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kateavatar3.jpgSouthern winters are short, and have plenty of camellias in bloom to delight gardeners all through the season.

Camellias though are not the only shrubs that bloom in the cool months, and many of the older classic shrubs, for various reasons are overlooked.

winter_honeysuckle.jpgWinter Honeysuckle
One of my favorite winter blooming shrubs is winter honeysuckle (Lonicera fragrantissima). Native to China, this shrub became popular in the early part of the 20th century and was commonly found in old southern homesteads. The main attraction of the honeysuckle is the time of bloom and the fragrance, which as the name implies, is intensely fragrant. Alas, if you are looking for an appealing focal point for your garden, this one is not going to be on the list. Like most honeysuckles it has medium green leaves, which are generally held throughout winter, but the flowers are small and white, rather than the rambunctious reds are yellows of the invasive vine varieties. The good news is that winter honeysuckle is not as invasive as the more common vine, although there may be places where this can happen. 

Although it is not a star of the garden, winter honeysuckle does make a graceful backdrop along a woodland path of the edge of a shrub border. It reaches about ten to twelve feet in height and can congregate to quite a large stand. Like many shrubs, it can be thinned regularly, and even chopped to the ground, when it will still sprout new stems for next year. It will take most sunny conditions, as well as part shade, and survives as far north as zone 4.

For a great midwinter project try picking a few branches, a forced them into bloom like forsythia by bringing them inside and placing into a bucket of tepid water. It will brighten up your winter home, very quickly. 

lorepetumulum.jpgNative Lorepetalum (Loropetalum chinense)
When I found this shrub, I was totally mystified. We have a hedge of it and my first thought was to chop it down thinking it was some sort of rampant privet. Fortunately, I didn’t have time to chop more than one before it bloomed. This gave it life again, but it went unidentified until this past spring when I was at Athens, GA, for a conference, and it was in bloom. I wondered if they had it mislabeled because nowhere had I ever seen lorepetulum in anything but red leaf and pink bloom. Nothing like the evergreen leaf and white bloom I was seeing. Indeed they were correct. Although it is referred to as native, according to Dirr, it is native to China.  

Unfortunately in searching through the internet you will probably not see this version, as it has been totally forgotten in the trade in favor of the pinks. This is rather sad because it makes a wonderful hedge and is covered with white flowers each Easter that last for several weeks.  

So here are my two Cinderella shrubs for the winter garden – they are not as flamboyant as their modern sisters, but for good solid shrubs that survive with no care in drought smitten Georgia, they cannot be beaten.

Kate is a gardener, a garden writer and a garden educator living in Atlanta, Georgia. She has written for national magazines and local newspapers, plus hosts a weekly radio show. You can visit here website at www.katecopsey.com, her blog at www.katesgardenjournal.com , or drop her a message at her profile page on theMulch.com.

 

 

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