Don’t think that just because winter is coming, your garden will lose all interest! Over the years it has slowly dawned on me there are some very colorful and sometimes very fragrant plants that positively shine during the winter months.
Look at the Winterberry:
If I had to pick a favorite plant for December in North Carolina, it would be a winterberry holly. Ilex verticillata – the American winterberry – provides a midwinter splash of bright color from densely packed berries, whose visibility is heightened by the loss of foliage. The bright red berries dispels some of the drear that we feel during the winter after the summer flowers and greenery have gone away. Not only prized for its color, the red berries provide a food source for wildlife, especially songbirds such as Bluebirds, Robins, Catbirds, Mockingbirds, and Cedar Waxwings. Of course, being food for birds does not mean the berries are edible (by us) - the Winterberry (along with many other garden plants) is mildly poisonous to pets and people.
Although Winterberry is native in the eastern U. S. and common in the wild, there is good reason to buy it from a nursery - it is dioecious and requires a male plant compatible with the bloom time of the selected female plants to ensure berry production. This also helps you get the size plant best for your garden space as there are a variety of hybrids with differing sizes. Although wet acidic soils are optimal, the winterberry will grow well in the average garden. It is easy to grow, with very few diseases or pests.
Edgeworthia chrysantha, commonly called Paper Bush, is a compact deciduous shrub that blooms in late winter through early spring. It is native to China, but thrives here in plant hardiness zones 7 through 10. Paper bush is prized for its interesting form, flowers, and fragrance. In its native Asia, paper bush is widely grown because its bark is used -- as the name implies -- to make paper.
This stunning member of the daphne family is one of my most prized plants in the garden. All summer, these 6' dome-shaped clumps, supported by a smooth brown trunk, areadorned with plumeria-like leaves of a lovely dark green color. The foliage drops in mid-December to reveal both the wonderful bark and the large, silvery flower buds. The flower buds open steadily from mid-January to early April, producing an overwhelmingly fragrant display of pendent, golden
yellow flowers that fade to shades of white.
Select a planting location that receives between full sun or partial shade and that has fertile, well-drained soil. Amend the soil with organic material as needed to produce fertile clay to loamy soil with good drainage a pH that is neutral to acidic. Plants generally require less frequent watering in winter than in summer, but should be watered during dry winter periods.
I planted my first Edgeworthia in the front yard in a high spot where I expect it is more dry than well drained. At first it had some light shade - until a winter storm took out the nearby tree. Now it gets more full sun. It is doing well and during its bloom time, I can say that, without a doubt, it is a showstopper! The second one is in the back yard near frequently traveled paths of my garden and screen porch where I can enjoy the heady fragrance.