In the Garden:
Southern California Coastal & Inland Valleys
December, 2009
Regional Report

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Stocks' perfume, brilliant blooms, and rich gray-green foliage make a welcome addition to the winter garden.

Bloomies During the Gloomies

Now that the gloom -- or at least the chill -- of winter has set in, are you ready for a bit of bloom, a chit of color, a dab of drama in your landscape? Annuals, perennials, bulbs, and shrubs all offer exquisite reasons for planting now to enjoy through the cool weather.

The first eye-catchers in nurseries and neighbors' yards are those great bursts of color, the annuals. Sweet alyssum (Lobularia maritima) is the delicate ground cover that readily reseeds itself into seemingly everbloomingness. Calendula's pumpkin-orange and sunflower-yellow flowers keep coming all winter long, ultimately succumbing to warm weather and gangliness -- but, not before sowing lots of crescent-shaped seeds that then sprout into new generations.

Iceland poppy (Papaver nudicaule), its oversized but delicate crepe-paper blooms on spindly but strong stalks, sway with the slightest breeze but withstand winter's gales. Nothing's quite so promising as the upturning bloomhead as it unfurls like a glisteningly moist butterfly.

Poinsettia (Euphorbia pulcherrima), the great standby of end-of-the-year holidays, continues to surprise and delight with its color and size variations. New this year are boutonniere-size yellows and peppermints!

English and fairy primroses (Primula polyantha and P. malacoides) are the fairy princesses of the winter garden. Tiny dancers in frilly skirts on tall stems lighten up gloomy days, both in stop-motion calmness and during furiously-dancing gales.

Snapdragon (Antirrhinum majus) is indispensable in the garden for anyone who grew up pinching the blooms into talking dragons. With the tall-to-short, huge-to-tiny, and early-to-late variations in plants, flowers, and bloom periods, there's always at least one to be had, handy for nipping.

Stock (Matthiola incana), sturdy as its name, offers attractive long-leaved, blue-gray foliage sparked up by multi-colored clusters of fragrance that last long in the garden. Bloomed-out seedheads send off lots of seed that easily sprouts for more cool-weather color. Continuing the cycle, spring-germinated shoots develop fulsomely through summer's hot weather for early-fall color.

Violas -- pansies, violas, and violets (Viola spp.) -- are, like snapdragons, updated versions of flower-people from younger times. No wonder Johnny-jump-ups and fragrant violets repopulate many adult's gardens! And, the plethora of newly-developed violas make for new "faces" all the time!

Flowering cabbage and kale, though unbloomers, are colorful compatriots. From white to chartreuses, pinks and purples, their crinkled rosettes are unvarying gems throughout the longlasting winter chill.

Citrus fruit, too, are welcome orbs of developing color through the winter, with the taste treat to come.

Next time, we'll look at some less-commonly depended-on perennials.


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