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Oh you and your annuals, says my friend Sue Ellen–
And she’s right. Nothing makes my heart beat faster than untapped potential, and there’s so much hidden potential in these tiny poppy seeds, it takes my breath away.

So for 20 plus years, my January ritual has been raking poppy and other hardy annual seeds into the front flower bed.

That means I can’t mulch. Weeds sprout along with poppies. The garden looks messy, always needs weeding, but come May, what a miracle!

Hardy Annuals are one of the great joys of gardening in the south. Pansies, snapdragons and annual dianthus can be bought as transplants in the fall, but many hardy annuals don’t transplant well and need to be sown where they will grow.

The fact they you can save seeds to sow the following year makes them the ultimate up-cycling plants.

Each seed head holds 100s of tiny poppy seed

Each seed head holds 100s of tiny poppy seed

Larkspur and Bishop flower are two more of my favorites. What hardy annuals make your heart beat faster?

I love bishops flower!

I love bishops flower!


When I started growing  Lenten Roses (Helleborus) almost 30 years ago, white and green flowers were the only colors available.   daffocils_helborusThank plant breeders for these darker strains–seen here with my favorite daffodil, February Gold.daffoils_foliage

My second favorite daffodil, Ice Follies, is blooming early this year.   Most of the time it comes into flower by my niece Becky’s birthday, March 6th.  The flowers have a wonderful fragrance, so I always cut a bunch for the house.daffodil_vaseHere’s another February milestone–

The year’s first cut flowers always end up in the rabbit vase.   A gift from our nephew Bob many, many years ago–the boy is now 6 foot 4, living in Costa Rico and well past his bunny loving stage–it is still a welcome tradition at our house. 

There’s nothing like the first flowers of the new season.  How do you celebrate them?

That’s right.  I received a call on my vacation from my excited dad.  He couldn’t wait to tell me that his Edgworthia, I gave him for his birthday this year, was starting to show its buds. He sounded so enthusiatic.  Keep in mind, he has just taken a liking to gardening since he has retired.  He is, just like me, learning as he goes along.  And there is nothing like being given a plant you have never heard of and seeing is show off.

It is the most magical winter plant.  Its bare stems and showy, odd blossoms are sure to be a show stopper–in the winter no less.

Here is my Edgeworthia, although now after seeing the blooms I see I got the less than showy kind–less than $20.

My baby Edgeworthia buds

I am going to find the Snow Cream–pictured below.  That is the really dramatic one.  I saw blog partner Chris’s the other day and I was so jealous.

Show Stopper Version Edgeworthia Snow Cream

So if you are looking for a unique winter show stopper plant that had my dad calling to share the exciting news, you should grow Edgeworthia.

Happy Gardening.


Picking January Flowers--Camellia and Prunus mume

Everyone has flowers in the spring and summer–but winter flowers are special.  They break up the grey landscape, bring the outdoors in, and to me they feel like progress–the passing of the season, the coming of more. 

They also remind me of my progress as a gardener.  On this last Monday in January, there are 6 kinds of plants blooming in my garden.  It didn’t start out that way.  I bought the color where I saw it–flats from the Harris Teeter, the Lowes.  I made hundreds of impulse purchases–better make that thousands–before I started building a garden that would bloom for me year around.  

So what’s blooming today? 

Camellias and Prunus Mume from my favorite local nursery, Camellia Forest.  The Parks family (yes, the same Dr. Parks who taught blog-partner Melissa botany at UNC) are geniuses.  Nationally know camellia breeders, they have introduced countless new camellia hybrids to the world.  Their plants are tough, well-grown and handle transplant really well.  In the horrible drought a couple summers ago, none of my Camellia Forest plants died.  The nursery  also offers a number of Asian plants (Prunus mume for one) which are hard to find.    Check them out at if you’re ready to move beyond the limited selection at the big box store. 

Wintersweet– May be  my favorite winter plant.  One–because I grew mine from seed, my first big success.  And two because it lays down these wonderful  patches of fragrance on sunny days like today.   I love my Wintersweet so much,  last year I made a video about it and put it on YouTube.  (link TBA)

Aromatherapy for outdoor chores--Wintersweet on 1/25/2010

Rijnveld’s Early Sensation Daffodils have bloomed as early as January 1st for me.  Because of our cold weather over the holidays, this year’s first blooms arrived last week.  Who doesn’t love yellow daffodils?

Bearsfoot Helleborus–also a long ago purchase from Camellia Forest.  I love green flowers and this one blooms for two months or more. 

Pansies and  Violas–Not a lot of landscape impact this month–they’re too small.  Still–it’s nice to cut blooms for the house and they’ll look like a million bucks in a month or two.  But so will a lot of other flowers.  In January–the dead of winter, every little bit of color stands out.  

So what’s you’re favorite source of winter color?  And another important question for Carolina gardeners–what do you see when you look out  of your kitchen window this month?

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