During my career in the nursery industry, I was lucky to encounter an amazing wealth of experts in many parts of the United States. As a result, I am able to enjoy something in bloom during every month of the year in my home garden.
There are lots of choices for flowering plants during the spring and summer. This is the period when garden centers are full of blooming shrubs, trees and perennials. What takes more research is to extend the excitement of flowers in the fringe seasons, fall winter and early spring.
In the late summer when most perennials are finishing up their flashy display, I look forward to the flowers that herald the coming of fall. Most of my landscape is dappled, dry, sandy shade, with few full sun locations. August is when such flowers as Tricyrtis, or Toad lilies, begin to bloom. These unusual flowers are easily grown to fill in the empty patches where spring bulbs have gone dormant.
While most people have to buy replacement fall mums every year, there are varieties that are truly perennial. I have a sunny spot that is planted with Montauk Daisy, a somewhat woody shrub that blooms in the mum season with white Shasta Daisy style flowers. Cut it back in winter to about 18” and by bloom time it will likely be 4’ across and 3’ tall.
Back in the woods, with an eastern exposure, the fall Camellias begin blooming in October, usually lasting until Christmas or later except when an early winter cold snap freezes the last of the buds and blooms. In some of the milder winters, spring Camellias begin blooming just as the fall bloomers are finishing. (Photo courtesy freestockphotos.biz)
Also in October, hardy cyclamens come out of dormancy and grow new leaves that usually persist through winter. These tropical looking perennial bulbs begin blooming in February and last about 2 months. Happy in part shade, these plants make small colonies, spreading by seed and developing corms that can grow as big as a dinner plate over time. Two species are the most available: Cyclamen coum and Cyclamen hederifolium. Coum begins blooming earlier than hederifolium.
Christmas rose, or Helleborus niger begins its bloom season in late December or early January, with its flowers preceding the new leaves. Flowers are usually white or creamy green. Its cousin, the Lenten rose or helleborus orientalis, is named because it flowers during Lent. It has a wider array of flower colors, from charcoal black, to burgundy to pink, yellow and white. Flowers can be double, semi double or single. The spent flowers stay attractive long after the color fades. Cut the old foliage back before new flowers emerge.
About the Author
Jim McFall manages accounts and inventory for Harvest Power out of the Pittsville, MD location. He says, “I’m in Delaware, about 5 miles inland from the ocean and about 2 miles from the Indian River Bay, so those water bodies help to moderate temperature extremes in both summer and winter. It is weather zone 7b. Southern Delaware climate, topography and soil structure is different than northern Delaware.”