Top Ten January Blooms.

The stygian darkness of so many January days is considerably brightened by a few  very special winter blooms.  The shrubs which give particular pleasure are  fragrant  so that they will attract any bees brave enough to be about. Daphnes are  the most sweetly-scented delights in January. We even have a native one with yellow flowers which although not showy seeds about obligingly in my garden and is happy in deepest shade. It is only lightly fragrant but bees like it. I like it for its glossy leaves. I wouldn’t go as far as to buy it, but when it pops up I am happy to see it. It is Daphne laureola.

Daphne laureola

In another garden I used to have a beautiful yellow- flowered daphne called Daphne pontica. I have never come across it again and daphnes die if you move them so I had to leave it behind. If you come across it, believe me it is a lovely plant. I love the whole daphne tribe but they are capricious things and offer suffer from sudden death for no apparent reason.
Daphne odora ‘Aureomarginata’ smells divine but the flowers peep out from behind the leaves and it is not as showy as the peerless Daphne bhluoa ‘Jaqueline Postill’. I know I am always singing her praises but she is stunning right now and the scent is intoxicating.

Daphne odora ‘Aureomarginata’

Daphne bholua ‘Jacqueline Postill’

Another intensely fragrant plant is the Sarcococca. My favourite is Sarcococca hookeriana var. digyna. It suckers around and makes a nice spreading shrub which smells wonderful.

Sarcococca hookeriana var. digyna ‘Purple Stem’

Sarcococca confusa grows taller and has nice glossy leaves.

Sarcococca confusa

Sarcococcas need to grow in semi shade. I would like a hedge of it or maybe plants of it all round the garden as it smells so wonderful.

Recently Cathy at ramblinginthegarden showed her wonderful collection of witch hazels. They are rather addictive, specially because they brighten up January, the dreariest of months. The best witch hazels for hardiness, large flower size and a wonderful range of colours seem to be the Hamamelis x intermedia hybrids. They are a cross between the Chinese H. mollis and the Japanese H. japonica. Witch hazels like a neutral to acid soil, unlike sarcococca which prefers neutral to alkaline soil.  I do not have acid soil but witch hazels can be kept happy as long as they are kept moist in summer. I have found to my cost that you will not get many blooms if they dry out in the crucial months when the buds are forming. So  remember, moisture in summer, but they must not be water-logged in winter.  A good annual mulch of garden compost or manure will keep them happy. It is difficult to choose a favourite, but this year I am particularly beguiled by H.’ Orange Peel’. I don’t know whether it is the power of suggestion but I think she smells of marmalade.

Hamamelis x intermedia ‘Orange Peel’

H. ‘Jelena’ is also orange but more of a coppery orange, I can’t detect any fragrance on ‘Jelena’ but it is beautiful.

Hamamelis x intermedia ‘Jelena’

H. ‘Vesna’, named after the Russian Goddess of spring is yellowy- orange and deliciously fragrant. It is also one of the best for autumn foliage.

Hamamelis x intermedia ‘Vesna’

H.’Livia’ has a good autumn foliage too. It has bright red flowers rather similar to those of ‘Diana’.

Hamamelis x intermedia ‘Livia’

I bought a new witch hazel this week and as it didn’t have a label I got it reduced which is very satisfying because witch hazels have to be grafted and they don’t come cheap. It looks very like ‘Liva’ but then it could be ‘Diana’ I am not really sure. When I brought it home in the car the fragrance was wonderful, which is often the way with witch hazels, somehow they don’t smell so strongly in the open air. Perhaps they need warmth to bring out the fragrance.

Does anyone recognise it? It could even be ‘Rubin’ which is the only red witch hazel to win an AGM. Yesterday, the sun came out and it looked amazing with the sun shining on the blooms. Actually, not only did the sun come out yesterday, but birds  started singing. Today we are back to gloom and the birds have very sensibly decided to save their voices.

I know some people think that witch hazels should be yellow and anything else is an aberration. I like yellow ones too and for some reason they are always later coming in to bloom in my garden, so I will save them for February and now let’s move on to the next smelly shrub and that is a winter-flowering honeysuckle called Lonicera ‘Elisae’. For some reason this one remains quite rare. It is much more beautiful than other winter flowering honeysuckles and makes a nice compact shrub with large tubular flowers which are flushed with pink. Roy Lancaster introduced it in from China in 1983. I’m afraid my photo doesn’t really do it justice.

