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Snowdrops are some of the earliest bulbs, and flowers in general, to bloom in spring. Galanthus nivalis is the most common species, and its cultivars are the most commonly grown snowdrops on the market. They are reliably hardy and perennial. They grow to 4 inches tall and wide and flower in mid- to late winter, long before most other plants. They are the first sign of spring around the corner. Flowers are nodding and white.
This gardenia cultivar features a very tight, upright form that is perfect for smaller gardens. It also boasts increased cold tolerance while maintaining the lustrous dark green foliage and abundant fragrant blooms you’ve come to expect from this genus.
This creeping, rhizomatous shrublet grows to 6 inches, with scalloped or bristly toothed, glossy, dark green leaves. Foliage has a strong wintergreen scent when crushed. Urn-shaped white or pale pink flowers appear in summer and mature to aromatic scarlet fruit that often persists into the following spring.
This prairie native bears nodding, pinkish-maroon flowers in spring, followed by seed heads that resemble wisps of cotton candy and connote the plant's common name. The upright, ferny foliage is beautiful, and can be evergreen in mild climates.
This stunning shrub blooms all year in some climates. A fast grower, its large, moonlight-colored flowers and finely divided, gray foliage are a must for any southern-temperate garden. Frost and drought tolerant once established, it attracts bees and hummingbirds and makes an excellent screening shrub.
Through the fall and into winter, pincushion hakea provides beautiful cut flowers for the holidays; the foliage and seedpods are also great for arrangements. You can prune it into a bushy shape or a slender, small tree. As a member of the Protea family, pincushion hakea does not like phosphorus fertilizer, and like most Australian plants, it prefers to be well mulched so that its specialized roots can extract nutrients from the mulch layer.
This vase-shaped, deciduous shrub, up to 12 feet tall and wide, has ascending branches and bright green leaves that turn yellow in autumn. It produces large yellow flowers in mid- and late winter on the bare branches. A cross between H. japonica and H. mollis.
This witch hazel is an upright shrub up to 12 feet tall and wide, with oval, softly hairy, mid-green leaves that turn yellow in autumn. Fragrant flowers are yellow, with crimped petals, appearing on bare branches in mid- and late winter.
This vase-shaped deciduous shrub grows up to 12 feet tall and wide, with ascending branches and bright green leaves that turn yellow in autumn. Clusters of sulfur-yellow flowers appear in mid- and late winter.
The native common witch hazel is an understory plant that becomes leggy if it has to reach for light, but in the open, it develops into a graceful, spreading shrub about 20 feet tall. Its broad leaves turn a clear, bright yellow in the autumn. The abundance of pale yellow fall flowers that accompanies the foliage comes as a wonderful late-season surprise. The deceptively fragile-looking blossoms that appear near the end of October seem to keep winter at bay for weeks.
Year-round gray-green foliage persists through shade and snow and is fairly deer and rabbit resistant. Flowers appear in early spring with daffodils and tulips. This cultivar produces flowers that sit well above the foliage and point upward, which adds to its showiness.
From late fall through winter, the leathery leaves of hellebores stay glossy, cheery, and green. Hybrids of H. orientalis and other species have a clump-forming habit and leathery leaves. They begin blooming in February or March in a range of shades, adding much needed color very early in the season. The blooms last for a very long time, especially if the weather stays cool. Hellebores are tolerant of summer heat and humidity. -Marty Hair, Regional Picks: Upper Midwest, Fine Gardening issue# 127
This perennial evergreen has white-speckled leaves with toothed edges. It produces abundant yellow flowers in late winter and early spring.
The early, long-lasting, sometimes fragrant blooms of this hellebore are borne in clusters in late winter to early spring. The pendent flowers are a muted yellow-green, often with purple margins, and have large pale green bracts. Helleborus foetidus has dramatic, deeply-cut foliage that holds up through the winter. Leaves smell unpleasant when crushed.
Lime-green to near-yellow flowers 1 to 2 inches across, with five petal-like sepals, are borne in loose clusters of three or four on leafy stems up to 20 inches tall. Blooms emerge in late winter or early spring, fading to pale green and lasting until seeds are ripe. There is great variation in fragrance, flower color and size, as well as leaf form, across different plants.
Hellebores begin blooming in mid-winter in a range of colors, adding much needed color very early in the season. They bloom when the temperature is below freezing, even amidst the snow. Protect from cold winter winds, especially when not insulated by snow, to avoid damaged foliage. Avoid ingestion of all plant parts and contact with the sap.
This hairless or slightly hairy perennial has over-wintering, leathery, deep green basal leaves each divided into 7 or 9 leaflets. From January until May, masses of white or greenish-cream flowers, becoming pink with age, appear on branched stems.
‘HGC Pink Frost’ is part of a new series of hellebores that, for the Midwest, bloom very early, some as early as January; this cultivar blooms a bit later, usually in March. The bud count is high, with buds coming out in February all along the plant stem. They start out a deep burgundy but open to soft pink, then age to earthy rose shades. Flowers rise above the foliage, so they are never hidden, and they face outward, creating maximum interest. -Irvin Etienne, Fine Gardening issue 147, page 72
A clump-forming succulent, red yucca has arching, leathery, linear foliage rising to between 2 and 3 feet tall. Dark olive-green leaves with no thorns or spines are sparsely covered with fibrous strands along the margins. Deep coral pink flowers with golden yellow throats crowd the length of the stalks that reach three feet or more. Foliage has a reddish bronze hue during winter's chill for year-round interest.
This is a small, upright, mounded, deciduous shrub with attractive, flaking reddish-brown bark on mature stems and striking, linear to oblong blue green leaves. Midsummer to early autumn, this plant bears golden yellow flowers with striking, bushy center stamens. Reddish-brown fruit capsules ripen in September and persist well into the winter. St. John's wort excels in the Midwest.
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This long-lasting mixture is the perfect medium for long-term plants
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These plants are unforgiving, so make the right cuts for the right reasons
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