Favorite or New Plant
For reliable winter color in your perennial bed, plant winter iris (Iris unguicularis). The flower buds first appear in October and are produced throughout the winter, opening in flushes during mild spells. The soft violet-colored flowers are nestled in the foliage and, like crocus, form on floral tubes (also called perianth tubes, they connect the ovary and the petals) rather than on stems. The sword-shaped foliage remains evergreen, but can be cut down in March to renew the plant. (The leaves look a little shop-worn by then!) Winter-flowering iris likes moderately rich, well-draining soil, and a spot that's sunny in winter but shady during the summer months. Be sure to cut some unopened flower buds and bring them indoors. When they open, they'll fill the room with the sweet scent of violets.
Clever Gardening Technique
Paper white narcissus, including the yellow versions 'Grand Soleil d'Or' and 'Chinese Sacred Lily', grow well in a shallow container filled with water and pea gravel. The bulbs swell considerably during growth, so place them at least 1 inch apart in your container. A 6-inch pot hold three bulbs, and a 7-inch pot, five or six. Place bulbs so their necks stick out about 1/2 inch above the gravel surface. Fill with water to just below the gravel. For best growth, put pots in a dark location with temperatures from 40 degrees to 55 degrees F for two weeks, or until you have 2 to 4 inches of top growth and a vigorous bed of roots. Once top growth is visible, bring the pots into a bright, warm place. In about four weeks you'll have a mass of blooms with a heavenly fragrance.