March Blooms in my Georgia Garden: Loropetalum

It is now March, and our many Loropetalum shrubs are still in full bloom. This has been by far the most spectacular year we've had for Loropetalum. These shrubs have been blooming nonstop since January.

Yes, this has been a weird winter. We had only sporadic cold spells with lots of warm spells in between. Some plants like the Oakleaf Hydrangea and Elderberry that are normally deciduous retained all their leaves throughout the winter. The elderberries even had the odd flower cluster now and then. Plants that normally die to the ground in winter and regrow from the base such as Confederate Rose and Lantana are leafing out from the stems which we never got cut back this year. This is highly unusual. And weird. I never got around to wearing all my sweaters, and my winter coat got out only once.

For more on the lovely Loropetalum, read our other post: January Blooms in my Georgia Garden: Loropetalum.

February Blooms in my Georgia Garden: Star Magnolia

Magnolia stellata is one of my favorite winter blooming shrubs. Often flowers of the Star Magnolia are burned from the frosts of Winter, turning the beautiful white blossoms brown before they can be enjoyed. But not this year! Winter frosts were so few that I enjoyed many blooms on our little shrub this time. 

I wish we could claim this magnolia as a Georgia native, because it grows so well here and is a favorite of Southern gardeners, but Star Magnolia is native to Japan. 

Blooms are large and showy flowers that open in late Winter here in Georgia, before the shrub leafs out. Blossoms come in pink or white. The flowers are sweetly fragrant and more noticeable when the shrub is in full bloom.

Magnolias grow in sun or shade and prefer well-drained soil with regular water. Magnolia stellata needs regular water, especially during hot summer when grown in full sun.

Even if you live no where near Georgia, you can still grow this beautiful shrub, since Magnolia stellata is hardy in USDA Zones 4-9.

Star Magnolia is a slow grower, but in good conditions it will grow up to 15 feet tall and about 10 feet wide. It can be allowed to grow in its own bushy form, or you can limb it up into a small tree.

February Blooms in my Georgia Garden: Fujino Pink Spirea

One of the earliest shrubs to bloom in our Georgia garden is the lovely Spiraea thunbergii 'Fujino Pink.'

Fujino Pink Spiraea in February
Fujino Pink Spiraea is a beautiful, fine branched spirea that sports masses of pink buds along the stems which open to light pink flowers in late winter to early spring before the leaves emerge. This shrub is a soft, airy plant that looks great massed or as a hedge.

Some spiraeas (also often spelled 'spirea') grow very large, but this is one of the small ones maturing to about 4 feet high and wide, making it perfect for a small garden.

Spiraea thunbergii can be grown all over the United States, as it is hardy in USDA Zones 4 - 9.

For best flowering, grow spiraea in full sun, but we have quite a few that receive only part sun and bloom just beautifully anyway. That's typical for our garden, since summer sun can be too intense for delicate foliage.

Spiraes prefer well-drained soil with regular water, but Fujino Pink Spiraea is drought tolerant once established. As I've said before, no shrub is considered established until it has been planted at least a couple of years.

February Blooms in my Georgia Garden: Hellebores

Since Georgia has many days of nice warm weather in Winter, I'm adding as many winter blooming plants as I can find to our garden. Hellebores are evergreen perennial plants that bloom after Christmas in a rainbow of colors in shades of magenta, rose, mauve, and cream. Some blooms are even speckled. 

Often called Lenten Rose or Christmas Rose, Hellebores aren’t really roses at all, but are in the buttercup family. Hellebore is a very low-maintenance plant that thrives in dry shade—that’s right, dry shade! 

When not blooming, Hellebores have interesting, shiny, dark green foliage with leaves often serrated or even palmate.

It is a long-lived perennial offering years of beauty in the shade garden.

Hardy in USDA Zones 4-8, hellebores require no special care. 

They spread with time, self-sowing to form clumps up to 2 feet across in just a few years. Amend the soil well with organic matter when planting, and you’ll be rewarded with many years of beauty. 

Hellebores are a great substitute for Hosta, but are even better. Hellebores are evergreen and deer proof - the deer will not eat them! 

No matter what you decide to plant in your garden, get out there and enjoy it. And remember to thank God for the rain we’ve received!

February Blooms in my Georgia Garden: Camellia Japonica

Yes, we have a camellia blooming just about all the time in our garden from September through April. Right now in the middle of February, we are enjoying the blooms on Camellia Japonica 'Lady Vansittart.' 

Also blooming now is 'Professor Sargent,' another Japanese Camellia.

Camellia Japonica, Japanese Camellia, is an evergreen shrub with large flowers in Fall or Winter, depending on species. There are so many different types of camellias that one can have blooms in the garden from September to April.

Japanese Camellia has glossy dark green leaves that can be up to 5 inches long. If on the underside of the leaves you notice specks that resemble black pepper, spray with insecticidal soap.

Blooms are also large and very showy. Some Japanese Camellias have flowers as large as 5 inches across. These camellias continue to bloom for up to 6 weeks. Flowers may be single, semi-double, or double, and some have ruffled petals or even variegated or striped blooms.

The plentiful blossoms hold up well in a vase for beautiful cut flower arrangements. 

Camellias are easy to grow. Choose a spot with dappled shade or morning sun with afternoon shade. However, some camellias can even tolerate full sun. 'Lady Vansittart' gets hot afternoon sun in our garden.

Camellias are drought tolerant once established. Here in Georgia, I have found that camellias planted before Christmas will do fine through the following summer. Camellias that didn't make it for us were those planted in Spring, so I don't advise Spring-planting for Camellias here in our hot climate.

Camellias like a rich soil, so at planting time, amend the soil with compost or soil conditioner. Water weekly if it doesn't rain, and your camellia will reward you with years of bloom at a time of year when not much else is blooming.