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

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Lovely lemon-yellow kaffir lilies are becoming more generally available.

Less-Common Bloomies For the Gloomies

Some less commonly depended-upon perennials provide respite from winter blahs, and they get bigger and better from year to year. Bergenia (B. crassifolia) has tiny white-to-pink-to-rose-to-purple blossoms standing above great rounds of wavy, textured foliage.

Camellia is a commoner, but C. sasanqua is the up-to-now lesser-appreciated sibling. Blooming early in winter, it sometimes starts closer to Thanksgiving than year's-end. Its numerous blossoms -- with fewer petals and wider-open form -- often hide the foliage.

Helleborus (H. niger), Christmas rose, is a mid-winter perplexing delight -- it's sometimes well into bloom before you notice, since both bloom and foliage have the same chartreuse hue, and blooms face downwards. They're so delightfully welcome, however, that you then wish you'd grown the plant in a hanging container so you could enjoy them at eye level.

Tulbaghia fragrans, relative of society garlic (T. violacea), has fragrant, lavender-pink flowers on long stalks. These make good cut flowers, unlike their stinkier relative.

Two bulbs are highlights of winter color:

Kaffir lily (Clivia miniata) sends up long-lasting amaryllis-like stalks of orange flowers from dense green straps of foliage -- without the advantage of full sun and lots of attention. And the lemon-yellow one is becoming more readily available.

Crocus are the beginning gardener's delight -- barely set them an inch deep in the unamended soil, and they're blooming! Short stalks but wide-open petals amidst grasslike spears make them perfect for ground-level viewing.

Shrubs, too, brighten winter:

Flowering quince (Chaenomeles spp.) are among the first to bloom each winter and range from soft apricot pinks to vibrant reddish oranges. They're one of the best for indoor forcing -- bring budded stems indoors, place in water in a warm window, and enjoy their breaking into bloom.

Primrose jasmine (Jasminum mesnyi) is not fragrant, but its grand, sweeping mounds of lemon-yellow, 2-inch-wide, double blooms make a great cover for pergola or wall; or it can be trimmed into a hedge.


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