Happy New Year! These Flowers Say It’s Spring!

December 30, 2008 | By | Comments (11)

You know a good way to get even with somebody up north calling Southerners rednecks? Send them a daffodil picked from your yard on New Year’s Eve and say, “It’s already spring here.” I swear you can hear the scream of anguish 800 miles away.

photo: ‘Lady Clare’ camellia

That’s what great about gardening in the South. Almost every week of every month, you can find something in bloom. Back in November and early December, I thought spring might be late. The temperatures were much colder than usual here in Birmingham — we had a couple of nights it dropped below 20 degrees. I know that 20 degrees in December is considered tanning weather in Minneapolis, but here it just means that the stinking cat won’t go outside.

Well, the cold is over now. The days around Christmas brought us record warmth — up to 75 degrees one afternoon — and surprisingly enough, no tornadoes. Today, it will be about 65 and here’s what I found in bloom already.

1. The first daffodils — Probably ‘Rijnveld’s Early Sensation’. I saw a photo of them on Garden Web blooming in Chicago on April 2! Whew! That’s early!


2. ‘Lady Clare’ camellia — Huge, deep-pink blooms, an old variety, still one of the best. (pictured above)

3. ‘Shishigashira’ sasanqua — A dwarf sasanqua with deep rose blooms.

4. Tea Olive — Tiny, white flowers with an incredibly sweet fragrance; you’ll smell it in bloom before you see it; every town with a paper mill or the Detroit Lions should plant 10,000 of these.

5. Rosemary — We all know about the aromatic foliage; why doesn’t anybody ever mention the flowers? The blue-flowering selections, such as ‘Arp’ and ‘Blue Spires,’ are quite showy in bloom.

6. Japanese apricot (Prunus mume). Aldridge Botanical Gardens here in town has a nice collection out front of white, pink, and red bloomers. Sure, they bloom so early that the blooms get frozen in some winters, but so far they’re looking great.

7. Pansies & violas — Mild weather has really brought out the flowers. If I had to choose between them, I’d always go with violas. As a rule, they’re much more tolerant of both cold and heat. I had some blooming into June last year.

8. Autumn flowering cherry (Prunus x subhirtella ‘Autumnalis’) — I am convinced that whenever this gets planted, 99% of the time people think it’s something else. They’re looking for a spring bloomer, like a weeping, ‘Yoshino,’ or ‘Kwanzan’ cherry, and come home with this by mistake. They’re bummed when it doesn’t bloom much in spring, but spare its life when it’s the only thing blooming in fall and winter.

9. Winter daphne (Daphne odora) — Budded and ready to pop. Possibly the most fragrant flowers of any shrub, but harder to care for than Amy Winehouse.


10. Paperbush (Edgeworthia chrysantha) — Related to daphne, with fragrant, pale yellow flowers. Budded and ready to pop. This is one of the easiest of all shrubs to force into early bloom, which is why almost every landscape display at the winter flower shows feature it.


11. Winter jasmine (Jasminum nudiflorum) — Bright yellow flowers on mounding shrub in winter and early spring; many people confuse it with forsythia.

12. Dandelion — Everyone’s favorite wildflower.

Welcome, Kathy!

Speaking of people who pine for spring, the Grump would like to officially welcome Kathy Kelly to Grumpiana. Kathy graduated from Washington College in Chestertown, Maryland the same year as I did (1874), but we never ran into each other. Maybe it was because I had echo-location DNA inserted into my chromosomes so I could avoid colliding with other people, like bats. More likely, though, it was because Kathy was always dissecting things as a Bio student and I get queasy at the sight of buttering toast. Anyway, Kathy has just taken a position at the New York Botanical Garden in the Bronx, where, thanks to a fantastic conservatory, she can have flowers year-round too. The next time I’m in the Bronx to visit my good friend, George Constanza, who works for the Yankees, I’m going to stop in the NYBG and bring Kathy some kudzu. Hey, New York gave us Barbra Streisand and Eliot Spitzer. I’m just getting even.

photos by Steve Bender


  1. Grumpy Gardener

    Then you’ll love ‘Autumn Sun’ coneflower (Rudbeckia nitida ‘Autumn Sun’, also called ‘Herbstsonne’ — that’s “Autumn Sun” in German. This perennial grows 6 feet tall and bears lots of showy yellow, daisylike flowers in late summer and fall.

