Winter Jasmine: An Early-Bloomer Often Mistaken for Forsythia

Copy of Jasminum_nudiflorum - wikimedia commonsThis has been an especially brutal winter for folks in many parts of the country — including the northeast, the midwest, and even the southeast, where gardeners are used to having flowers all winter. It’s one of those years when the earliest blooming plants will be especially welcome. Winter jasmine is one of those. It can bloom so early in the year during a warm spell that I’ve heard older Southern gardeners call it “January jasmine.” Continue reading

Signs of the Season: Autumn Blooming Cherry

flickr 20110108_ThurlowBurnaby_AR_Cutler_9317c1

Photo: wlcutler, via Flickr

The autumn flowering cherry (Prunus subhirtella ‘Autumnalis’) is such an innocuous little tree that the only time I’m likely to notice it is when it’s putting out a flush of bloom during the cold months. But when I see cherry blossoms in November, I know exactly what I’m looking at. A couple of years ago, I was in the north of England over Thanksgiving weekend. The weather was foggy, drizzly, dreary – yet, standing out through the mist was a glorious display of light pink blooms on bare branches. On such a gray day late in the fall, the flowers were a welcome surprise. Continue reading

Forcing Bulbs: Tipsy Paperwhites Don’t Fall Over

Photo: Netherlands Flower Bulb Information Center

A friend of mine always says it wouldn’t seem like Thanksgiving without a pot of paperwhite narcissus in bloom. There’s definitely something magical about flower bulbs in general, but at this time of year, paperwhites become almost staggeringly precious for their ability to grow and bloom indoors. Watching a pot of the bulbs progress from day to day is a deep, private pleasure – from the first plump white roots to the lengthening stems, fattening buds, and, finally, the creamy white blooms. A vase of cut flowers, no matter how beautiful, can’t captivate and engage its audience this way. Not even close. Continue reading

The Last Mum of the Season

Chrysanthemum_pacificumChrysanthemum pacificum is such an unassuming little plant that you might fail to notice it at all for much of the gardening season. It has little in common with other garden mums, which tend to be tall, colorful, and floriferous. Instead, C. pacificum measures in at a compact eight to twelve inches tall. It has tiny, button-like blooms that somewhat resemble ageratums in form, though they’re bright gold in color. And it’s not going to stop traffic, that’s for sure. In general, I would say that C. pacificum has two big things going for it: gorgeous foliage and late-season bloom. Continue reading

Bulb Planting: Two Picks For Soggy Places

Spade and BulbsWhen it comes to planting bulbs, the standard advice has always been to choose a location with well-drained soil. Bulbs like tulips and daffodils tend to rot and die out when they’re planted in a soggy spot.

But if you have a water garden or a generally soggy yard, there are a few options for damp places. The Netherlands Flower Bulb Information Center suggests planting certain varieties of fritillarias and camassias near ponds or in places that don’t drain well. Continue reading

Bulbs: Figuring out the Timing for Fall Planting

bulb root growthAt this point in October, bulb planting is probably well underway in many parts of country — some areas are probably expecting their first frost soon. But because I live in the South, and because this has been a very warm fall so far, I’ve barely thought about bulbs yet. We can’t start planting here till it cools off a bit anyway, and it’s often hard to know when exactly is the right time to get bulbs in the ground.

I recently got a packet of information from the Netherlands Flower Bulb Information Center that gives some general rules about bulb planting, and I thought it was useful enough to share here: Continue reading

Crazy About Colchicum

autumn crocus horizontal There’s nothing like a field full of autumn crocus (Colchicum autumnale) to make a gorgeous, sunny September day seem even more perfect. When the bulbs are planted in a spread-out mass like this, the Wow Factor is just incredible! It makes for a stunning, spring-like display for those of us who get tired of the more classic autumn flowers like mums or asters, or the traditional fall hues of russet, gold, and ginger. Continue reading

Sweet Autumn Clematis Signals the End of Summer

Today is the autumnal equinox, that celestial event that officially marks the end of summer. But it was just after Labor Day, which for many people is really summer’s grand finale, that I started noticing the fluffy white blooms of sweet autumn clematis around my neighborhood. Here it is clambering around a white picket fence in a suburban front yard.

Sweet Autum Clematis on Fence Continue reading

Six Perennial Flowers for Late-Season Color

Japanese anemone

Japanese anemone

As the summer days fade slide into fall, you may find your garden is looking a little bedraggled. Now is the perfect time to plan ahead for next year, by assessing where you could use an infusion of late-season color or a blooming focal point to steal the scene.

The following five perennials are reliable September bloomers in many parts of the country. (Before you buy or plant one of them, check to make sure it does well in your climate and conditions.) And remember, you can also fill in the gaps with hardy annuals like pansies, geraniums, and sweet alyssum, which all thrive in the cool, sunny days of fall. Continue reading