Saturday, January 10, 2009

Plant of the Month-January 09

I thought that choosing this month's Plant of the Month would be extremely difficult, and it is but not for the reason you think! I have to choose between an inside plant and an outside plant; and you of course know I will always go with the outside plant. But I have to give the begonia an Honorable Mention too. This month I have chosen the Vernal Witch Hazel (Hamamelis vernalis), aka Ozark Witch Hazel as January's Plant of the Month. The Vernal Witch Hazel's blooms are pictured above. This plant smells very good, but you have to get close to the blooms in order to appreciate the smell.

The vernal witch hazel just happened to be my choice for Plant of the Month in January 2008 as well. I can't help it, this just seems to be the ONLY plant blooming in my Zone 6/7 garden right now, but that is okay. Hey-blooms in January for me! Fragrant ones too! All of you who grow the witch hazels will understand my excitement. Now there are different varieties of witch hazels and not all bloom in the winter. Some are fall bloomers and some are spring bloomers. This particular one is definitely a winter bloomer. I am not normally a real good planner of specific cultivars for my garden, but I can honestly say I planned this one by researching just the right type and specifically purchasing it at a native nursery in North Carolina. For more information on this nursery and this witch hazel, do see my first post on them.
Just for fun I thought it would be nice to post pictures of all three of my witch hazels. Many folks are not aware of these native shrubs that can give so much joy. All bloom, though at different times so be sure to do your research before deciding on a type. All witch hazels have wonderful fall color. The next picture above is of the bloom of Diane (Hamemelis x intermedia 'Diane'). All information I have seen on Diane says it has orange/red blooms. Mine appear to be yellow though it is hard to make a good judgement since this is a new purchase. It is also very possible that this shrub was mismarked at some point but I can say it was purchased at a very reputable nursery in Louisville, so I am not sure what it going on with this plant. If anyone can help out it would be appreciated. Diane is starting to go by now and that could be part of the problem, plus the fact it is newly planted. I do not count this bloom in my review of the witch hazels because this is a new purchase. I like to evaluate all plants at least one year before I post about them. I purchased this plant in bloom and so far it has had a long period of bloom; which has been fun.

My last witch hazel is the straight species (at least that is what I think as I lost track of the information a long time ago). I am pretty sure it is Hamemelis virginiana or Common Witch Hazel. When I purchased the vernal and virginiana witch hazels at We-Du Natives I specifically looked for these straight types and was not all that interested in the hybrids. These first two were planted in the summer of 2006 and I can honestly say I've been happy with them. The virginiana did suffer more from droughts than the vernal did, but as you can see, it is still just fine. It usually flowers in the fall after most of the leaves have fallen off. This year was NOT a good year for the bloom, but it is still new in its location so we shall see what it does this year.

Because it is winter and I am in a picture taking mood, here are some just for fun pictures of color in the winter garden. Heavenly Bamboo (Nandina domestica) is on the left, and beautyberries (Callicarpa americana), on the right.

I really like both of the plants pictured above with the nandinas being my favorite. I think the beautyberries truly add a lot of color, but it is that awful magenta color! It is not my favorite color in the garden at all. Too bad these aren't blooms as they would be good candidates for Plant of the Month!

Okay, back to the inside plant and my choice for an Honorable Mention. I am kind of old fashioned and think there can really only be one Plant of the Month, so this begonia will have to settle with Honorable Mention. It has been blooming non-stop since I moved it into my craft room back in October. I love the fresh flowers greeting me each day and can't get over its tenacity with its lovely blooms. It is not an angel wing begonia and I am not sure of the variety. I purchased three of these on the discount rack at Wal-Mart. All three are different colors with this color being the only one that is non-stop blooming in the house. It looks like a rose to me. As much as I dislike houseplants this one has won my heart.

Houseplants are wonderful plants for color this time of year and I hope you have a few in your home so you too can enjoy the blooms.

By the time February rolls around, surely there will be some blooming plants outside? Last February I chose hellebores, so let's see if that will hold true again this year. As good as the hellebores look right now I think they are on track to take the coveted title of Plant of the Month again for February. We shall see. What great plants do you have growing and blooming in your garden right now that you would qualify as a superstar? I'd love to hear of them. I realize not everyone who reads this blog is in my zone. There will be a wide variety of choices from all over the world, no doubt about it. I am actually interested in them all. Especially if I can grow them too:)

in the garden....


  1. The Beautyberries are really colourful arent they? Real Indian colours! Pity I've never seen them here before.

  2. I love the looks of the witch hazel, looks like its name sounds. Heavenly bamboo, red berries?
    Begonia's are one of my favorite house plant, I have a Rieger (?) but I need to get a angel wing.

