While we don't often get dry days this time of year in the Pacific Northwest, getting out in the garden when we do is a great reminder of how fortunate we are to live here, where things aren't (always) covered in snow and ice, and where many winter-flowering plants thrive. Below we've detailed three our favorites winter bloomers to consider in the garden.
The genus Hamamelis, commonly name Witch Hazel, is a relatively new plant to West Coast gardens. Two of the four known wild species are native to the eastern U.S., where they were used medicinally by Native Americans for centuries, but it was the hybridization of the Asian species in the mid-20th century that eventually led to the plant's prominence in home gardens. This genus fares well in our Pacific Northwest winters, but can handle much colder temperatures then we are accustomed to in Portland. Hamamelis are particularly well-suited to life under deciduous trees, where they will receive plenty of light in winter and protection from the hot sun in summer. While these plants provide year-round interest in the garden, they are beloved for their colorful winter blooms, which appear on bare twigs typically in January and February. Plant Hamamelis in a conspicuous spot in your garden, along a path you use regularly or within view of your favorite window. A backdrop of evergreen shrubs will help the fine winter blooms to stand out.
Hellebores, genus Helleborus, also known as Lenten or Christmas Roses, are another beloved winter-flowering plant in the Pacific Northwest. While they are quite popular in our region, they could be used much more profusely to great effect. The variety of flower colors among Hellebores alone is enough to write an entire book, not to mention they are still actively hybridized, with new and more dazzling results each year. Hellebores are adapted to flower with very little light, making them an ideal choice to brighten up otherwise difficult areas of the garden. One of the first plants to bloom in winter, low-growing Hellebores are often best featured by removing any or all of last year's leaves. These leaves are best removed in early winter as the buds on the plant begin to swell, creating an opportunity for the sweet, nodding flowers to really stand out. While Hellebores prefer plenty of fall and winter moisture, they are quite drought-tolerant in the summer, making them an ideal choice in the Pacific Northwest garden.
Perhaps the most striking plant for the winter garden is Edgeworthia, commonly known as Paperbush. An Edgeworthia plant is a showpiece, best in a prominent spot that enjoys winter's dappled sunlight. The firework-like blooms come on slowly, starting as delicate, fuzzy nodes as the plant loses its leaves in fall, and transitioning to uniquely textured, creamy-colored buds as winter arrives. Finally, in January or February, the buds burst open to reveal masses of fragrant and long-lasting flowers ranging in color from soft yellow to gold to orange and even fiery red. While prized for its winter flowers, Edgeworthia is a delightful plant year round. It features long, alternate, lance-shaped leaves that have a somewhat tropical look. Keep your Edgeworthia well-watered and protected from the hot sun in summer, and it will remain one of your favorites throughout the year.
Come and visit us at the nursery this winter to see any of these wonderful plants for yourself! We are open seven days a week from 10 a.m. until 5 p.m.