Back to the (rare) winter garden

We live in a rare corner of Canada where we actually have a winter gardening season.

I cut my lawn for the last time two weeks ago, and judging by the weather, I can confidently say that winter has finally arrived.

I am not talking about the face-freezing, bury-my-car-in-snow and ‘heating bill that withers the bank account’ season, which places like Winnipeg have, but winter nonetheless.

If we really want to rub it into those long-suffering Prairie relatives of ours, we could remind them that only 14 days ago it was still T-shirt weather here in Coastal B.C., but that would just be cruel.

Truth be told, we live in a rare corner of Canada where we actually have a winter gardening season – a place of year-around Anna’s Hummingbirds and outdoor ice rinks (Robson Square) that need to be covered over to protect them from the rain.

The season begins as the last of the leaves fall and the winter camellias begin to burst forth in fragrance and colour. These beauties are a little mixed-up as far as their true lineage (C. sasanqua, C. hiemalis, C. vernalis) is concerned, as many are hybrids.

But you can expect flowers from late fall through to January, depending on the cultivar.

On warmer days, you’ll also notice that many of these are quite fragrant, including ‘Jean May’ (dbl. shell pink), ‘White Doves’ (dbl. white) and ‘Apple Blossom’ (single white w/ pink edges).

‘Yuletide’ (single red) is a seasonal favorite, while ‘Bonanza’ and ‘Shishigashira’ both have double deep rose blooms that hold their colour well, even when fading.

Skimmia japonica is another cold-weather performer, but it also personifies the battle of the sexes, and I am sorry to say that the males are winning hands down. It all goes back to that bigger is better scenario and, of course, I am referring to the size of the flower buds, which are much larger than the females.

The dormant buds resemble berries and often turn red (especially with ‘Rubella’ and ‘Rubinetta’) in the cold, opening to fragrant white flowers in March. While we are on the subject of fragrance, few shrubs can match the shade-loving Christmas Box or Sarcococca, which comes in dwarf (S. humilis) and arching upright forms (S. confusa or ruscifolia). All have glossy dark green foliage and tiny white flowers (often hidden in the leaves) that emit a powerful Jasmine fragrance from December through to February.

Equally scented but much larger in scale is the impressive deciduous shrub Viburnum x bodnantense ‘Dawn’, which bears terminal clusters of pale pink tubular flowers (useful for feeding overwintering hummingbirds) that are borne from November through to April, making it the longest-blooming of the winter flowering shrubs.

White Forsythia (Abeliophyllum distichum) is another sweetly scented deciduous shrub, although it is a bit unruly in its growth habit – it bears white (occasionally pink-tinted) forsythia-like blooms in late winter.

The Winter Hazels (Corylopsis) also bloom late winter to early spring, with pendulous pale yellow racemes dangling from the bare branches.

These are sometimes mistaken for Witch Hazel (Hamamelis), although the latter is often quite fragrant and the strap-like petals are borne throughout the entire shrub.

Your standard choices here are the yellow Chinese Winter Hazel (H. mollis) or some of the x intermedia hybrids such as ‘Jelena’ (orange), ‘Arnold Promise’ (yellow) or ‘Diane’ (red).

Last but not least on my winter favorite’s list is the Chinese Paper Bush, or Edgeworthia chrysantha, with the most popular cultivar being ‘Gold Rush’ (yellow/white), a local introduction brought to us by Piroche Plants of Pitt Meadows.

 

Mike Lascelle is a local nursery manager and gardening author (hebe_acer@hotmail.com).

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Howard Done and his wife were walking through the Yennadon neighbourhood of Maple Ridge, when they encountered this young buck relaxing in the grass on a vacant lot at the corner of 232nd Street and 128th Avenue. "He didn't seem to be bothered by any of the traffic, pedestrians or dogs," Done noted. (Special to The News)
SHARE: Young buck caught lounging in Yennadon

Send us your photo showing how you view Maple Ridge or Pitt Meadows, and it could be featured soon

St. Patrick’s Catholic Church and all others in the province have been closed to services by a public health order. (Google)
Churchgoers question closure in latest health orders

Pitt Meadows pastor notes soccer club can still rent church gymnasium

The employees of Maple Ridge Hyundai pose around their coat donation box. (Special to The News)
Maple Ridge Hyundai dealership holds coat drive

Business aim to collect 100 coats for local Salvation Army in second year of charity initiative

Mary Robson, executive director of the Friends In Need Food Bank, is renting two additional facilities because of the COVID-19 provincial guidelines. (The News/files)
New COVID guidelines creates storage issues for Maple Ridge food bank

Must store non-perishables for two days before being able to hand it out to clients

There have been COVID-19 exposure events at three more schools. (Pixabay)
COVID-19 exposure events at three more schools

Maple Ridge schools exposed to the virus

People wearing face masks to help curb the spread of COVID-19 cross a street in downtown Vancouver, on Sunday, November 22, 2020. The use of masks is mandatory in indoor public and retail spaces in the province. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. reports 17 COVID deaths, 1,933 new cases as hospitalizations surge over the weekend

There are 277 people in hospital, of whom 59 are in ICU or critical care

(Black Press Media files)
B.C. to test emergency alert system on cell phones, TVs, radios on Wednesday

The alert is part of a twice yearly test of the national Alert Ready system

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau speak to the media about the COVID-19 virus outside Rideau Cottage in Ottawa, Friday, Nov. 20, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Canada’s inability to manufacture vaccines in-house will delay distribution: Trudeau

First doses of COVID-19 vaccine expected in first few months of 2021, prime minister says

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good
Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

Phillip Tallio was just 17 when he was convicted of murder in 1983 (file photo)
Miscarriage of justice before B.C. teen’s 1983 guilty plea in girl’s murder: lawyer

Tallio was 17 when he pleaded guilty to second-degree murder in the death of his 22-month-old cousin

This undated photo issued by the University of Oxford shows of vial of coronavirus vaccine developed by AstraZeneca and Oxford University, in Oxford, England. Pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca said Monday Nov. 23, 2020, that late-stage trials showed its coronavirus vaccine was up to 90% effective, giving public health officials hope they may soon have access to a vaccine that is cheaper and easier to distribute than some of its rivals. (University of Oxford/John Cairns via AP)
VIDEO: How do the leading COVID vaccines differ? And what does that mean for Canada?

All three of the drug companies are incorporating novel techniques in developing their vaccines

An aerial shot of Cedar Valley Lodge this past August, LNG Canada’s newest accommodation for workers at the project site in Kitimat. This is where several employees are isolating after a COVID-19 outbreak was declared last Thursday (Nov. 19). (Photo courtesy of LNG Canada)
41 positive COVID-19 cases associated with the LNG Canada site outbreak in Kitimat

Thirty-four of the 41 cases remain active, according to Northern Health

7-year-old Mackenzie Hodge from Penticton sent a hand-written letter to premiere John Horgan asking if she’d be able to see her elf, Ralph under the new coronavirus restrictions. (John Horgan / Twitter)
Elf on the shelf an acceptable house guest, B.C. premier tells Penticton girl

A 7-year-old from Penticton penned a letter asking if she’d be allowed to see her elf this year

Most Read