Lonicera elisae

My other winter obsessions are hellebores and snowdrops. These are the flowers that really come into their own in February but they are already giving pleasure in January. The snowdrop season starts in December and goes on until March and the different varieties ensure that sufferers from white fever always have something to croon over.

I know that to many gardeners a snowdrop is a snowdrop, so I will just show you a few from the many that draw me outside on the most miserable days. Galanthus ‘Sam Arnott’ has a good sized flower and clumps up nicely. The flowers are fragrant when you bring them indoors.

G. ‘Sam Arnott’

G ‘Robin Hood’ has the distinctive scissor-lie markings on its inner petals.

G. ‘Robin Hood’

G.’Titania’ is one of the Greatorex doubles named after Shakespearean heroines. They are all quite similar but I think this is one of the best.

G.‘ Titania’

I bought the next one as ‘Anglesey Abbey’ but it was clearly wrongly labelled as it has yellow ovaries. Still I am pleased with it. Perhaps it is ‘Wendy’s Gold’.

G. Diggory’ is a very distinctive snowdrop  with its puffed out flowers.

G. ‘Diggory’

Another easily recognisable snowdrop is G. ‘Magnet’ with long its long curved pedicels  I love the way the flowers sway in the breeze.

G. ‘Magnet’


G.’Bill Bishop’ is not very tall but it has huge flowers which dangle on a long pedicel in a similar fashion to those of ‘Magnet’.

Galanthus ‘Bill Bishop’

Ok, your eyes are glazing over so I will save some more snowdrops for another day. I think they should be given out in small doses as not everybody is a galanthophile. So let’s move on to primroses which are the harbingers of spring .

A true winter flower is the winter aconite, Eranthis hyemalis which soon seeds around into carpets if it is happy. I look out for its little, round yellow buds early in January. The flowers open out in the sun to look like little buttercups with a nice green ruff.

Eranthis hyemalis

At the same time as the winter aconites the earliest species crocuses open up. If you prefer the shiny fat Dutch crocus you have to wait until March. I love the little Tommies, Crocus tommasinianus which seeds around as happily as the aconites and comes in various shades of violet. The early bees love them too.

Crocus tommasinianus

It’s just a little early for the first Iris reticulata in the garden although ‘Pauline’ is showing purple. I prefer growing them in the greenhouse so that I get them early and they don’t get spoilt by bad weather. I have a big pot of the sky blue- Iris reticulata ‘Alida’ which I planted up for last winter and it looks good again.

Iris reticulata ‘Alida’

I have found two new varieties this year and they are both delightful. The first one is Iris reticulata ‘Painted lady’ and she does indeed look as if she has been painted.

Iris reticulata ‘Painted lady’

The second one is a variation of ‘Ķatharine Hodgkin’ and it is called ‘Katharine’s Gold’

Iris reticulata ‘Katharine’s Gold’

These little treasures are really February blooms but Iris unguicularis blooms all winter long.

Iris unguicularis

I will be revelling in my hellebores next month but here are a few early ones. Let’s start with the native Helleborus foetidus which pops up all over the garden.

Helleborus foetidus

A new one this year is ‘Painted Bunting’ with large flowers edged in deep pink.

Helleborus orientalis ‘Painted Bunting’

I have several helleborus ericsmithii hybrids and they are all gorgeous.

Helleborus ericsmithii

Most of my doubles are not out yet, but the dainty Helleborus ‘Phoebe’ is looking good.

Helleborus ‘Phoebe’

I read sometimes that you should remove the seedlings from your special hellebores so that you keep only special ones. I am glad that the previous owner of this house didn’t heed this advice. I have carpets of hellebores everywhere and they are all beautiful. It is a chore removing all their leaves in winter but it is worth the effort to keep them free from fungal disease.

I did feature my special Narcissus minor ‘Cedric Morris’ last month. I have another clump which is blooming now. This narcissus is difficult to find and expensive but if you get a chance to buy it, you will be rewarded by perfect little daffodils in the darkest days of winter.

Narcissus minor ‘Cedric Morris’

I am a bit late with my favourite blooms this month but if you have time to join me and share yours it would be lovely. Otherwise please show us your favourite February blooms.

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59 Responses to Top Ten January Blooms.

  1. March Picker says:

    What a fabulous selection of winter blooms! You must love walking through your gardens. Your Daphnes and Hellebores are especially nice, and thanks for introducing me to a couple new-to-me fragrant specimens.

  2. Christina says:

    A lovely post; I’ll try to join you tomorrow.

