The early part of the winter has turned out to be relatively mild in the Delaware River Valley. Even with last night’s relatively cold temperatures there remains a reasonable amount of plants with ornamental flowers for this time of the year.
Usually around the first of January the wintersweet, Chimonanthus praecox begins blooming. At the Arboretum we grow the straight species which has pendant bell-shaped flowers which are a “dirty” white. ‘Grandiflorus’ also has an off-white petal but the center of the flower is a deep maroon brown.
The best cultivar that we grow is Chimonanthus praecox ‘Luteus’, which has a bright yellow flower. We have fine specimens of ‘Luteus’ in the Winter Garden as well as in the Scott Entrance Garden. All of the Chimonanthus cultivars have a very inviting fragrance. Just cutting a small branch and bringing it inside will fill your house with its delightful scent.
Just starting to flower in the Sibbett Garden is Hamamelis vernalis ‘New Year Gold’. This golden yellow clone is one of the earliest of all the witchhazels to bloom. Like other H. vernalis cultivars, this selection has great fragrance.
In spite of the very cold weather many of the Mahonia x media cultivars are still revealing their panicles of striking yellow flowers. These cultivars begin flowering in early November with open sprays of yellow flowers. At the Arboretum, we have several outstanding cultivars including ‘Charity’, ‘Lionel Fortescue’, ‘Underway’ and ‘Winter Sun’.