Bright flowers can light up colder regions
Photo/Illustration: Jennifer Benner
Flower color is precious in USDA Hardiness Zones 6 and colder, where winter brings repeated bouts of snow and freezing temperatures. The flowers that brave the cold are a hardy bunch, either nearly immune to frost or able to open new crops of buds during each mild period of the season. These plants give color right through the winter or at the first prospect of spring. Naturally, they manage a better show, with fewer spoiled blooms, if grown in a sheltered spot. As it happens, many of the best thrive in partial shade, and cutting back on watering and feeding in late summer encourages better winter flowering because plants that know only rich living are often shy to bloom.
The cheery yellow flowers of winter jasmine make up for their lack of scent by opening continuously throughout winter. The slender green side branches of this sprawling, trailing shrub climb walls and gracefully tumble over rocks. Tiny leaves replace the flowers in spring. It’s adaptable but performs best in sun with moderate water. A wall covered with winter jasmine becomes a little Niagara of sunny blooms each winter and is a joy to every passerby.
Zones: 6 to 9
Size: 9 feet tall and wide
Conditions: Full sun to light shade; well-drained soil
Witch hazels are terrific ornamental trees all year, with rounded leaves that color in fall on elegantly flaring branches. Winter finds their twigs lined in small, spidery flowers in shades of yellow, copper, or ruby red. The cultivar ‘Jelena’ offers glowing, burnt orange flowers and, in fall, leaves of the same radiant hue. A witch hazel is just the thing to bring color and structure to a courtyard or entry. Its architecture holds the space together, and the eye-level blooms can be enjoyed from inside or out.
Hamamelis intermedia cvs.
Zones: 5 to 9
Size: 8 to 12 feet tall and wide
Conditions: Full sun to partial shade; moist, fertile, well-drained soil