Favorite Winter Blooming Plants

Gardener’s Corner | Questions and Answers with Local Experts 

By Dan Songster, 2012 January

This column is a regular newsletter feature offering chapter members and local experts a chance to briefly share information on many things related to gardening with natives.This Issue’s question was What is your favorite Winter blooming native plant?” 

Bart O’Brien – “My favorite (that isn’t a manzanita, as there are so many good ones of those) is undoubtedly Ribes malvaceum ‘Dancing Tassels’. The up to foot-long clusters of light-pink flowers are always showy (as are the following black fruits), bloom over the course of two to three months, and attract hummingbirds. Nice bark and that unusual foliage scent are added bonuses. The plants grow fast, too.

Bob Allen – “With its profusion of flowers that attract native bees, butterflies, and hummingbirds, the hands-down winner is Arctostaphylos glauca, Big-berry Manzanita.”

Laura Camp – “Manzanitas are great in winter and the hummingbird action will take your breath away. Recommendation:  place your manzanitas in a visible part of your yard that you use in the winter, for example the front yard.  Three of mine are in my cold, north-facing backyard and no one sees them in their best bloom.”

Dick Newell – “Locally Fuchsia-Flowering Gooseberry begins to bloom in December and its nodal spines reminds one to look but don’t touch.”

Charles Wright – “In the dead of winter the first great bloom has to be milk maids, California Milkwort, California Toothwort — Cardamine californica. I almost always find it in Laguna Coast Wilderness along the shady banks on the Laurel trail not too far beyond the falls. It is stark white against a rich brown earth surrounded by new fresh ferns.”

Rama Nayeri – “mmmmm…Manzanitas!  Too many to list.”

Rob Moore – “My current favorite–no pun intended–would probably be Ribes malvaceum. I love the abundant pink flower clusters and the aromatic scent of the plant. Eriogonum fasciculatum is blooming away at present in my backyard as is the Salvia ‘Skylark’ out front with its whirled lilac spirals. Life is good in the garden!”

Jennifer Beatty – “Manzanitas are always gorgeous. Island bush poppy (Dendromecon harfordii) and California sunflower (Encelia californica) keep on blooming yellow flowers for months.”

Dan Songster – “Whatever its common name, I find the emergence of blue dicks, (wild hyacinth or school bells)—Dichelostemma pulchra in December and January to be particularly lovely. Lying dormant for the summer and fall months, it is easy to forget about these charming and easy to grow bulbs until they pop up. There are especially beautiful with their clusters of amethyst colored flowers nodding on graceful stalks among some of our small to mid-sized native grasses.”


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