Thanks to a mild December, my garden is still a colorful palette of fall blooms and winter buds. Since we in Tampa are bracing for our first dip into the 30′s this week, I’m taking time to appreciate my winter garden.
Chinese hat plant (Holmskioldia sanguine, also called cup and saucer), below, is a fall bloomer that will get knocked back in a freeze. This one is a rare bright yellow — most are salmon colored. (The yellow has spoiled me. I love it!) I covered it last winter during freezes and a couple of stems survived, so it came back. Yay!
New to the garden (brand new!) is a hosta bred for Florida’s warmth and sunshine. I got it yesterday at Duncheon’s Nursery in Land O’ Lakes ($5.99). Owner Pat Duncheon told me it’s been out only a couple years but was so popular last year, he ordered 1,000 this time around. The trademark name is SunHosta and the label says it’s the only hosta that tolerates full sun in Florida. It’s fragrant, likes slightly sandy soil, and likes to dry out between waterings — all of which bodes well for its success in my garden. The blooms appear on foot-tall scapes (below right) rising from glossy green leaves edged with yellow variegation (beautiful!)
My little cosmos (Cosmos sulphureus, below left, are still hanging in! They’re not as prolific as they were, but they appear in random spots, winking like new copper pennies. (I’m partial to pennies. Save the pennies!)
These annuals may as well be perennials. They re-sow so frequently, when the more mature ones are on their way out, new little plants are coming up.
Another great old faithful, below right, is Carolina Jessamine (Gelsemium sempevirens), a vine that blooms in winter (I just saw the first flowers and buds today.) It can be a bully to its plant pals, but it’s so drought tolerant and cold-hardy, I forgive it. There have been winters, after a freeze, that it’s the only color in my garden.
Who would have ever dreamed succulents would be such stalwart winter bloomers? Now they’re among my favorites. Christmas cactus, of course, but lots of kalanchoes (you say cal-an-koe-ah, I say cul-lan-choe) burst into bright color when the days grow short and cool. This oyster plant, Kelanchoe fedtschenkoi ‘variegate’, was a cutting friend Janna Begole started for me last year. The leaves are a beautifully marbled blushing cream and jade green, and now I have buds, too!
I planted vinca major more than a year ago after getting a cutting from landscaper Johnnie Jones of South Tampa. It took awhile to get revved up, and I was beginning to doubt his description of “aggressive,” but now it’s all up in my penta — and flowering to beat the band.
I love this variegated variety. Once it gets established, it wants nothing but a strangling embrace from the plant next door. I first noticed blooms in the fall.
Other plants I’ve still got blooming, for those of you looking for winter color, are bleeding heart vine, red firespike, plumbago, black-eyed Susan vine, blue sky vine, some blanketflower, giant milkweed, and my Knock Out, Belinda’s Dream and antique roses. (It will be so hard cutting back those roses later this month. They’re very happy right now.) All but the roses will get knocked back if we freeze, but all should come back — the only one I’m not sure of is giant milkweed, this is our first winter together.
If you know of great winter bloomers for Central Florida, a lot of us are always on the lookout. I give big props for shares!