Winter Interest Plants 2014

Nursery News: Carolyn’s Shade Gardens is a retail nursery located in Bryn Mawr, PA, specializing in showy, colorful, and unusual plants for shade.  The only plants that we ship are snowdrops and miniature hostas.  For catalogues and announcements of events, please send your full name, location, and phone number (for back up use only) to  Click here to get to the home page of our website for catalogues and information about our nursery and to subscribe to our blog.

Crocus tommasinianus, Helleborus x hybridusA beautiful winter combination: snow crocus, white hybrid hellebore, and snowdrops in the background.  This was one of the few hellebores that were up and open.

What a winter!  The snow is just melting and the ground is still frozen in places.  Today it is 44 degrees and pouring rain.  I don’t think the weather that we have had in March has reached the average highs for a normal February.  All this has resulted in many problems for Carolyn’s Shade Gardens, and one of them was scheduling Charles Cresson’s 2014 Winter Interest Plant Seminars.  Customers love these seminars during which Charles takes participants around his amazing Swarthmore garden and introduces them to the many plants that thrive in a winter garden.

Cresson winter interest seminarYou can see from the preferred attire of seminar attendees that it was quite cold even on the rescheduled date of March 23.

It became clear that we couldn’t hold the seminars on the “normal” dates of the third week in February as Charles’s garden was under several feet of snow.  The “rain” dates in the first week of March were equally frozen.  We opted for three weeks later, March 23, and 20 of the original 40 participants could actually come that day.  Thanks so much to those 20 people who stuck with us through all the rescheduling.


Cresson winter interest seminarCharles gives the group background on his garden, Hedgleigh Spring.  Plants for sale by Carolyn’s Shade Gardens are in the foreground.

Although we probably saw less plants than we have in the previous three years, I think the group appreciated them more than ever before.  Just the thought that spring might actually be coming was refreshing, and Charles’s enthusiasm for his plants was inspiring.  For background on Hedgleigh Spring and Charles Cresson, see Winter Interest Plants 2011.  For scenes from previous years, see Winter Interest Plants 2012 and Winter Interest Plants 2013.


Crocus sieberi 'Tricolor'This technicolor crocus, C. sieberi ‘Tricolor’, caught everyone’s eye.

What follows are photos of some of the plants that we saw in the order we visited them.  I hope that they will help everyone in the mid-Atlantic think spring.


Viburnum x bodnantense 'Dawn'‘Dawn’ viburnum, V. x bodnantense,  is still tightly in bud though usually done blooming by now.


Viburnum x bodnantense 'Dawn'A close up of the rose-colored buds of ‘Dawn’ viburnum—-the flowers are a lighter pink.

Galanthus 'S. Arnott', Narcissus 'Rijnveld's Early Sensation'The old-fashioned snowdrop ‘S. Arnott’ with ‘Rijnveld’s Early Sensation’, a February blooming daffodil. 


Edgeworthia chrysanthaThe buds of edgeworthia were not damaged by the cold and are just starting to swell while the hardy palm to the left looks great.


Iris reticulata 'T.S. Dijt'The reticulate iris ‘J.S. Dijt’ was in full bloom while others were still to come.


Skimmia japonicaJapanese skimmia was only slightly damaged by our subzero temperatures.


Daphne odoraWinter daphne looked a lot worse than the skimmia but will loose the brown leaves and grow fresh green ones before spring is over.  The buds are fine and still to open.


DSCN3899This tiny early daffodil with recurved petals, the species Narcissus cyclamineus, was much admired.


Cyclamen coumWinter-blooming hardy cyclamen, C. coum,  was also beautiful.


Galanthus 'Ballerina'‘Ballerina’, an elegant double snowdrop—it’s on my wish list.


Galanthus 'Ballerina'A close up of ‘Ballerina’


DSCN3893Dutch crocus, C. vernus, pushes through old sterbergia leaves.


Galanthus 'Bill Bishop'‘Bill Bishop’ snowdrop with its huge flowers and small stature.


Eranthis hyemalis doubleDouble winter aconite, Eranthis hyemalis, which Charles grew from seed.


Galanthus 'Magnet'A very healthy clump of ‘Magnet’ hybrid snowdrop drooping from the cold.


Helleborus nigerChristmas rose, Helleborus niger


Galanthus rizehensisThe rare species snowdrop Galanthus rizehensis.


Leucojum vernum var. carpathicumThe variety of spring snowflake with yellow markings, Leucojum vernum var. carpathicum.


Leucojum vernum var. carpathicumAnother group of Leucojum vernum var. carpathicum.


Leucojum vernum 'Gertrude Wister'Very rare semi-double spring snowflake ‘Gertrude Wister’, which originated in Swarthmore.  Ten happy customers ordered one in my snowdrop catalogue.


Galanthus nivalis, Crocus tommasinianusCommon snowdrops and snow crocus, the essence of late winter in Charles’s meadow.


Trillium underwoodiiThe only sign of spring in the whole garden, longbract wakerobin, Trillium underwoodii, emerging.

The forecast going forward shows no nights below freezing and daytime temperatures in the 50s and even the 60s.  Now I just have to get caught up somehow!  It has been hard to find time to keep up with the blog and to read other blogs so I apologize to my readers and fellow bloggers.


Nursery Happenings: Our second sale is scheduled for the weekend of April 12, but the details are tentative.  Customers on our list should look for an email or you can sign up for emails by sending your full name and phone number to  Coming up after that is a shrub offer.  If you have any shrubs you want, please email me at

Carolyn’s Shade Gardens is a local retail nursery in Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania, U.S., zone 7a. The only plants that we mail order are snowdrops and miniature hostas and only within the US.