    • Chloris says:

      Thank you Christina, I am a bit late this month but up until Sunday it was so dull and grey outside. Next month I shall aim to post much earlier. Lovely if you could join in.

  3. rusty duck says:

    Are hellebores earlier this year or is it just my imagination? Most of mine have flower buds almost ready to pop. Well those that haven’t been found by the pheasant or the bunnies already. Strange, in previous years hellebores are one of the few precious things that haven’t been touched.

    • Chloris says:

      You are right the hellebores do seem early, goodness knows why, up until Sunday the weather was unremittingly dull. The aconites are much later, last year they bloomed very early in January. They all work to their own mysterious time clocks.

  4. croftgarden says:

    I feel a little like a voyeur peping over the garden hedge to look at the lovely flowers. At present spring flowers are a distant dream, so it is lovely to enjoy your garden from a far.

    • Chloris says:

      You are welcome to peep over my garden hedge Christine, it would be lovely to welcome you into my garden. I look forward to seeing what interesting plants you grow in your polytunnels this year.

  5. I love all these winter blooms – have failed so far with witchhazels in pots as they have been destroyed by vine weevil. Had kept them in pots because of the acid loving thing -will try them in the ground next time.

  6. Your winter garden is looking wonderful from this side of the pond.

  7. Kris P says:

    Each and every one is lovely! Greedy plant collector that I am, I wish I could grow Daphnes, witch hazels, and snowdrops but apparently warm winters and parched soil don’t match their requirements. If I have a chance before month end, I’ll snap photos of the blooms that find such conditions more hospitable and append a link.

  8. Oh, it’s Snowdrop and Hellebore time for you! How wonderful! Mine won’t bloom until March, so this is my time of year to blog-hop and see late winter/spring waking up in other parts of the world. I remember seeing Daphnes during some of my trips to warmer climes–they are sweet. I heard that Vernal Witch Hazels are starting to bloom here, which is hard to believe since we have several weeks of winter left and snow on the ground. Thanks for sharing this early view of spring!

    • Chloris says:

      Oh poor you with more winter to come. February is when things really get going here with snowdrops, hellebores and crocuses at their best, along with fragrant shrubs.

  9. tonytomeo says:

    That first daphne look pretty cool. I used grow Daphne odorata ‘Variegata’, and I know people like it, but it is so variable. Sometimes it does well. Often, it does not.
    That Loniceria looks interesting too. We have only Japanese honeysuckle. It happens to be one of my favorites, and it makes me wonder about all the others that we do not grow.

    • Chloris says:

      Well that’s daphnes for you, they are the divas of the garden. But when they are happy they are sublime. And the Kiri Te Kanawa of them all is ‘Jacqueline Postill’.
      We have several fragrant winter flowering honeysuckles but Lonicera elisae is a real aristocrat.

      • tonytomeo says:

        In production, we actually had to remove the flowers to get the stock plants to produce more cuttings! I know it sounds horrible, but we were not growing them for a landscape. We just needed cuttings. Rather than just discard the flowers, I would put a pile of them in a big pewter bowl on the coffee table. My associated would do the same in their homes. The fragrant was exquisite!

  10. mrsdaffodil says:

    Oh, the hellebores! So charming. ‘Phoebe’ is especially attractive. You really are lucky!

  11. Pauline says:

    You have a beautiful selection of flowers, mostly the same as i grow here apart from the Aconites,.They just dont like my soil for some reason, I have tried so many times to grow them, but they only last a couple of years, apart from one single one which must be at least 10 yrs old by now and it is still a single plant!

    • Chloris says:

      I know we have the same taste in plants Pauline. Winter aconites are funny things, if they like your soil they will seed everywhere, if they don’t nothing will induce them to grow. I gave so many to my father over the years, he could never get them to grow.

  12. Stygian! Love that word, it really captures January this year. Love that new Orientalis too….thanks for the post.

  13. Chloris says:

    Yes, stygian just about sums up this month up until Sunday and then the sun came out. It did it again today. Wonderful, if only it could last.

  14. snowbird says:

    Chloris, I have to say that your garden is a never ending source of joy and inspiration to me!!! Fancy selling up and letting me move in????xxx

  15. Eliza Waters says:

    I’m loving your Hamamelis and Hellebores – gorgeous!

  16. Peter Herpst says:

    Thanks for sharing the many winter treasures in your garden! The magic of the growing season has begun!

  17. Chloris says:

    Magic is the word. It is such an exciting time.

