Though the days are short and cold, it is possible to add colour to a winter garden. Throughout the country, flowers will poke through the snow or the cold earth and display a burst of colour during those grey days. Depending on the climate and geographic region, flower choices range from early blooming bulbs to hardy annuals. Determine the Hardiness Zone for choosing the right plants and achieving the most planting success.
For winter colour with perennials, plant hellebores that will bloom as early as February and into the spring. Ranging in size from 1 to 3 feet, these flowers offer gardens a variety of colour from deep garnets and amethyst to light colours like white and pale green. These plants thrive in part to full shade and can live in hardy mountain climates as well as hot dry areas in the Southwest. This variety works well in containers, or planted directly in the ground and takes moderate watering; once established, after two years, they can live in drought tolerant gardens.
Several varieties of flowering bulbs will burst with colour in February including, tulips, narcissus, daffodils, crocus and freesia. Plant bulbs in the ground in November; in colder regions planting can be done as early as October. Rules for planting bulbs are fairly easy and there are two basic items to remember; the pointy end of the bulb is always what points up--not into the ground, and plant the bulb two to two and a half times deeper then the length of the bulb. Bulbs prefer sunny locations for best flowering success and may require some fertiliser when planting; however there should be a thin layer of dirt that separates the bulb from the fertiliser to prevent fertiliser burn. Bulbs grow best in sandy loam soil and dirt that is slightly acidic.
For subtle and delicate winter flowers, Mediterranean White Heath is a consistent bloomer. This plant works well in a rock garden or as ground cover and once the tiny white blooms show up in January and February they will last for months. This plant will have the most growing success in Hardiness Zones 6 to 8 and grows up to 2 feet high. For additional delicate blooms, add Snowdrop flowers which grow well in containers, borders and wooded areas. Snowdrop is best in Hardiness Zones 2 to 5 and makes the most impact when planted in groups of three or four.
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