Cream and Yellow Winter Blooms

Wintersweet branch in bloom

Close-up of Winter Honeysuckle in bloom

Cluster of Leatherleaf Mahonia flowers

Stem of Winter Jasmine flowers

Walking out my front door today, the scent of wintersweet perfumed the air. I have one planted in a rather obscure place on the side of the porch. It is about 8 feet tall and other than its course textured leaves the only time it is noticed is in winter bloom. As with most of our popular winter flowering shrubs, they are not showstoppers in the warm months.
Winter honeysuckle is more popular around old houses than in new landscapes. Many folks call this a semi-decidious shrub because in a winter like we are having this year, so far only about half of its leaves have dropped and the others look great. I first observed this shrub as a fine hedge. But over the years, I guess because it gets large (10 plus feet tall), and when left alone equally as wide, it has fallen out of favor. I have mine planted in front of a holly screen, and this time of the year I appreciate its fragrance and its stalks of creamy blooms that pop open on most sunny winter days.
Another shrub that is arching and non-descript except in winter is winter jasmine. Its bright yellow flowers on green stems are beginning to bloom now. The characteristic weeping stems make it great over walls, but I have found planting it in a row or in a mass makes a beautiful arching mass. By late winter mine makes a great show with the green stems covered with small yellow flowers.
Unlike the flowering shrubs discussed above, leatherleaf mahonia not only has a cluster of flowers on the tip of each stem, but its course sticky foliage is a great shady accent plant. Its growth habit is like that of nandina with whorls of foliage on stalk like stems. Its winter yellow flower clusters seem to open slowly and last for weeks.
Now is the time to plant shrubs, so maybe several of these plants might be perfect additions to brighten up your yard in winter.

John Floyd

John Floyd has been gardening--and learning about Birmingham area gardening--for more than 30 years. In addition to his day-to-day experience, John has degrees in horticulture from Auburn and Clemson Universities and was Editor-in-Chief of Southern Living.

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