Archive for the ‘winter bloomers’ Category

Winter Aconite: Time to collect seed

Posted by Mark Wessel on May 3rd, 2013  •  Comments Off on Winter Aconite: Time to collect seed

Blooming winter Aconite.

Winter aconite (Eranthis hyemalis), is one of the first flowers to break the winter blues. It’s golden glow is a welcome sight during the dreary days of winter.

First year seedlings.

Since winter aconite is one of the  first plants to flower, it is one of the first plants to ripen a seed crop. The timing of the first blooms vary according to the weather. Some years I have seen aconite blooming in late january. Late February is a more common time of bloom in the Cincinnati area. The seed ripening also varies. In 2012 I was harvesting seed on April 2. This year I should started harvesting seed on April 29.

Second year

I have a simple method for propagating this species. Collect the seed, throw them where you want more plants and let them grow. In three to four years you will have blooming size plants.I am sure you could speed the process by sowing seeds in a containers and providing optimum  fertility and growing conditions. Unless it is a special variety of winter aconite, I will stick to my tried and true method.

Third year

They will grow and flower in many locations. Any flower bed, sun or shade, woodland or even a lawn. Shaded lawns with a thinner density of grass work best. It helps if you can hold off on the first mowing until the plants start to go dormant after flowering. Mowing will not hurt the plants in their first few years of life since they are very low to the ground.

Fourth year going to seed.

When collecting seed, I simply pinch of the main leaf with the seed capsule and through them in a bag or bucket. Pods that are not fully open will continue to ripen after harvest.

Once the seed ripens on the plant, they do not hang around long. Rain and wind easily knock them out.

Posted in : winter bloomers  •  Tags:

Helleborus x ericsmithii “Enthusiasm”

Posted by Mark Wessel on March 31st, 2013  •  Comments Off on Helleborus x ericsmithii “Enthusiasm”

Helleborus x ericsmithii

I am sure that some of my close horticulture friends tire of me singing the praise of Helleborus x ericsmithii. Frankly, I do not care. If they would only buy this phenomenal floristic spring blooming beauty, they too would be converted to “Ericsmithii enthusiasm.”

Where do I start the praise? First, they are floriferous beyond belief. The number of blooms per plant is truly remarkable.

Helleborus x ericsmithii

The floriferous nature of the plant resides in the fact that it is sterile. The flowers are not fertile and do not set seeds. This allows the plant to spend much more time on being beautiful.

H.x ericsmithii " Winter Bliss"

The second desirable trait is flower orientation. They hold their flowers above the foliage, facing up and out. Many of Helleborus x hybridus hang their heads down, requiring you kneel  to truly enjoy their flowers.

The foliage is also outstanding, always clean and healthy. Unlike the H.x hybridus, there is often very little annual removal of the previous years foliage. Only the occasional dead or torn leaf needs attention.

H. x ericsmithii showing nice clean winter foliage.

Helleborus x ericsmithii has a slightly complicated parentage. Helleborus niger was crossed with Helleborus x sternii. Helleborus x sternii is a cross between Helleborus argutifolius and Helleborus lividus.

The variation in Ericsmithii cultivars is minor. White, cream and pink colored blossoms often fading to pink with varying levels of leaf color, leaf venation and stem color account for most of this variation.

H. x ericsmithii "WInter Moonbeam" foliage

Until recently H.x Ericsmithii has been hard to find locally. Ivory Prince was often our only option. Last spring I started seeing more variety in the finer garden stores in our area. Pipkins Market and Greenfield Plant Farm would a good place to start you search in Cincinnati. Just a few weeks ago Lowe’s Home Improvement had a big rack of the variety “Winter Bliss”. Mail order is still going to offer the best variety. Pine Knot Farms and Fraser’s Thimble Farms have an excellent selection.

So go out and make the effort to find these plants. Stunning sterile flower power at its best.

