Winter need not be colorless when you plant some of these great plants! Early blooming camellias, heaths and heathers, wintersweet, bulbs, natives (many of which bloom in winter), and striped barked plants(trees and shrubs)
There are many camellia varieties and the number over 1,000 now with new cvs. coming each year. However, there are early bloomers, both in species and hybrids as well as cvs. of C. japonica that are not well known. C. sasanqua is the typical species that blooms in fall. Showers of blossoms in rose reds, pinks, picotees and whites are the hallmarks of this species. Many are also fragrant, but to many, that scent is not very pleasing, rather more musky than sweet. Flowering is generally profuse and the blooms shatter. These are also very sun tolerant.
There are many exciting new species camellias entering the horticultural trade, Come to the nursery to see many of them (If I am not sold out! they go FAST). Here you will find camellias that are very UNcamellia like in their appearance. Many have small fine textured foliage and lacey growth habits, very elegant garden or container subjects. Flowering is also different that most C. japonicas. Often you will see many tiny, small flowers in great profusion, masses of blooms covering the plants. Many species are fragrant too, The C, lutchuensis being notable for providing the first fragrant hybrids, although there are a great deal more species now available with outstanding characteristics which will be loved when their hybridizing potentials are utilized. Particular favorites *I have MANY, C. transnokoensis, C. tsaii, C. nokoensis, C. salicifolia, C. cuspidata(also extremely long bloom season), C. assimilis, C. fraterna, C. synaptica, C. yunnanensis, and many more. Lacey growth and profusion of blooms are their hallmarks. You simply MUST try some of these in your garden!
Wintersweet (Chimonanthus praecox) is an unknown lovely…. This easy care shrub stands out for its supreme fragrance… and you can only smell it if you have one. It is RARE, but easy to grow. Famous in Japan and China for hundreds of years. Nobody (practically) knows it, since it blooms in winter, when most people do not visit nurseries. Gardeners just do not know about it. But when they find out and get a plant for their own garden, it becomes one of their personal favorites forever. In bloom for several months as well, Beginning as early as December, it can bloom until Feb. depending on how cold the weather is during that bloom time. it will bloom when snow is on it and just continue until milder days come. (I should also mention Prunus mume, the Japanese flowering apricot/plum) this small tree blooms near the end of winter, with a clean spicy fragrance. Nobody usually has this plant either. It likes well drained soil in a warm exposure in sun. It can take partial shade also, but blooms will be less profuse than in full sun, good drainage necessary.
The plants with colorful / unsual bark characters shine in the winter months. When there is less distraction from blossoms, gardeners notice other plant details more readily. Stripe bark maples, paper bark maples, stripe stemmed dogwoods (most are shrubs, with the exception of Cornus controversa, the giant dogwood), and many willow species (some weeping tree forms and many shrub willows) With these you will have color all winter long (cold temps bring out color intensity) and it lasts and lasts since there are no flowers to fade or foliage to drop. It is all bark that gives the color effects. These like moisture. With willows, they tolerate even boggy conditions (especially nice for those with poor drainage issues on their land. Shrub dogwoods are also heavy water plants. Streamsides and ponds/lake shores are their native habitats in many cases. Bark colors vary from brilliant yellows, flame, oranges, reds, and deep purples. With the paper bark species of maples, you get papery peeling bark (like white birch) but in cinnamon red browns. Fall colors are generally nice as well. These maples are trifoliate species, their leaves divided into 3 leaflets (Acer griseum, A. Cinnamon Flake, A. triflorum – this last species has stiff curling bark/ not papery, and can turn amber tans in the bark curls.
Native plants are wise choices especially if you have limited water during the summer/fall months. They grow wild in dry environments (most of the drought tolerant species) with little or no watering at that time. In the garden, you should water them at least in their newly planted years, to get them well established before you cut back on watering. Manzanitas(Arctostaphylos spp) are very showy CA natives with clusters of small urn shaped bells in whites and pinks. Some have bronzed new foliage also. Their bark on older stems is an attractive feature in most selections. Ceanothus spp are another colorful group with flowers in the blue/purple range mostly. They bloom later, but now(in fall/winter) is the time to plant them for establishing them before spring and summer’s higher temps.)
A particular favorite native are the many hybrids and species of the iris. I. douglasiana is the catch all for these and the crosses with related species have given WONDERFUL hybrids of outstanding colors. There are many color combinations, each seems to be more lovely than the last. Plant now for spring blooms! glorious clumping perennials, these have attractive grassy foliage which is evergreen and provides a nice backdrop when the clumps are not in bloom.
There are many other things, too numerous to list here, come visit the nursery to see MANY more!