February Blooms in my Georgia Garden

Since winters are often very mild here in Georgia and Alabama, it's long been a goal of mine to have something blooming in the garden every month of the year. Winter months are the hardest. Summer provides unlimited options, but the coldest months of winter--January and February--pose the biggest challenge.

Everyone knows about Camellias, and every Fall I look for varieties I don't already have. There's a camellia for every month from September all the way into April. Lady Vansittart is blooming here now in February.

Daphne odora is a plant that really provides year round interest. We grow aureomarginata, which has evergreen leaves with a yellow margin. This variegation makes the shrub attractive even when not in bloom. Every year without fail, the lovely bloom clusters in either pink or white open and surround the garden in fragrance. The flowers smell to me like fresh cut lemons, but others say they remind them of Fruit Loops cereal. Either way, the fragrance is delicious and can be enjoyed right in the middle of winter. Daphne odora is often referred to as Winter Daphne or February Daphne, because that's when it usually blooms.

Edgeworthia chrysantha is a deciduous shrub with fragrant spherical bloom clusters in late winter and very early spring. Chinese Paper Bush is also known as Rice Paper Plant, because the bark is used to make rice paper. That's funny--I always thought rice paper was made from rice. Edgeworthia likes growing in rich, well-drained soil with evenly moist soil in a shady spot.

Leatherleaf Mahonia is an evergreen holly-like shrub with prickly leaves and vivid yellow bloom spikes in the middle of winter. Our plants even have a little variegation, which makes it interesting year round. Pollinators love this plant on warm sunny days in January and February, since winter flowers are hard to come by. And in late Spring, dark purple drupes develop and are food for wildlife when other berries are not yet ripe. Gardeners either love this plant or hate it. I like it. 

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