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Camellias: The Winter Pick Me Up

When winter seems at its bleakest, Hampton Roads gardeners have a colorful treat in store for them -- the beautiful blooms of camellias. Camellias have been a part of the southern landscape for almost 200 years. Native to the Orient, these graceful beauties were introduced into the U.S. near Charleston, South Carolina in 1786. Camellias flower in the fall and winter with blooms appearing October through March. Flowers range in color from pure white to dark red, while some cultivars offer multi-colored or variegated blooms. Flowers can be saucer-shaped single or double blooms and even ruffled like the Peony camellia. For the remainder of the year, their evergreen foliage is an attractive glossy green providing winter interest that last all year.

Most camellias are shrub-sized and compact and can serve several functions in the landscape. Whether they are planted as a hedge line, mixed with other shrubs, planted in a container, or situated as a standalone bush, camellias don't ask for much and yet give so much beauty in return. Here's just few of our faves:

Charlie Bettes - an early season bloomer that produces some of the largest blooms you will ever see on a camellia. Flowers are bright white with lemon yellow stamens. Plant full sun to partial shade.

Jacks - spring flowering variety that boasts large, pink blooms that can span up to 5 inches across. Lustrous dark green evergreen leaves last all year long. Prefers partial sun to partial shade...

Lemon Glow - early spring bloomer that features formal double blooms that open yellow and fade to creamy yellow. Prefers sun to Partial Shade.

Black Tie - late winter to early spring bloomer featuring showy, fragrant, dark red double blooms on glossy, evergreen foliage. Prefers part shade to part sun.

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Keep Your Winter Green with Conifers

Winter weather may be dreary, but your landscape doesn’t have to be. Cone-bearing trees and shrubs, known as conifers, can transform landscapes from ordinary to extraordinary with their assortment of sizes, shapes and textures. Conifers come in a variety of colors including green, yellow, blue, orange and purple. Some conifers are lacey; while others have rigid needles. Conifers that are hardy in the Hampton Roads area include: juniper, arborvitae, yews, hemlock, false cypress, and of course, pine, fir, and spruce.

Homeowners like conifers for their ease of maintenance and, of course, for their year-round appeal. And, these evergreens also work well with many other plants. Bottom line, conifers add intrigue to the winter garden and bridge the seasons with color.

Here's few of our top conifer selections perfect for your winter garden and beyond:

Jeans Dilly Spruce - is a narrow, upright, evergreen that grows approximately 2-4 inches per year, reaching about 4 feet tall at maturity, and seldom growing over 5 feet tall. It forms a perfect cone shape and keeps its shape over time. Jean's Dilly Spruce has green foliage which emerges light green in spring. The needles remain green through the winter and are distinctively twisted at the ends of the shoots. This evergreen does best in full sun to partial shade. It prefers average to moist conditions, and shouldn't be allowed to dry out. Jean Dilly is ideal for foundation plantings, rock gardens or borders. Its slow growth rate also makes it an interesting container selection.

Whipcord Arborvitae - is a unique evergreen shrub with a most unusual shape and texture. Whipcord has thick glossy tendrils and a distinctive cord-like texture. Gracefully arching downward, the cascading branches provide an interesting shape for the landscape. In the winter it will have a warm bronze hue. It is slow growing in a multi-branch globe shaped mound. Plant in full sun for top performance. Try planting alone as a specimen plant, add to your landscape planted near perennials or annuals, or even plant in a container for your porch or patio. This beauty is also deer resistant.

Japanese Yew (False Yew) - is a low-maintenance, upright evergreen shrub that will add color and height to any landscape or winter container. This multi-stemmed evergreen will provide brilliant green foliage all winter turning a more bluish-green come spring. It lends an extremely fine and delicate texture making it a great accent feature. Perfect when paired with cool weather annuals like, Pansies and Dusty Miller and trailing Vinca. Yew is so easy to maintain, performing well in both full sun and full shade. It does best in average to evenly moist conditions, but will not tolerate standing water, so ensure that there is adequate drainage when planted in a container. Deer don't particularly care for this plant and will usually leave it alone in favor of tastier treats.

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Merry Berries

Grab holiday inspiration from your own garden with berry-producing shrubs. There are several options from deciduous to evergreens, providing you with a ready source of bountiful berries. Our designers love using fresh berries for holiday decorating. Try adding them to fresh or faux greenery to create a pop of natural color. Whether you are trying to adorn your mantle, create an eye-catching table-scape or sprucing up your outdoor containers - berries make wonderful fillers! With just a little planning, you can grow these garden jewels and create your own unique decorations for Christmases to come.

Some of our berry best picks are:

Winterberry Holly ‘Southern Gentleman’ is a deciduous shrub with rich deep green foliage on an oval-rounded form. Plant as a pollenizer for Sparkleberry Winterberry. Produces no berries.

Winterberry Holly 'Winter Red’ is a tough, easy to grow shrub that looks great in mass and produces bright red berries. Once this deciduous shrub drops its leaves, the berries become the real star of the show! Since it maintains its color and berries as a cut branch, it is a very popular choice to use in floral arrangements.

Holly Nellie R. Stevens is an easy to grow classic. This evergreen shrub produces bold red berries against a deep green foliage.

Heavenly Bamboo or Nandina Domestica is an evergreen shrub that grows almost anywhere. With attractive foliage, this hardy shrub produces bright, red berries. In spite of the name, it is not a bamboo, but does grow vertically up from the roots.

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