Winter gifts

While autumn flowering mahonias (Mahonia x media ‘Winter Sun’, below) are fading in this mild early winter, the late winter blooming leatherleaf mahonias (Mahonia bealei, below) are approaching their peak. In mild years, leatherleafs have flowered in late January, but never this early. The more blooms in the winter garden, the merrier.

‘Winter Sun’ mahonia
Mahonia bealei

On occasion there have been scattered blooms on hellebores in late December, but this year there were several late in November (Helleborus niger ‘HGC Joel’, below). These are hybrids with Christmas rose parentage, but others are showing swelling and colorful buds a month early.

‘Joel’ hellebore
This hellebore, probably ‘HGC Champion’, began flowering in late November.
It is difficult to tell when the atypical flowers of stinking hellebores (Helleborus foetidus) are at peak bloom, but flowers are developing rapidly despite recent chilly temperatures.

While excursions into the garden are less frequent and more brief in the winter months, the impatience for spring is somewhat soothed by multiple winter blooms (below).

Flowers of late autumn flowering camellias are damaged by temperatures falling into the low twenties, but many unopened buds remain that will bloom in mild periods in early winter.
‘Summer Ice’ daphne will typically flower from late March into November, but with an occasional December flower.
Even without flowers, red berries of sacred lilies (Rohdea japonica) and hollies (below) are colorful. Large, dense clumps of rohdea often obscure berries, but they are easily seen on younger divisions.

11 Comments Add yours

  1. tonytomeo says:

    Is American holly still available, or seen in gardens? I have not seen it since about 1986. The single specimen I saw was the representative specimen in an arboretum. Hollies are unpopular here. Not many of us here know what they are. Although, I suspect that American holly is more popular in other regions.

    1. Dave says:

      American hollies are available in very limited numbers. Though demand is present, the slow growing hollies are very expensive compared to non natives that are faster in growth and sold at a fraction of the price.

      1. tonytomeo says:

        I noticed that cultivars of English holly were sold with pollinators. It was odd. Female plants were paired with male plants in the same can, but without explanation as to why. I mean, someone who does not know any better might cut the male plant out for not producing berries, or just let one of the two dominate and crowd out the other. Decades ago, when horticulture was still respected here, some types of holly were not so rare. I remember a hedge of female English holly at Villa Montalvo in Saratoga, with male English holly shorn as spires at the ends. Of course, the so-called ‘gardeners’ eventually removed the males.

      2. Dave says:

        Years ago, a grower mixed male and female blue hollies to assure pollination. They gave it a gender neutral name. It didn’t last long.

      3. tonytomeo says:

        The concept is okay if both genders remain intact. I would rather do it the old fashioned way, for example, with the two genders performing two separate functions; like a female hedge flanked with a pair of male spires.

  2. When I look around my own garden, it is surprising how many things are in bloom or berry! A few late roses, at least before our recent frost, camellias, some paper whites, mahonias, hollies, a hellebore or two, an azalea blossom here or there. Merry Christmas!

    1. Dave says:

      High teen temperatures last night finished off the few azalea flowers, but partially opened camellias made it through. Hellebores and mahonias don’t mind the cold, though flowers of Mahonia bealei close in the cold.

  3. Bonnie C. says:

    One of my Hellebores (“Royal Heritage” strain) is just starting to bud.

    1. Dave says:

      If January temperatures are mild as predicted there will be many blooms on hellebores.

  4. Susan W says:

    Isn’t Mahonia invasive in Md.?

    1. Dave says:

      When the hybrid mahonias (Mahonia x media) are flowering in late autumn and early winter there are typically few active bees, so I rarely see any fruit set in our area. Thus, I have been unable to find out if the seed is fertile. The leatherleaf mahonia (Mahonia bealei) is considered invasive in many areas. It often sets colorful clumps of fruit that I must remove before ripening since the seed is most definitely fertile. I occasionally see leatherleaf mahonias growing outside a garden, but it is not close in invasiveness to burning bush, flowering pears and others.

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