous dis­coveries.

Winter Fruits

Throughout fall and winter, some trees and shrubs mount a succession of beautiful fruits. I will have to confess that my plans for the garden in this respect are largely in media res and a number of fruiting plants for which I have great hopes have not yet matured. Viburnum betulifolium, for example, is still a young plant and will not set fruit until it is somewhere between eight and fifteen years old. Fruiting is, however, an event that is said to be worth waiting for, as it sets massive clusters of translucent red berries. We have only recently come by some of the really great barberries, and these, too, will take time to mature. Gardeners always have something to look forward to (on the final day, alas, this will still be true). Despite this, however, there is almost always at one place or another some display of fruit or berries and these vary from the mildly pleasant to a few that never fail to astound me as the year rolls around.

It is in late autumn that Viburnum seti­gerum sets its coral red fruits in small clusters hanging all along its horizontal branches. Next to it is planted a yellow-fruited cultivar, and both these shrubs retain their fruits well into winter. It has been said that the fruiting viburnums would be as popular as cotoneasters and pyracanthas if it were not that many show a certain amount of self-incompatibility and must be planted in groups to insure pollination.

Undoubtedly the most beautiful fruiting tree we have is the evergreen dogwood, Cornus capitata, whose very large pink fruits (the size of plums) weigh down the branches, creating, for a time, a weeping effect in late autumn and early winter. Since this is a first class flowering tree in late spring, it is one of those rare plants that have two seasons of great beauty.

The fruiting shrub that is most remarked on in mid-winter is the dwarf strawberry tree, Arbutus unedo ‘Elfin King’. Unlike the larger trees that flower in late spring and set fruits in early fall, this cultivar has two long flowering and fruiting seasons. In January it is always seen in flower and fruit at the same time, and its fruits appear unusually large, because the plant is dwarf but the fruits are normal size.

Berries on a hybrid plant of Berberis wilsonae
Berries on a hybrid plant of Berberis wilsonae

A pleasant background in early winter is provided by barberries. A group of shrubs of Berberis wilsonae, for example, remains long in beauty with its pink and yellow fruits and a scattering of red leaves among the dying foliage. It is one of the parents of a number of hybrids in the garden, all of them three to four feet high and set, in December, with translucent berries varying in color from red to very pale yellow.

Ilex cornuta
Ilex cornuta

An assessment of the hollies and their winter performance is much too large a task to attempt here, but I would like to note two of my favorites. Its tall, slender elegant form makes Ilex pernyi undoubtedly one of the most beautiful of evergreen shrubs. Its bright red berries are small, but so are its leaves; its stems weep gracefully. I suppose the reason I like Ilex cornuta is because I planted male and female plants together, with the result that our very large bush sets enormous quantities of fruit. Perhaps I should also mention Ilex aquifolium, two bushes which look like one, the result of planting a yellow and a red fruited variety in the same hole many years ago; fruits of both colors are now randomly scattered throughout this twin shrub.


There are always a number of plants in flower in the garden in winter, but, for the most part, they are on the quiet side, which fits both my mood at this time and our climate. The most faithful of all such plants are the forms of Iris unguicularis, which are white, blue, violet and deep purple. This remarkable iris commences to flower in September and does not stop until spring is solidly here. A native of Algiers and a large part of the eastern Mediterranean basin, it can be grown in unwatered parts of mild gardens where it will start to flower as soon as the first soaking rains commence. In January and February, Iris danfordiae and the many forms of I. reticulata flower. A few small wild daffodils, forms of the common snowdrops, Galanthus nivalis, Eranthis hyemalis and a number of other bulbous plants appear from time to time from November through March, but these are, for the most part, rather ephemeral events.

Helleborus orientalis
Helleborus orientalis

More determining for the winter garden are the numerous hellebores. Patches of Helleborus foetidus light up the ground more than any other plant. Higher up, Helleborus lividus var. corsicus appears very bright; it begins to flower in January and continues all winter. Helleborus niger flowers early in winter with large white or rose-tinted flowers, and later H. orientalis appears with an abundance of cream-colored flowers. There are many other winter blooming hellebores; they are all old garden favorites and it is impossible to have too many of them.

One of the most astounding events of the entire winter season is the flowering of Daphne bholua, a very large daphne (ours is now well over twelve feet high) from the Himalaya. Flowers appear almost miraculously in the very coldest time of the year — late in December and early January — when the bush becomes a mass of pinkish white, extremely fragrant flowers.

We have some large bushes of Osmanthus heterophyllus ‘Purpureus’ planted in the early days of the garden. These are unobtrusive, dependable background plants most of the year, but they suddenly become noticeable in mid-winter when they fill their part of the garden with a marvelous fragrance that often sends visitors in search of its source.

Ours is not a garden for camellias, but no account of our winter flowering shrubs should omit Camellia cuspidata and its hybrid C. ‘Cornish Snow’, both of which are six foot bushes that produce masses of small, delicate flowers that are white with, in each case, a somewhat different pink cast. Because these are a success we have planted C. transnokoensis, C. lutchuensis and a few other small-flowered, bushy camellias.

Over the years we have planted many correas as understory plants and as cover for lilies and other large bulbs. Their pink, rose and pink and green flowers appear in abundance throughout the cool season. The best of these, by far, is Correa x harrisii, originally introduced into California many years ago by W.B. Clarke.

These are some of the flowers in the winter garden. There are, in addition, occasional out of season roses, the remnants of late summer and autumn flowering salvias, and, up on the hill where it is warmer at night, some banksias, grevilleas and other winter flowering Australians and South Africans. This is not a time, however, of great displays; the events are slower and more isolated than in summer, and this I find a very good thing and, in our climate, just as it should be.




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