If you are within visiting distance and would like to receive catalogues and information about customer events, please send your full name and phone number to Subscribing to my blog does not sign you up to receive this information.

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21 Responses to “Winter Interest Plants 2014”

  1. marti gauvreau Says:

    so, you think daphne will recover from this extreme winter? we purchased some for our garden after noticing their amazing aroma in your garden. we always wrap them in burlap for the winter, but they look awful now. and they had gotten so large and beautiful! i didn’t think there was any hope fro them….

    • Marti, Yes, my daphne odora has looked like that after many a winter and releafed in the spring to look gorgeous again. I never wrapped it. I would not touch any broad-leafed evergreen plants, including camellias, until you are sure that they are not going to drop their brown leaves and produce new leaves. Carolyn

  2. I’m so glad your dreadful winter is almost over, it must be wonderful to see all your little bulbs at last. Galanthus Ballerina is a super flower with all those layers and I love the markings on the leaves of the Trillium, it almost doesn’t need a flower.

    • Pauline, I just asked Charles if he had an extra ‘Ballerina’ for me. Evidently the extended forecast does have some days in April below freezing, maybe I spoke to soon. Thanks for reading my blog anyway even though I have been absent from the blogging world. Carolyn

  3. Joan LaLeike Says:

    I also forwarded this to Rosemont N. Club.

    Mobile message by JL


  4. No apologies necessary…your pictures have left me breathless. So nice to hear your weather is good. We are still chilly but the snow melts more each day.

  5. Fun to see your garden emerging from the winter stress. I too like the Narcissus cyclamineus. Susie

  6. It is nice seeing the early bloomers. I am sure all the people liked the tour despite the cold start to Spring. Here we had 6 inches of snow on Sunday, so winter is hanging on here. The temps are rising a bit, but snow is expected next week too. Oh well, no blooms in my garden and nothing even looking like it is coming. Not even the snowdrops yet.

  7. We are in the same zone, and your buds are the same as my buds. We had snow again recently just to prove that winter is reluctant to leave. I think the hellebores have been so confused this winter. They are in bloom, now.

  8. I can’t believe how much later your trip is this year, what a winter! I love the combo of white hellebore with dark crocus. Mine don’t seem to bloom at the same time, hellebores come a bit late. I have a ‘new dawn’ viburnum that has struggled along in the spot I have it. Can it be transplanted at this time of year? Do you know what is a good location to grow them?

    • Sorry, Terry, I don’t grow Dawn viburnum and know nothing about transplanting them. I generally recommend fall for transplanting trees and shrubs so that they don’t have to go through a potentially hot summer right away. The crocus is a special early blooming variety called snow crocus. It usually blooms in February and the hellebores anytime from January to March depending on the weather so there is no predicting if they will bloom together. Carolyn

  9. Those hardy souls who stuck it out for the trip were rewarded; I wish I could have been among them! Gertrude Wister and Ballerina are fabulous. I can totally see a dancing ballerina in that plant! Winter has just released it clutches from us. I hope! There is a nasty rumor that a freeze is expected next week. Today we are in the 50s with lows in the lower 40s.

  10. Thanks for the tour Carolyn, I really feel sorry for you guys this year, it ‘s tough when winter drags out and we’re left waiting forever for spring. We had it like that last year!
    Loved the Galanthus ‘Ballerina’, but too expensive for my pockets I am afraid. And thanks for photos of the lovely snowflakes, I still haven’t got any in my garden, would love to. I hope my Daphne will recover the same way you expect, mine was bought last autumn and is still in the pot it came in, as a quick sneak peek revealed it had no roots down to the bottom of the pot yet. It annoys me a bit when nurseries sell small plants in ‘2 litre pots’ as we all assume we get a plant that has been growing in a 2 litre pot for a while. Often what’s arriving is a small plant just recently planted in a big pot. Cheap trick.
    After the first couple of weeks the Daphne lost all leaves except for two, but I can see tiny bumps, new leaves developing all along the three stems. It flowered earlier this spring on two of the stems, that’s all finished, now I would like some leaves, fingers crossed 🙂

    • Helene, We are still in winter as far as plants in the garden with hellebores and bulbs only. I love ‘Ballerina’ and need to get my hands on it. I am very irritated too when I get a small plant in a large pot if the price reflects the larger pot. Nurseries do have to move their stock to larger sizes as they grow though. I normally don’t charge the higher price until the plant is rooted in the new pot. Your daphne should not have shed it’s leaves so soon unless it was deciduous. Was there a guarantee on the plant? Did you call the nursery? Carolyn

      • It is a Daphne odora ‘Aureomarginata’, it is supposed to be evergreen. I haven’t been in touch with the nursery I bought it from yet as I wanted to give it time to produce some new leaves first, perhaps I am just being impatient – after all it did flower! And I was also reassured by this bit that I found on a forum earlier this winter:

        “Many daphnes and often smaller subjects in pots although evergreen tend to lose their leaves in the winter so I wouldn’t worry too much, I’m sure that the leaves will re-grow in the spring.”

        This is my first year growing a Daphne, I got it in late September, I am sure the nursery will replace it if I make a complaint, they know me well and I am an old customer of them, but I don’t want to make a fuzz if this is normal and the leaves will grow back. Fingers crossed they will, the flowers were amazing last month!

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