  18. Wow! Where do I start! I have always wanted to grow winter aconites so have a special yearning for them. They have never come to much here, I think it might be the acidic soil. The witch hazels are fabulous, the hellebores swoony, even your choice of snowdrops are different (and beautiful) enough not to make me nod off. Lovely selection.

  19. Sam says:

    Gosh, what a wonderful selection. I’m always miss the scent of Daphne b ‘JP’ at this time of year, and witch hazel; we left two wonderful specimens behind when we moved here – as you say, Daphne hates to be moved and we have alkaline soil… I am imagining your marmalade-scented witch hazel – lovely! Thank you for identifying the irises – we have a clump of what I now know is I.unguicularis which has been flowering for weeks 🙂
    I am sorry (and ashamed) to let you know that the lovely snowdrops you very kindly sent me have not survived. I don’t know what I did wrong. At least I can come here to admire yours (and we have loads of G.nivalis).
    Here’s to winter scent, colour and beauty!

    • Chloris says:

      Well there you are. Two must-haves for your current garden. I wouldn’t be without them. I don’t think the alkaline soil matters as long as you give them plenty of humus and keep them well watered. Sorry to hear that you lost the snowdrops. Yes, there is plenty to enjoy in winter, I am specially fond of the garden in February

  20. Brian Skeys says:

    I cannot understand people who finish gardening in August and don’t start again untill March (or Easter). A tour of your garden Chloris demonstrates how much of interest there can be in a well thought out garden.

  21. You’re making me very impatient for spring. I wish I had ANY January blooms. I quite like your witch hazel, especially ‘Vesna’. The H. intermedia flowers seem to be very superior to our H. virginiana.

  22. Chloris says:

    Yes, these Japanese/Chinese crosses have been bred for their larger flowers. I hope spring comes soon to your garden.

  23. smallsunnygarden says:

    You have so many lovelies for the end of January! I grew some of these in my old garden – snowdrops, hellebores, aconite – and they remain some of my favorite-of-all flowers, but the species crocuses would never cooperate though I never knew why. I’m fascinated by your Lonicera “Elisae” – is it really as dainty as it looks? I did take your advice and round up some blooms for the first of February, as I couldn’t quite make it for January! 😉

  24. Cathy says:

    It is always good to catch up on what’s new in your garden Chloris, knowing it will invariably be something delightful, and often something to lust over…I will need to remember how much daphnes like shade when I begin work on mid term plans later in the year… Your new witch hazel looks susiciously pink on my screen but if you compare it to Diane then it presumably really is red after all. And is Sarcococca hookeriana var. digyna the one with darker stems that you have mentiioned before? It wasn’t obvious from the photo. Thanks for sharing your January blooms, however late in the month they were; mine, which you have already seen, are at

    • Chloris says:

      Thank you Cathy. I shall try to post my top 10 blooms earlier this month. Mind you I don’t like the look of the weather forecast. I hope we won’t be covered in snow.
      Yes the sarcococca is the one called ‘Purple Stem’.
      The new witch hazel is a pinky red, it looks very like my ‘Livia’.
      And thank you for posting your top 10, I enjoyed them.

      • Cathy says:

        Possibilty of light snow here Tuesday, and particularly chilly o/n all week. I have my first gardy annuals germinating so they will be in for a shock!

  25. bittster says:

    I wish my garden looked nearly as nice in January. I suppose some people see beauty in ice crystals and glistening snowscapes but I prefer green. At least the winter break helps me appreciate it more… unless that’s just something I tell myself.
    Thanks for showing a few snowdrops. I’d be fine with more, but it’s a start. The other goodies are amazing as well!

    • Chloris says:

      I’m with you, plants rimed with frost and gleaming white snow don’t do it for me. I know you are happy to look at snowdrops and I love looking at them too, but a few bloggers have dropped hints that they don’t get the fascination. Personally I don’t know how gardeners get through the winter if they don’t enjoy counting little green spots on their snowdrops. What else is there to do in January?

  26. Anna says:

    Oh I enjoyed this post Chloris and as usual when I read your posts my plant wish list grows and grows. Looking forward to seeing more of your snowdrops – my eyes won’t be glazing over 🙂

  27. janesmudgeegarden says:

    I have just discovered your blog, and what a beautiful tour I had around your winter garden. There’s so much to find joy in. I love that ‘Painted Bunting’ . My garden is too young and I have very little shade with a lot of hot sun (Australia) so Hellebores are not an option for me yet. I have to enjoy them vicariously for now.

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