Color returns to the landscape in February, as flowering starts in some cold hardy herbaceous perennials and woody shrubs.
Crocus always is among the first to bloom. Its grass-like leaves sprout from the ground in the middle of winter, followed by the plant’s cup-shaped flowers borne in shades of purple, yellow, blue and white.
Striking color combinations are possible in crocuses. E.A. Bowles has butter yellow petals with bronze veining near the base while Jeanne d’ Arc is pure white and Lady Killer’s petals are streaked in purple and violet.
Certain kinds of crocus spread by seeds over the years. Several homes in downtown Lynchburg have yards covered by freely naturalizing crocus bulbs with lavender blooms every February.
Crocus bulbs are planted only four inches apart so you may need to buy large numbers of them to make a big display in your yard. But even a handful of crocus bulbs planted at the base of a tree is quite attractive.
Daffodils began flowering on Ground Hog Day. The first ones blooming every year are the hardy yellow kinds which appear to thrive on total neglect.
Deer never eat daffodils and that is one reason to plant them. These bulbs grow in any yard with full sun to partial shade, often living longer than the gardener who planted them.
Old-fashioned single roses come to mind when you see hellebores in bloom. Although they go by names such as Christmas rose and Lenten rose, hellebores are not related to roses.
These evergreen herbaceous perennials have been generating much interest in recent years, and thanks to several international breeding programs we now can choose from a wide range of new hellebores to plant.
The flowers of a hellebore known as Ice and Fire look like a filleted radish with its double layer of white petals edged in red. Blushing Bridesmaid’s late winter blooms have double white flowers with raspberry pink veining.
Dark and Handsome has dark purple flowers that look black. Dozens of other unique hybrid and species hellebores are available, and one possible source is the Plant Delights catalog which offers 22 varieties.
Once established, hellebores tolerate extended drought. Rodents avoid them and deer never touch them due to their toxicity.
Winter jasmine is a low-growing shrub with primrose yellow flowers coming into full bloom this month. One of the best public plantings of it is on the right side of southbound U.S. 29 where it meets the Grace Street overpass.
Its trailing stems will root wherever they touch the ground, resulting in new plants that spread and colonize a variety of environments even where soil conditions are poor. This plant is ideal for slopes where grass is not the preferred ground cover.
For a dramatic effect you could plant winter jasmine where its stems can cascade over a wall. Its flowering would be a colorful event every February.
Nothing much bothers winter jasmine. Deer ignore the plant unless they are starving.
Don Davis is a retired Virginia Cooperative Extension agent. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.