By Evelyn Alemanni
Winter may be the nicest time to garden in Southern California, as sunny days with mild temperatures and the first rainfall of the season give us lots of opportunity to create winter interest. California winter gardens can make our friends in colder climates jealous.
One of the most striking plants in the winter garden is the heirloom poinsettia. It is a descendent of the poinsettias many people purchase during the holidays, but it’s drought-tolerant, grows tall, and blooms for months. I like to decorate mine with tinsel and ornaments for the holidays.
During winter, citrus varieties ripen, while fruit trees and succulents bloom. It’s a good time to fertilize citrus, such as this Mexican sweet lime, to assure abundant flowering in just a few months.
Succulents, such as this jade plant, are good for winter interest. In addition to being drought- tolerant, they bloom December through February.
Acacia trees put on their yellow dresses — mounds of fluffy, yellow blossoms that attract bees.
At the same time rosemary is blooming prolifically in shades of blue, orange clock vine (Thunbergia gregorii) scrambles over fences and arbors.
A special treat in Southern California is the prospect of having sweet peas bloom for Christmas. In August I plant seeds in rich, deep soil prepared with compost and fertilizer, and we often delight in sweet pea bouquets for the holidays.
During winter I enjoy cool-season flowers such as Senettis, which enjoy growing in containers more than in the ground. Their brilliant colors light up a porch or patio, and the flowers last up to two weeks in bouquets.
Cyclamen is another cool-season flowering plant I look forward to using. It comes in many colors, ranging from purest white to pink, red, lavender, and purple. Cyclamen thrives indoors and out, and can carry you from the holidays well into spring.
Geraniums are an overlooked winter delight. They bloom in colors ranging from white through many shades of pink, red, magenta, orange, and purple. In addition, some varieties offer strikingly colored foliage that brightens your winter garden.
The end of December is a great time to start planting bare-root roses, fruit trees, and berry plants. They start rooting and are ready to leaf out when days get longer.
So go ahead, make your friends in colder climates green with envy, as you add green and every color of the rainbow to your garden this winter.