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Winter season nears, flowers still bloom down South
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While most people like the warmer months, I love cooler weather.

I like looking out into a winter landscape and seeing interesting branches and colorful bark on the many trees and shrubs growing in the Southeast. And many plants have colorful blooms and textured foliage that can help any drab landscape become something wonderful to view in the winter season.

One of my favorite fall and winter flowering plants is the sasanqua and japonica camellia.

The camellia is one of those rare plants that bloom during the cooler season and it is a great asset to any landscape. Camellias are invaluable for their evergreen foliage and unique ability to bloom in the fall and continue blooming into spring.

Two of the most unique species of camellias for this area are the sasanqua and japonica. The sasanqua starts to bloom around late October and has a smaller bloom. The japonica sports a larger bloom beginning in December through early February.

Try planting a yuletide sasanqua with a beautiful red bloom or a pink perfection japonica with a delicate, crisp, double bloom with shell-like petals!

Other winter blooming plants include Lenten roses. Plant them now for a late winter bloom that is a wonderful addition to any shade/partial sun area.

Lenten roses are an evergreen plant with leathery, dark green, shiny foliage and can bloom white to light pink to dark purple in the late winter months.

This is a wonderful plant for the beginning gardener, because it grows well here. It can be added to a shady garden or put into a naturalized setting. As the flower turns into the fruit, seed production begins, and mature seeds can be spread to provide a dense cluster of beautiful winter blooming plants. Another great characteristic of the Lenten rose is it is naturally deer- and rabbit-repellent and have very few insect and disease problems.

If you want winter interest with trees, plant a coral bark Japanese maple. The sango kaku maple is a gorgeous salmon-red-barked tree that stands out in the winter landscape. This tree prefers morning sun and has a lovely yellow fall color.

Another winter interest tree is the rising sun redbud tree. This 12-foot-tall tree will provide three-season interest. The golden tangerine-colored leaves shine through the summer and holds them through the fall. After the leaves fall, beautiful sweet pea-type flowers in rosy orchid colors sprout forth in late winter/early spring!

The weeping redbud, “Pink Heartbreaker,” is another tree with an upright habit with weeping side branches. This focal tree can create beautiful winter interest with its weeping form and in early spring when the weather is cool, the redbud will create many blooms with bright lavender-pink flowers before the leaves emerge.

Plant a paperbush for a real winter garden treasure. This shrub starts blooming in December when the branches are bare, with lovely clusters of velvety tiny yellow blooms. The shrub grows to 7 feet in height and can become wide. An added plus is the blooms have a lovely fragrance to them.

Paperbush also has a reddish brown and smooth, showy bark. Stems are so supple and slender they can be tied into knots.

The late winter flowering quince is another shrub that blooms when the branches are bare. Plant a cameo flowering quince, which is a thornless variety with cup-shaped peachy pink double blooms. Their branches can be cut to force bloom indoors in the winter and it grows 4 to 5 feet high and wide.

Don’t forget to plant pansies and snapdragons now for annual color. Mix them with colorful kale, mustard, swiss chard and cabbages for cool season color.

Try red Russian kale for a color burst. This type of kale tends to grow taller and has jagged-edged blue-green leaves and rosy-purple stems. Add some soothing silver-colored plants such as dusty miller or artemisia to the mix and create some beautiful outdoor displays in your winter garden.

The weather is not too cold to get out and find some of these plants. I have planted many of these plants in my own backyard. Nothing is more pleasing than to look out on a cold winter’s day and see color, texture and contrast against an icy blue sky. Happy Fall!

Wanda Cannon serves as master gardener coordinator and horticulture assistant for the UGA Cooperative Extension office in Hall County. Contact her at 770-535-8293 or wcannon@hallcounty.org. Her column appears biweekly and on gainesvilletimes.com/life.

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