Believe it or not, late winter features some of the year’s most beautifully scented flowers. Scroll through to learn more about the various plants that are currently blooming throughout the Central Virginia Area.
‘Okame’ Flowering Cherry
You can always count on ‘Okame’ to be the first tree to bloom every year. This tree eventually grows 20 to 25 feet tall and wide with a tidy, rounded or oval shape. This makes it a good candidate for lawn, street, patio, and courtyard planting. Plant it in a sunny spot with well-drained soil. Be sure to prune immediately after the flowers fade. For additional interest, this tree provides a nice Autumn show when leaves turn a nice orange-red. For those that can’t wait for its February bloom, it’s also easy to force cut branches into early bloom indoors in winter.
‘Okame’ is easily grown by wholesalers, so it shouldn’t be hard to find at local garden centers and nurseries
Originating in Japan, Japanese quince has been introduced and cultivated in many locations throughout the world, including the United States. Popular for its showy early spring flowers, this species is a low-growing deciduous shrub that is easy to care for. It is also favored for use as a bonsai plant, particularly in Japan.
The fragrant flowers are typically a brilliant orange-red but may be pink or even creamy white in color. In autumn, small apple-shaped fruit, known as quince, appear and attract birds, bees, and butterflies. Quince fruit is too hard and tart to be eaten raw, but is used to make jellies and preserves. In some parts of the world, quince is bletted to make it softer and sweeter, and therefore edible.
Beautiful rosy-pink flower buds that open to white, sweetly fragrant flowers in winter and early spring. The scent from these flowers in unmistakable this time of year. Foliage is evergreen, with many varieties featuring attractive, variegated leaves. A great foundation plant for dappled shade gardens. Locate against a wall or near a patio or deck where its fragrance can be appreciated.
Winter daphne is native to China and has been described in that culture’s literature and pharmacopoeia for a thousand years. Daphne is named for a female figure in Greek mythology.
Because this shrub requires nutrient rich soil, it does not do well in the natural clay soils of Central Virginia. Typically, you will see this plant throughout the Fan and Museum districts where soil is still rich from the tobacco fields of the past. If your property suffers from clay soils, consider planting this in a pot where you can control the soil conditions.
Native to China, Nepal and Japan, this shrub gets the common name “Paperbush” because it is often used to make high-quality paper. Due to its durability, it was used for many years to make banknotes in Japan. It is also used to a variety of products from books to wallpaper to toys.
Filling the late-winter garden with intoxicating fragrance, this well-branched shrub displays creamy yellow flower clusters at its branch tips. Spring brings slender blue-green foliage, turning yellow in fall. A fine backdrop in dappled shade gardens. Moderate growing, 6 to 10 ft. tall and wide in ten years. Provide moist, humus-rich, well drained soil, sheltered from hot afternoon sun. Provide a sheltered site and winter protection in USDA zone 7 (this is Central Virginia).
Paperbush is often used as a winter focal plant, due to the flowers that blossom beginning in February. They are popular for woodland gardens, border plantings or even mass plantings. They may also be planted in containers for patios and locations where the fragrance of the blossoms can be enjoyed (no matter how cold it is).
Helleborus (Lenten Rose)
Helleborus orientalis is a perennial flowering plant in the buttercup family and is native to Greece and Turkey. The common name of Lenten Rose comes from their flowering during Lent. The lenten rose grows as a perennial, reaching only 12–18” tall high, with glossy green palmate leaves composed of 7–9 leaflets with serrated leaf margins. Leathery in texture, the leaves are evergreen, and provide great texture and shape contrast to landscapes. This perennial prefers to be planted in shade or part shade areas with soil rich in humus. The cup-shaped pendent flowers appear in late winter and continue well into spring.
Flowers with wavy yellow petals (though yellow is most common, some varieties bloom orange or red) appear on the bare branches of this unusual shrub, supplying stunning color in late winter. The flowers are also beautifully scented, so it is always a good idea to plant this shrub near entries and patios to enjoy the fragrance. The open, spreading habit and rich yellow and orange fall foliage brings additional flare to the landscape.
This plant typically starts as a shrub, but will slowly grow into a small tree over time (15-20 ft tall and wide).
Witch Hazel plants in bloom now are those that are native to Asia and should not be confused with American Witch Hazel which blooms in late Fall. If you are planning a Native Landscape, it is important to know the difference.
Mahonia (Oregon Grape Holly)
This evergreen shrub is native to North America, specifically to conifer forests and rocky woodlands of the Pacific Northwest, from British Columbia to northern California. The slightly fragrant flowers, that appear in late winter, are the state flower of Oregon. An excellent, easy, evergreen shrub for mass planting as hedge or screen, or as a single colorful accent. Spiny foliage emerges with bronze-red coloring, turns green as it matures, and develops a purple-red coloring in the winter. The brilliant yellow flowers in late winter are followed by deep blue berries in fall. The berries are not particularly tasty when eaten fresh, but can be used to make jellies and preserves. Plant two or more for best berry production.
Mahonia aquifolium is known by many different common names including Oregon grape, holly grape or grape holly.