For those who want to add more winter interest to the garden, Michael W. Buffin's Winter-Flowering Shrubs (Timber Press, 2005) will open a world of opportunities. The book features established favorites and lesser-known collectibles to suit every taste and to satisfy any growing condition. Best of all, Buffin explains what happens to plants in winter and offers advice to make winter-flowering shrubs flourish.
Favorite or New Plant
Native to China, paper bush (Edgeworthia chrysantha) is a fabulous winter-flowering shrub that grows 6 feet tall and wide. I consider this plant essential for every Middle South garden, yet the shrub is still relatively unknown, even among savvy gardeners.
Silvery blue-green foliage drops in early December to reveal prominent leaf scars along the shrub's thick, fig-like stems, and silver clusters of flower buds that open in February or March into extremely fragrant, pendulous yellow flowers. 'Winter Gold' is one of the more popular yellow-flowered selections, while 'Rubra' offers orange-red blooms.
The shrub prefers light shade and moist, fertile, well-drained soil. Pests are not a problem, but take care to water during dry spells.