(UPDATE: added © Mary Free; thank you for your volunteering, Mary)
Usually winter is a quiet season in the gardens with the evergreens and hollies taking center stage to showcase their foliage, cones, and berries. However, the unseasonably warm temperatures have given them competition with some flowers continuing to produce blossoms (like the scabiosa) and others being coaxed from their winter sleep to bloom a little earlier.
At Alexandria’s Simpson Gardens, visitors are treated to a variety of evergreen foliage from long, thin pine needles to half-dollar size, silver Eucalyptus leaves. Between the parking lot and the Scented Garden, where a tiny new bloom or two dot Rosemaryinus officinalis (rosemary), fully-grown Narcissus (daffodils) displayed bright yellow petals with orange coronas. The wintry mix mid-January sent the blooms nodding (pictured) with a coating of ice. After the blooms are spent, the leaves will be left alone until they turn brown. This way the bulbs can store food for next year’s flowers.
At the Glencarlyn Community Library Garden, Nandina domestica (heavenly bamboo) is dressed in bright red berries. Cold-hardy Camellia japonica ‘Springs Promise’ is rewarding visitors with rose color flowers amidst its glossy foliage. Soft yellow flowers grace maroon stems of the Mahonia bealei (leatherleaf mahonia) pictured.
At the Sunny Garden in Bon Air Park, the first brave flower (pictured) of Helleborus orientalis (Lenten rose) opened almost a month ahead of the Lenten season. On the unpaved path from there to the Shade Garden, many of the camellia bushes are covered in red or deep pink buds and flowers. On warmer days they are a buzz with honey bees busy collecting nectar and pollen. Honey bees also are visiting the snowdrops in the Shade Garden.
The Shade Garden boasts three types of snowdrops: Galanthus caucasius that bloomed in November; Galanthus elwesii (that are almost spent); and smaller Galanthus nivalis (common snowdrop) that currently are blooming. Galanthus is the featured plant in the Shade Garden display case right now, and available in the Featured Plant – Galanthus(PDF) writeup. In addition, lavender flowers of Crocus tommasinianus pushed their way open through the leaves and nodding white buds and maroon flowers grace two different cultivars of Helleborus.
If you find some time on a sunny, warm winter day, take a walk through one (or more) of the demonstration gardens. Enjoy the evergreens and hollies and see what blooming flowers or insects you can discover. Post a comment on our facebook page, and let us know what you find.