In the Garden: Colour possible even during the dreary winter months

Long before spring arrives, a joyful number of shrubs and trees start flowering when temperatures rise even a little. Aside from bright blooms, many are also richly fragrant and have a very long blooming period.

One of these is Viburnum bodnantense. This has clusters of small buds which open a few pink flowers even before Christmas. The buds close tight in cold spells but unfold into heads of perfumed flowers in every mild period.

This is nice when grown within sight of a window. It’s not a space-hog because its early growth tends to be vertical. Later the tops of the older branches do reach out a little. But it’s easy to control by pruning and removing one old stem at ground level every year or two. This triggers new stems to grow and replace them.

One of the most eye-catching trees in early spring is the witch hazel. Two supremely fragrant yellow-flowered ones are the varieties ‘Arnold’s Promise’ and ‘Pallida.’ Any one of these can perfume a whole yard. But it’s important to know that not all yellow-flowered witch hazels are fragrant.

The orange-flowering witch hazel ‘Jelena’ and the copper-red type ‘Diane’ are both non-fragrant but very beautiful. Besides red flowers, Diane also offers copper-red leaves in fall. Eventually, all these witch hazels grow slowly into large trees.

Witch hazels are immune to the eastern filbert blight but they do have a totally different failing — a tendency to produce suckers. This happens because all ornamental witch hazels are grafted on a medicinal type witch hazel which produces tiny flowers in fall. Cutting witch hazel branches tends to trigger shoots from this rootstock.

Another beautiful January-flowering shrub is Camellia sasanqua. It’s evergreen and hardy to our climate although it prefers a sheltered spot and winter mulching. Flowers are mainly single in varieties from red (‘Yuletide’ is red) through to various pinks and white.

All three of these trees can be grown in large containers, though keeping them dwarf enough to fit, means periodically removing them from the pot and root-pruning plus top pruning.

A beautiful and very fragrant shrub which flowers about now is Daphne mezereum. The flowers vary from deep to pale pink (rarely white) and the bush usually stops at three feet (1 metre) high and wide. This daphne needs good drainage and a lean diet.

It’s hugely drought-resistant and grows easily from its bright red, poisonous berries though you have to be quick to get them before wildlife does.

This daphne can fit well into a container for many years but it’s best if its first container is also its last. That’s because being moved often kills daphnes.

There’s usually a good reason why a plant is popular. Heathers give a great deal while demanding very little care. They like good drainage and acidic soil while needing little nutrition. In summer, they are extremely drought-resistant.

The winter-flowering heathers bloom in pink or white, and flowers persist for many months. To keep looking compact, the plants need to be given an all-over haircut once the flowers have faded.

In containers, heather makes a good weed-suppressing ground-cover for taller shrubs. Because it’s evergreen it has a year-round presence.

Send questions to Anne Marrison via amarrison@shaw.ca It helps to mention your city or region.

 

Just Posted

VIDEO – UPDATED: Cloverdale’s cancer fundraising country concert surpasses the mark

Organizers confirmed Sunday night that Gone Country - Here for the Cure raised more than $651,000.

Langley, Nelson, Abbotsford riders takes top spots in horse vaulting at BC Games

This weekend, athletes took to the Cowichan to deliver their best poses on horseback

2018 Aldergrove Fair photo gallery

Good times from pony rides and petting zoo to free MainStage concerts

Letter: Save the little forested area in Murrayville

A Langley letter writer is concerned development will mean the loss of greenspace.

54-40 thrills Aldergrove Fair crowd: VIDEO

54-40 were joined on stage by the band members’ dancing children, the “Aldergrove Rockettes”

BC Games: Day 3 wrap and closing ceremonies

The torch in the Cowichan Valley has been extinguished as Fort St. John gets ready to host the 2020 BC Winter Games

Police confirm girl, 8 others injured in Toronto shooting; shooter dead

Paramedics said many of the victims in Danforth, including a child, were rushed to trauma centres

Why do they do it? Coaches guide kids to wins, personal bests at the BC Games

Behind the 2,300 B.C. athletes are the 450 coaches who dedicate time to help train, compete

Gold medallists at BC Games only trained together for 1 day

Ryan Goudron, Nathan Chan, Owen Pinto and Praise Aniamaka from Zone 4 - Fraser River ran together for the first time

Five taken to hospital after one of two Coquihalla accidents

One airlifted in critical condition, four taken via ambulance in stable condition

Government sets full-time salary range for Justin Trudeau’s nanny

At its top range, the order works out to a rate of $21.79 per hour, assuming a 40-hour work week

Lower Mainland teams battle for baseball gold at BC Games

Vancouver Coastal squeaked out a 3-2 win against Fraser Valley

Canada to resettle dozens of White Helmets and their families from Syria

There are fears the volunteers would become a target for government troops

Francesco Molinari wins British Open at Carnoustie

It is his first win at a major and the first by an Italian

Most Read