Flower Gardening

Winter Perennials for Your Garden

By Jean Starr


About Evergreen, Deciduous, and Semi-Evergreen Epimediums

Deciduous: There are advantages to deciduous varieties. They drop their leaves cleanly after the first couple of frosts and there is no need to remove them before next year’s growth begins.

Semi-evergreen: This group can hang onto its leaves into December if the weather is mild. Alternatively, if they are protected through the worst of winter with a persistent snow cover, they’ll emerge partly-green when the snow melts in the spring.

Evergreen: While the “evergreen” label in climates colder than Zone 7 is based more on hope and a mild winter, those in this category could retain some green through the winter. The downside is they don’t know when to let go. Even when the leaves have become brown, crispy skeletons, they hang onto the plant and have to be removed in the spring.

Who Doesn’t Love Hellebores?

I love the way Hellebores remain green and strong beneath the snow. Once this shade-lover becomes established, it will stay fresh through January and often longer. It’s a good idea to brave a cold day in mid-March to remove the leaves, even if they still look good. This will make it easier for the flowers to emerge, as they won’t have to fight through the thick leaf stems to make their appearance. Clip the leaves as close to the plant as you can and you’ll have flowers mid-March through early May, depending on the variety you’ve planted, its location, and age. I prefer the paler flowers, as they’re more visible from a distance.

My current favorites, Helleborus ‘Pink Frost’, has flowers that emerge in shades of pale to rosy pink, making them stand-outs in the early spring garden. Even better, their flowers face outward and rise above the foliage, eventually aging to a deeper rose. And as if that weren’t enough, the leaves are silvery green with red stems, making the plant a stunner even when it’s not flowering.

Helleborus ‘Cotton Candy’ produces flowers as fluffy as its namesake. Above the leathery, evergreen foliage, the nodding, double soft-pink flowers bloom from late winter through spring.

Helleborus Honeymoon ‘Spanish Flare’ offers outward-facing pale yellow flowers with maroon red centers that span a respectable three inches wide. The novel perennial grows from 18 to 24 inches.

 

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