  3. I just love helleborus.. But I have to wait a bit longer to enjoy my helleborus.

  4. Hey, Tina,
    Your beautyberry is so fruitful. I love the the color. At a distance in your photo, it just looks purplish and lavender. I'm for anything colorful in winter. I love nandina also. I have found It fruits on young bushes and in deep shade.

  5. Witch hazels are a good choice! Ours haven't done anything yet but I will blame the deer for that. They munched a little on both of them. I only hope this spring that they will rebound with some good growth. I think the only thing blooming right now here is the Mediterranean Heather.

  6. Hi guys, Good morning!

    Sunita, Yes-vibrant and jewelike are those beautyberries-just like my view of India. Glad you like them.

    Dawn, Do you grow witch hazel? I think it would do good up there. I picked my angel wing up at the thrift shop. The ladies (they all know me) said, "Do you know what that is?" I said yes some kind of angel wing and I am delighted it is only $4 and huge too! What a deal. It is not blooming right now though.

    Linda, They are a great plant! I see new foliage peaking out right now. I really love them too. When will yours come out? Ours usually blooms in February.

    Donna, You can't beat those nandinas! They do work in the shade too. These ones are on the north side of a privacy fence and do okay. It was a good year for beautyberry. I see it everywhere.

    Dave, Heather is excellent! Skeeter gave me some last year and try as I might, I could not keep it alive:( Doesn't say much for my abilities does it. Good luck with your witch hazel in the future. What type is it?

  7. Hi Tina~
    What an interesting bloom the witch hazel has, I never knew what it looked like. I always was curious about how witch hazel toner for the face was made. So...I now see it's made from these blooms. The begonia bloom is gorgeous and so vibrant.

    Happy day to you~


  8. Tina,

    I love this plant group very much...My H vernalis (named Bernice by me) is blooming. Aren't they just the best small trees! Does your beautyberry colonize . I see the native ones in large groupings when we walk at the Warner Parks?


  9. Hi Karrita, The witch hazels are fun for sure. I believe they use the bloom, bark and even leaves in making the astringent. These blooms smell really good too. Kind of jasmine and honeysuckle combined.

    Gail, I like them too. A nice group indeed. These are two beautyberries side by side. They have not colonized as yet but if they do it is okay. I will cut them back next month to about knee height. They were loaded this year and I hope next year too. Walking in the woods there are tons of beautyberries. I so enjoy them, not so much the purple ones as the reddish ones.

  10. How lucky you are to have some blooms in the garden during January! I had never heard of the Beautyberry until you talked about them a while back. I saw some while on our recent Christmas trip and knew what they were as soon as I saw them thanks to your chatting on them! I have yet to see any around our area though.

    Saint is making a pot of chili and once he has it simmering, we will go into the yard to play a little bit and hopefully before the rain shows up...

    Have a good day everyone!

  11. How lucky you are to have something blooming in winter! Someday I'll have to add a witch hazel to my garden, otherwise I think I'll go crazy waiting for spring. And thanks for the ID on the spiny tree I saw yesterday. It does indeed appear to be a honey locust!

  12. How cool is that, to have blooms in a garden in January. We here in Maine can only dream of that!!

    I have had an angel wing for years and years. I love them. It finally died last year. Several times it has nearly died but would come back from the roots. Not this time. Need another one.

  13. I go with Sunita about the Beautyberries. They look enticing. I like the short class on Vernal Witch Hazel. It seems great that it can loom after the leaves drop! Great choice.

  14. I garden in Northern California, which I think is Zone 9 (we are obsessed with our microclimates here so rely primarily on the Sunset Gardening Guide which has 22 Western specific zones), but we still seem to have plants in common. I love my hellebores, which last year bloomed all the way into late April and I consider Nandina to be one of my favorite "indestructible plants". There are many amazing new cultivars with a smaller, denser habit than the straight species, plus more interesting foliage. Check out Monrovia's website - they list a lot of cultivars in their find a plant section and are such a large grower they are carried by many nurseries all over the country.

    For winter fragrance, have you tried Sarcococca ruscifolia? Small white flowers followed by blue berries with shiny evergreen leaves, but smells nice without being overpowering - plus, it's reasonably drought tolerant and deer resistant.

  15. Skeeter, Chili sounds so good on a day like this. Rainy and it is reputed to get cold later. I just have a few things to do outside. You should see the hellebores blooming! It is nice. I bet you have tons blooming in your garden-go check the silverberries again they have me befuddled as they should be blooming!

    Mom, It is nice. Ah yes, Maine is not the state to garden all year round outside. I couldn't imagine it anymore. Well maybe, all those years in Germany were similar to Maine. But you can peruse seed catalogs and dream of the garden come spring. Those lupines will be up soon and Terri's irises. A wonderful thing!

    Chandramouli, Yes those beautyberries catch the eye. The small birds also love them too. They are busy eating now. It is fun. The witch hazels can be tricky, very tricky so it helps to research them a bit. Blogs make it easy to learn from one another.