    May 29, 2009 at 10:46 am
  2. sunflower delivery

    Love the yellow one.I find that in the market to plant in my garden.I love yellow flowers,especially sunflower.

    May 28, 2009 at 8:47 pm
  3. Grumpy Gardener

    How about a Caroline Kennedy silver spoon?

    January 4, 2009 at 5:31 pm
  4. KK

    Dear Grumpy Gardener,
    Bring on the kudzu! You think New Yorkers are afraid of a little kudzu? Heck, we eat kudzu on our pizza up here. And you’re right, I’m not jealous of your spring flowers (I’ll be getting back to you in March about that, however) because I have an entire cloud-forest worth of tropical delights blooming right now. HA. Put that in your Gonzalagunia and smoke it. But thank you, GG, for the lovely welcome to Grumpiana; I’m honored. And Happy New Year to you and all your readers. Just for the record, though, I didn’t vote for Eliot Spitzer, and I don’t own a single Barbra Streisand wax cylinder (that’s what we called iPODs back in the 1800s).

    January 4, 2009 at 12:08 pm
  5. Grumpy Gardener

    Dis you ever wonder why all those yahoos in Russia and elsewhere in central and northern Europe make such a big deal about “May Day?” It’s because they don’t see the year’s first flower until May. Yet another reason I’m glad I’m not a Russki Communist.

    January 2, 2009 at 12:17 pm
  6. Tyla

    The growing season lasts pretty much year around here in the South. I’m always amazed when I hear Northern gardeners talking about their daffodils blooming in May. Mine are all finished by April 15 in a cold spring. A warm winter brings them out as early as January.The warm early winter has been nice but we have had a few tornadoes in North Alabama,although not as many as usual. The forecast is for a much colder than normal January so I guess it was fun while it lasted.

    January 1, 2009 at 11:59 pm
  7. Grumpy Gardener

    I haven’t tried ‘Arctic Gold’ yet. I have, however, tried Jose Cuervo Gold and been very pleased.

    January 1, 2009 at 8:42 pm
  8. Grumpy Gardener

    One winter-blooming shrub I’d like to see used a lot more in the South is Darley heath (Erica x darleyensis). As a rule, heaths are challenging to grow here, as they dislike heavy clay soils and long, hot summers. But Darley heath does well here, provided you give it well-drained acid soil and light shade in the afternoon. It grows about 1 foot high and 2 feet wide and combines white, pink, or rosy-purple blooms in late winter with fine-textured, needlelike, evergreen leaves. Scotch heather (Calluna vulgaris), a very similar looking shrub, blooms in fall. It’s much more difficult to grow in the South than heath, so I wouldn’t bother with it unless you enjoy solving intractable problems, like Mideast peace and Oprah’s weight.

    January 1, 2009 at 10:34 am
  9. Judy Lowe/Diggin’ It

    I’ll second the recommendation of ‘Rijnveld’s Early Sensation.’ It’s a wonderful all-yellow trumpet — what we all expect daffs to look like. ‘Prologue’ is often almost as early, but it’s white and yellow. Have you had success with ‘Arctic Gold’?

    January 1, 2009 at 10:28 am
  10. Helen @ Gardening With Confidence

    How is I don’t know about the Autumn flowering cherry? Don’t answer that, I know what you’re going to say. I need to know more about this plant…I have several of all the others mentioned. I just love a winter garden!

    December 31, 2008 at 9:04 pm
  11. Cameron (Defining Your Home Garden)

    You are so right!
    My winter daphne, osmanthus fragrans, cascading rosemary are in bloom. My jasmine is starting to show signs of blooms.
    It seems as though the osmanthus have bloomed almost all year in 2008 instead of just spring and fall. Lots of rain this year.
    Happy New Year!

    December 31, 2008 at 3:44 pm

Leave a Comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s