Posted in : Perennials, winter bloomers  •  Tags: , , , ,

Winter Blooming Witch Hazels: More than just Barney Fife’s after-shave.

Posted by Mark Wessel on February 8th, 2012  •  Comments Off on Winter Blooming Witch Hazels: More than just Barney Fife’s after-shave.

Hamamelis mollis "Wisley Supreme

“Hello Floyd, this is Barney Fife. I’m coming over and I’m ready for action! That’s right I want the works. Shave, haircut, Witch Hazel, O.D. Cologne, toilet water. If it smells, I want it.”

Hamamelis x intermedia "Strawberries and Cream"

Hamamelis x intermedia "Strawberries and Cream"

If you want some action in your garden in the dreary depths of winter, Witch Hazels are the shrub for you. We are not talking about their wonderful astringent after- shave qualities, which good old Barney Fife was so familiar with.  We are talking flowers and fragrance.

Hamamelis x intermedia "Fire Charm"

As winter starts to lighten its grip, Witch Hazels (Hamamelis) are among the first shrubs to start blooming. February is often prime bloom time. However, there is variation due to weather patterns. This year my H. vernalis started blooming in late December and has since finished blooming. In other years I have seen the same species bloom into early March.

Hamamelis x intermedia "Allgold"

Although a few warm and sunny days in winter start the bloom process, the inevitable cold that will follow rarely damages the bloom. Recently, the flowers seemed undamaged after a few nights in the upper teens.

Hamamelis mollis "Rochester"

The genus Hamamelis consist of five species. In the winter landscape, three species concern us most. H. vernalis, H. japonica, and H. mollis. Most of the selections available to gardeners today are hybrids between japonica and mollis. These hybrids are referred to as Hamamelis x intermedia followed by the cultivar name.

Hamamelis vernalis "Girards Purple"

Varying shades of yellow, orange and red are the dominant color range. While many of the yellow cultivars can be effective from a distant vantage point, this is not ideal for the more subtle earth tones. Since gardeners are often not out in the landscape in the winter, placing the plants in areas that receive winter foot traffic benefits the gardener the most. Near the driveway or parking areas or along the walk to the entrance of your house ensures maximum exposure to they’re beauty.

Hamamelis intermedia "Limelight"

Beautiful bloom isn’t the only reason to grow Witch Hazel. Often the first indication of bloom is the fragrance. The sweet fragrance of some cultivars travels long distances in the garden. Not all cultivars are fragrant. Research before purchasing or time in the field using the olfactory sense will help you get the right plant.

Hamamelis x intermedia "Birgit"

Witch Hazels can reach fifteen to twenty feet in height. Most are either broadly vase-shaped or low, mounding and wide spreading. Full sun to partial shade is preferred. Although shade is tolerated, bloom will be greatly reduced.

Wisley Supreme and Hamamelis mollis "James Wells"

Witch Hazels do suffer a few less than desirable traits.  Some cultivars hold on to the previous years leaves and seed capsules until nearly the time new foliage emerges. This trait obscures blossoms and creates an untidy appearance. The picture directly above shows a good example of this trait. Wisley Supreme is the yellow cultivar on the left. Few leaves. Beautiful display. The plant on the right, James Wells, seems to have kept all its foliage from last year.

Hamamelis "Aurora"

For an article written in more flowery prose and from the standpoint of one of the nations experts, Tim Brotzman, on the genus Hamamelis, check out this link. No one is better suited to write about the genus.

Hamamelis x intermedia "Orange Beauty"

Admittedly, Witch Hazel varieties are not the easiest plants to locate. Ask your gardening friends if they are growing them. Check out the local arboretums.

Hamamelis vernalis

Dawes Arboretum, east of Columbus Ohio, has one of the finest collections of the genus.


Just like any plant that brings color, form or fragrance into the winter and early spring garden, Witch Hazels are well worth the effort.

Posted in : Shrubs, winter bloomers  •