Planting flowers that are in season in winter is a gardener's salvation. When snow covers the ground and it is impossible to dig, plant and mulch, frustration can set in and make your winter doldrums more even oppressive. Planning for this inevitability by planting a selection of winter-blooming flowers can ease the boredom and restlessness of those frigid months and make you mindful of the joys that lie ahead in spring.
Helleborus orientalis, or Lenten rose, is an herbaceous (without woody stems) perennial that blooms in winter when even the smallest touch of color is welcome. Evergreen in warm climates, Lenten rose will push up through a blanket of snow to brighten wintry landscapes. Dark green leaves are leathery in texture. They grow into neat mounds 16 to 20 inches tall from which drooping blossoms rise. Flowers resemble single roses and are 2 to 3 inches across. They cluster above the foliage with heads bent toward the ground. White to greenish-white flowers are most common, but pink, rose and purple varieties are available. Hardy in zones 4 to 9, Lenten rose likes loose, well-drained soil and heavy to light shade.
Lonicera fragrantissima, or winter honeysuckle, is a stiff-branched, bushy deciduous shrub that contributes both flowers and fragrance to the winter garden. Adaptable to a wide range of soils, winter honeysuckle prefers a moist, well-drained bed in full sun or partial shade. Typical size at maturity is 6 to 10 feet tall and equally wide; selective pruning may be necessary to maintain the plant's size and shape. Creamy-white, tubular flowers appear in March or April, before leaves emerge, and fill the air with their lemony fragrance. Cut branches in a casual vase arrangement bring the essence of spring indoors. Small red berries and bluish-green foliage follow flowers. Winter honeysuckle is perennial and hardy in zones 4 to 8.
Daphne odora, winter daphne, is notable for its fragrant flowers that bloom from winter to spring. Hardy in zones 7 through 9, evergreen winter daphne grows 3 to 6 feet tall and equally wide. Purple buds open to rosy pink flowers; leaves are shiny and dark green. Winter daphne prefers filtered sun or a partially shaded location. An ideal specimen plant, winter daphne also functions well in borders or as an informal hedge. Routine pruning will keep the rounded shape full and neat. As lovely as it is, this perennial is notoriously unpredictable and has been known to die suddenly and without warning. However, careful placement and management go far in preventing these problems. Excellent drainage is a must.