Ozarks Fruit & Garden Review - More Winter Blooms - Mountain Grove News-Journal : Business

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Ozarks Fruit & Garden Review - More Winter Blooms

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Posted: Wednesday, February 22, 2012 10:57 am

MOUNTAIN GROVE, MO – Winter is a season that brings out very mixed feelings in me: I do enjoy the look of everything covered in a white blanket of snow, snow on branches of evergreens and on ornamental grasses, where it adds a whole new dimension. But by February I am ready to see some color again! That’s when I start "prowling" around my garden looking for something that tells me that there is still (or perhaps already) some life out there somewhere. This is how I found that my witch hazel bushes were blooming already and shared a photo with you last week in this column.

A somewhat unknown plant that actually pops up in mid-winter is cyclamen. There are many species of cyclamen, you may have seen some at florist’s shops. Their bloom color ranges from white to pink to red. But don’t rush out to plant one the florists cyclamen outside, they will not survive Missouri winters. There are several species of cyclamen that will. These are generally much smaller, are supposed to self-seed and eventually spread into a groundcover in a lightly shaded, woodland, location. Since the plants are poisonous, deer and rabbits leave them alone - a big plus in my book. Some of the cyclamen species will bloom in fall, but Cyclamen coum species blooms in late winter/early spring. In my garden they vanish in summer, like the bleeding heart, and the leaves pop up in the middle of winter. I have not yet seen blooms on mine, so I do not know if I have a species that blooms in the fall or in the spring. I will have to watch them closely.

Just about everyone knows that most bulbs are planted in the fall to bloom in spring, Perhaps some of the earliest, smallest examples are not commonly known - particularly snow drops (Galanthus nivalis), snow crocus and winter aconite. The nicest thing about these three plants is that they naturalize easily, and in England there are several gardens dedicated to the various species of snowdrops alone, and a large drift of blooming snowdrops in late February/early March is quite a sight to behold.

The snow crocus blooms about 3-4 weeks before its slightly larger cousin, the "regular" crocus, but most vendors do not mention the latin species name. Of course not all crocus species bloom in winter/spring, some also bloom in the fall, like the saffron crocus.

Winter aconite (Eranthis hyemalis) is a small (2-3 inches tall) plant and its leaves show that it is related to buttercups. Its flowers are bright yellow and generally appear at about the same time as snow drops. One plant by itself is not so impressive, but they do like clay soils and can spread into an early spring carpet of blooms. Their native habitat is in deciduous forests, where sunlight only reaches the ground for a short time in early spring before bud break, so the winter aconite and many other herbaceous plants grow and flower, then go dormant, all before the tree’s leaves shade the ground.

One more plant that blooms in winter is the hellebore, or Lenten rose. Again there are many species of Helleborus spp, and many new cultivars have shown up in plant catalogs in the last few years, extending the range of bloom color, size and petal number (doubles). The blooms can be 3 to even 4 inches across. Rabbits, unfortunately, seem to like them as much as I do.

Discovering any of these blooms in a late winter snow is a special treat when you can drag yourself out into the cold. When planning a garden for the winter season, be sure to include these easy, low maintenance plants."