Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Pink and Yellow Blooms in Your January Garden?

What’s blooming in your yard this week?

Nothing, you say. This is January. The ground is frozen, covered with two inches of snow this morning. The leaf tips of next spring’s positive-thinking daffodils already are frost burned.

One shrub is blooming here at Meadow Glenn—and it’s been blooming since Thanksgiving. I went out this morning and took a photo of some of its flowers peeking through last night's snow.  It's a heather I bought at Home Depot in 2002, according to my garden diary. I didn’t buy it because it bloomed overwinter. I bought it because the tag said deer don’t eat it, and they haven’t, perhaps, I’ve thought, because of its needle-like leaves.

Where heathers stop and heaths begin is a matter of debate. The tag said “heather,” but Michael A. Dirr’s authoritative Manual of Woody Landscape Plants lists it as a “heath,” a close relative. They agree, however, on its Latin name, Erica x darleyensis ‘Furzey.’ Its “lilac pink” blooms endure the coldest months, November through May. As an 8-year old plant, it’s an attractive mound about 5 feet across and 18 inches high.

Though heather may not be a common landscape plant, it’s often described as an excellent ground cover that thrives with limited water and in acid soils. Its cousins include cranberry, blueberry, huckleberry, azalea, and rhododendron.

Can you name other outdoor plants that bloom in freezing weather? Patterson Clark featured three cold-weather bloomers in his Urban Jungle column in yesterday’s Washington Post. To link to “January’s golden bouquet,” CLICK HERE.

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