Winter whites

Snow blankets a winter garden with white.

There’s the snow that blankets landscapes, the frost that outlines foliage and winter berries, and the ice that forms in birdbaths. It’s winter, and the season routinely expresses itself in white.

Frost sits on perennial sweet pea like a coating of sugar crystals.

But nature doesn’t stop with snowflakes, shimmering frost, and glistening ice. To the delight of gardeners, nature punctuates the season with flowers and foliage as white as the snow itself.

Ornamental grass shimmers with early morning frost.

Glance outside. White-flowering pansies edge walkways like drifts of snow. The velvety blooms beautify beds awaiting the emergence of spring bulbs. Pansies thrive in pots, planters, and window boxes. Scale down the display with the miniature pansy-like flowers of violas and Johnny jump-ups. The latter are especially suited to spill their clouds of tiny blooms from containers and planter boxes. For a memorable display, plant young transplants of Johnny jump-ups in strawberry jars. It won’t take long before each planting pocket will become a billowing bouquet.

Continued Below

Their beauty and versatility help rank pansies, violas, and Johnny jump-ups among the favorite cool season annuals.

But flowers aren’t the only winter whites. Foliage, too, brightens dreary landscapes with snowy hues. Despite a palette of floral-like leaves in colors ranging from pink to red, it’s the green and white varieties of flowering cabbage and flowering kale that most closely resemble frilly bowls of snow. Interchange these cold-loving annuals with each other in beds and containers. For the frilliest display select flowering kale. Its foliage tends to be more finely cut than the waxy, ruffled leaves of flowering cabbage. Plants bolt in mid-spring.

Osaka white, Nagoya white, and other green and white varieties of flowering kale and flowering cabbage resemble bowls of snow. The showy rosettes develop their richest color in full sun.

Like snowflakes, dusty miller decorates winter gardens with its lacy, silver-white foliage. Let this old-fashioned hardy annual mingle in beds with flowering cabbage and flowering kale, or shear the stems to keep it in bounds in containers.

The finely-cut foliage of dusty miller resembles snowflakes. Dusty miller is also known as `silver dust.’

Shrubs, too, contribute to winter’s wonderland. ‘Polar Ice’, ‘Snow Flurry’… the names themselves of these white-blooming camellias suggest the frosty chill of winter. Long a woodland favorite of East Texas gardeners, Camellia japonica typically showcases double blooms against glossy, dark green foliage. Given well-drained, organically-rich soil, most varieties grow to form 6-12 foot tall shrubs. Japonicas bloom from mid-winter until spring.

Camellia decorates winter gardens with luscious blooms and glossy, dark green foliage. White-blooming selections include `Mine-No-Yuki’ and `Setsugekka’.

Bulbs share the winter spotlight, as well. The only thing more intoxicating than paperwhites’ unmistakable fragrance is the purity of color of their snow-white blooms. For folks who garden in Texas’ mildest regions, including the Gulf Coast, these old-fashioned, frosty-white members of the Narcissus family bloom in early winter. They multiply vigorously, eventually forming large clumps. Tip: the blue-green leaves supply energy for the following year’s blooms. Don’t cut the foliage until it dries and turns yellow.

Paperwhites’ clusters of snowy white flowers are a welcome sight in early winter when little else is blooming.
Enjoy paperwhites’ snowy blooms in sunny gardens or “force” the bulbs to bloom indoors in water or moist potting soil.

Compared to attention-grabbing paperwhites, dainty snowflakes (Leucojum) are garden wallflowers: that is, they are somewhat shy, but no less lovable. Plant these petite beauties along sidewalks, beside paths, or anywhere you can appreciate their delicate beauty close-up. Although commonly called snowflakes, “snowbells” better describes the dainty white flowers that dangle like bells from the arching stems. The plants reach 18 inches high. Grow them in masses for the showiest effect.

You have to look closely at snowflakes to see the tiny green dot at the end of each flower petal.

Eventually, as spring arrives, shades of green and cheerful pastels will overtake the landscape. But for now, it’s winter with all its radiant white.

Paperwhites thrive along the Texas Gulf Coast where they decorate early winter gardens with clusters of fragrant white blooms.
Posted by Diane Morey Sitton
Back To Top