I’ve just returned from a visit to Florida and am completely disheartened to see that spring has not “sprung” in my absence. Yes, the snow is just about gone but after 6 straight days of  blue skies, palm trees and grass under my (bare!!!) feet I am impatiently awaiting spring’s arrival now more than ever.

But I know that March 21st won’t prompt a Chia-like response from my plants and trees. So this season I will be planting  some shrubs and perennials that will be in flower by this time next year. There are actually several shrubs (and even some perennials) that are in bloom right now – and a few as early as February. 

So imagine stepping outside your door next March to a burst of  color to brighten your spirits and help get you through those long final weeks of seemingly endless gray skies………a nice change from the mud-browns and dreary grays that I’m seeing outside my window as I write this.

Here, along with the tried and true forsythia, are some of my favorite shrubs for late winter interest:

Witch hazel (Hamemalis) – this shrub is a keeper –  blooms as early as January, with crinkly, long-lasting flowers in shades of yellow, rust and red. Witch hazel has beautiful fall foliage too – I love a plant that does double duty. Two of my favorite varieties are “Arnold’s Promise” (yellow blooms) and “Diane” (coppery red blooms).

Cornelian Cherry (Cornus mas) – this large shrub or small tree is in the Dogwood family, and is the earliest dogwood to bloom in our region. It boasts great fall foliage, bright red fruit and an exfoliating bark in addition to the clusters of bright yellow flowers that bloom in March.

Winter Honeysuckle (Lonicera fragrantissima) – masses of fragrant, long-lasting white flowers are one of the nicest features of this late winter bloomer. This is one of my favorite shrubs and sadly underused.

Winter Jasmine (Jasminum nudiflorum)a fast-growing, low-maintenance shrub, jasmine has yellow flowers that can start blooming in January and last till April. In addition, this shrub’s bright green stems (which hold their color year-round) really stand out against the mostly gray and brown winter landscape.

Lenten Rose (Helleborus orientalis) – though a perennial, not a shrub, I could not write about winter-bloomers without mentioning hellebores – they should be planted in every garden. To start, the foliage stays evergreen – unusual for a perennial. The flowers appear in February or March and can last as long as 3 months. And they don’t wilt or droop as they age, but rather fade from a dusky, rosy purple to a soft green. And, it’s truly deer resistant – I promise. Be forewarned – all parts of this plant are poisonous, so keep them away from pets and small children, and wash hands thoroughly after handling.

Please note: I live, write and garden in Zone 6 and as such, recommend plants that are readily available and thrive in my area. Not sure of  your zone? Check here, as well as your local nurseries, for help in selecting the best plants for your region.

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