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DALY: Winter flowering plants add color to the landscape

During winter, homeowners miss the beautiful flowers of the spring and summer. With the exception of evergreen plants, the winter landscape appears quite bare and somewhat dead. However, even in the dead of winter, there are several flowering plants that can add color and life to the landscape. The most obvious ones are the pansies, snapdragons, and ornamental kale, which are annuals that produce a colorful display when planted around our homes and businesses. There are other winter flowering plants that can beautify the landscape.

Winter honeysuckle (Lonicera fragrantissima) is a deciduous shrub with creamy white flowers that have a lemon scented fragrance. It can grow to 6 feet tall, makes a good hedge and can easily be planted in masses. After flowering, red berries form during the spring and early summer. Winter honeysuckle's berries are attractive to wildlife. Any pruning should be done after flowering. It prefers locations in full sun and well-drained soil. This species of honeysuckle should not be confused with the highly invasive Japanese honeysuckle vine, which can easily take over the landscape if not controlled.

Daphnes (Daphne odora) are small evergreen shrubs with glossy leaves. They have very fragrant, attractive rose-purple colored flowers that bloom in February. A white-flowered variety is also available. Their fragrance fills the garden with a perfume-like scent. However, daphnes can be a challenge to grow. They require excellent drainage and do not tolerate waterlogged soils. Add plenty of organic matter to the soil prior to planting. They prefer partial shade. Daphnes hate to have their roots disturbed and do not tolerate transplanting well.

Wintersweet (Chimonanthus praecox) is an attractive multi-stemmed shrub with a fountain-like appearance. It has yellow to white spice-scented flowers that open slowly over time during winter. The plant is best used in a shrub border, along walks, or near doorways. Wintersweet requires good drainage and can be severely pruned to control its size.

Witchhazel consists of several species, but in general most have yellow to red fragrant flowers that bloom from January to March. This deciduous shrub has an upright growth, is loosely branched, and should be pruned after flowering to keep its form. Its brilliant yellow to orange fall foliage brightens the landscape and is quite attractive when growing next to a wooded area. The plant gets its name because of its forked twigs which were sometimes used as water witching divining rods. Some varieties of witchhazel are native to the eastern United States and grow well in many types of garden environments. The lotion witchhazel is derived from chemicals inside the stems.

Lenten rose (Helleborus orientalis) is an attractive herbaceous winter blooming perennial. The flowers come in a variety of colors, and eventually turn green before falling off in early spring. One of the plant's most attractive features is its dark green leathery foliage. It prefers shady locations and once established requires only minimal care. Lenten roses should be planted in moist, well-drained soil full of organic matter, and fertilized every spring. They are long lasting perennials and reseed easily, producing abundant seedlings. The plant is a slow grower, does not transplant well, and will recover slowly when moved.

In spite of growing in the dead of winter, these flowering plants can add beauty to your yard. Any snowfall that occurs will enhance their beauty.

Winter is also a good time to decide on what to plant in your yard. The Gwinnett County Extension Plant Sale has some excellent plants that are available for sale this winter. Go to www.gwinnettextension.org to download the order form or call the Gwinnett County Extension office for a form to be mailed to you. The deadline for ordering is March 16. The order pick-up day will be March 29 from 10 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. at the Gwinnett County Fairgrounds.

Timothy Daly, MS, Agricultural and Natural Resource Extension Agent, Gwinnett County Extension.

He may be contacted by phone at 678-377-4010 or by email at timothy.daly@gwinnettcounty.com.