    Susan, I went and checked my hellebores this morning and I have a white one blooming! I am so excited as it is the first year. I am also glad to hear of the plants we share. Having never been to California I have no idea what any of it is like. I think plants are universal though, but maybe not weather conditions. It sounds like you might have similar conditions to us. I am definitely putting the sweetbox on my list. I do not have this shrub and the fact it grows in the shade and is fragrant is awesome. Thanks!

  16. MsRobin, I somehow skipped you-so sorry! I was downstairs grouting something and it was hanging in my head I better get up here quick! I think I confused you with my mother saying something blooming in January. Anyhow, it is nice having something blooming down here. I could not possibly live where there is snow all winter or even part of it. We are lucky indeed if we even get snow-and for it to last more than one week, hasn't happened in the 7 years I've lived here, but who knows. I am glad I was able to help you identify the honey locust. I have experience with them as a friend asked what it was at his house. A thorny tree indeed. It grows easily and is actually quite attractive. The leaves are compound and frilly enough to allow light to come thru the canopy and not too big you have to rake them, but for obvious reasons, not a recommended tree for the landscape, at least not in my opinion. I do think you captured an excellent photo in this dreary time of winter. Spring is right around the corner! Back to grouting now-yuck!!

  17. Hi Tina, good choice! Like Dave, I have the Mediterranean heaths blooming, but they can't match the pizzazz of the witch hazel. As for the color of yours, my Diane has always been a darker red orange but this year is yellow! Although mine have some of the darker color at the base. So far there are only a smattering of blooms open, the big show should be in a couple more weeks. If your is fully open now, I am wondering if it might be misnamed. I love the color of magenta in the garden, BTW, especially the beautyberries.

  18. Frances, Thank you so much for the info on Diane. She is a new purchase so I cannot really trust how she'll show up. The first one fully opened is vernal, and it is a keeper. Very easy to grow. I remember the pics of your Diane somewhat. I am guessing I am in the rarity with not liking the magenta in the garden. Urgh! It does grow in my garden but not my favorite at all. Those beautyberries are keepers. I'm getting ready to cut them back though. Some of my hellebores are blooming-check yours as I bet yours are too! I was also looking at We Du Natives in Marion. They have an excellent selection of deciduous azaleas. I keep thinking Admiral Semmes:) Stay warm-it is frigid!

  19. Love the witch hazel. Will have to see if it will live here. Red berries in winter is great. Reminds me of holly when I was a kid.
    Still lefty--not good.

  20. Good pick for plant of the month Tina. :) I don't have a Witch Hazel, it's always good to have something that blooms in January. A boring month in my garden for sure. Then Nandinas however do add some much needed color right now with their berries & and colorful foliage.

  21. Anything that is blooming this month OUTSIDE would get my vote for sure ~ I have nothing in my zone!! The witch hazels are especially attractive. Their blooms almost exotic looking. I should look into planting one here (if it would do well). No wonder you fell for the begonia ~ it's beautiful.

  22. I can see why you chose the witch hazel, Tina. Those blooms would be a welcome sight in the garden right now. There is no "plant of the month" here--nothing is blooming at all! Even the crab apple berries have faded.
    I've seen nandinas pictured a few times, but I'm not familiar with this plant. Have you done a post on them?

  23. Hi Guys!

    Lola, I don't think the witch hazels will grow for you, but the heavenly bamboo will certainly grow down there as it is hardy to zone 10. It is the one with the red berries. Give it a try, it may need some shade. I do hope your hand gets well soon.

    Racquel, Those witch hazels are fun-and native too. Don't you just love your nandinas? Such pretty color this year!

    Kathleen, The witch hazels would do well up there. They are hardy to Zone 5 possibly 4-is that you? They are fun plants and would probably like the sun in the cooler weather.

    Rose, Ditto on the witch hazel. The heavenly bamboo shows its hardiness from about Zone 6-10. I think it may grow for you though but would be killed back to the roots in the winter (below 10 degrees). But it may resprout. I am thinking it might be more of a southern plant though. If you come to Tennessee, I have some offspring of mine I will pot up for you and you can give it a try. Never hurts to try. Nope, I haven't done a post on the nandina-a wonderful plant but one of those ubiquitous ones here. In fact it is usually a love or hate thing with it but when did that ever stop me from posting on something to cause controversy? Ha! Still you can't beat it for four season interest. Perhaps at some point I'll do a post on it. The birds are busy on those crabapples! I so enjoy watching them all.

  24. Interesting, reading about the witch-hazels as with other native plants that you write about. The berries, both the varieties look gorgeous! Rose-like begonias do well in temperate zones, even in India, but here it'd be high hopes!! Loved the shots!

  25. Thanks Kanak, I am glad you like the posts. Ditto on your posts from lovely India and the gorgeous flowers that grow there. It is all amazing this plant world.