What’s Blooming in January?

by Seattle Landscape Architect Brooks Kolb

When we think of a garden bursting into bloom, we automatically think of spring, and in the Pacific Northwest that means March and April. However, that doesn’t mean that no plants are blooming in January and February, when the garden still appears to be mostly dead. In addition to the lovely purple and yellow Crocus bulbs that everybody is familiar with, not to mention the Primroses and Cyclomens found in every supermarket’s flower shop, here are some fantastic selections for winter blooms, and three of them are fragrant to boot!

Sasanqua Camellias are a species of winter-blooming Camellias, with many named varieties. They come in white (‘Setsugekka’ and ‘White Doves’), light pink (‘Apple Blossom’); dark pink (‘Tanya’) and red (‘Yuletide.’) If you’re lucky, the latter selection will bloom at Christmas-time.

Witch Hazels (Hammamelis) are a large species of small trees or tree-form shrubs with fragrant, confetti-like flowers that twist all the way along their up-reaching branches in shades of bright yellow to deep orange. And they’re fragrant besides.

Tall Sarcococca, called “Sweet Box,” is a delicate low hedge of glossy green leaves featuring white to cream-colored flowers partly concealed in the leaf joints. These perfume the air with a vanilla-spice fragrance. Sarcococca ruscifolia has small red berries, while the virtually indistinguishable Sarcococca confusa has small black berries resembling currants or huckleberries.

Pink Dawn Viburnum (Viburnum bodnantense ‘Pink Dawn’) is a tall, upright shrub with lovely, Daphne-like fragrant pink flower clusters that bloom on the bare wood.

Hellebore Hybrids (hybrids of Helleborus orientalis, also known as “Lenten Rose”) offer downward-pointed, cup-like flowers in shades ranging from white to chartreuse to pale pinks, mauves and purples on a low-growing evergreen shrub or tall ground cover. These are flowers that I always think of as painted in water colors rather than oils. You can select a variety for a desired color or just purchase randlomly mixed hybrids and enjoy the resulting color rainbow.

If you had all 5 selections in your garden, January would not be a dead month in the garden after all!

Helleborus orientalis hybrids 

Hamamelis ‘Arnold Promise’

“Growing Gracefully” – A Brooks Kolb North Capitol Hill Garden Featured in “Pacific NW” Magazine

The Entry Gates – all photos by Seattle Times Photographer, Mike Siegel

Seattle Landscape Architect Brooks Kolb was once again featured in the Seattle Times’ “Pacific NW” Magazine on September 7, 2014, in an article by the noted Times garden writer, Valerie Easton. Titled “Growing Gracefully, A Redesign mixes the best of old and new,” the column lead with the following paragraphs:

“It’s not often a landscape architect gets another shot at a garden he designed years ago. But when horticulturist Sue Nicol was hired to come up with a fresh plant palette for an aging Capitol Hill garden, she asked Brooks Kolb to collaborate with her on the project. And it turns out that Kolb, along with his partner, Bill Talley, had renovated the garden in 1997 for an earlier owner.” ….New owners Don and Marty Sands “remodeled the (1932 brick Tudor) inside and out, then turned their attention to updating the garden. The couple appreciated the dramatic entry gates, as well as the matuing Japanese maples, Korean dogwoods and Hinoki cypress from the earlier renovation. Marty loves how the garden wraps around the house ‘like a little haven.’ And she calls the majestic copper beech that dominates the scene ‘a Grandfather tree.’”

Since the house is located on the corner of a curving street near Interlaken Boulevard, Brooks loved the original opportunity to remove a scruffy lawn, replacing it with a path that curves parallel to the road, connecting several distinct garden rooms along the way.

Mike Siegel 9-7-14.6  Mike Siegel 9-7-14.7

All photos by Seattle Times Photographer, Mike Siegel:  The House and Rockery from the Street; the Entry Gates

Mike Siegel 9-7-14.5Mike Siegel 9-7-14.4

The Birdbath with Japanese Forest Grass; Owners Marty and Don Sands

Olson ftnMike Siegel 9-7-14.8

The Fountain in 1997; The Fountain Today, with its Lily Bud Jet

Inteviewing Brooks, Valerie asked, “What was it like for Kolb to re-imagine a garden he designed long ago? ‘It’s a wonderful chance to come back in and retool a garden,’ he says. He planted a necklace of new daphnes around the old fountain and left alone the huge white wisteria growing on the hefty arbor at the side of the house.”

Brooks also relished the opportunity to work collaboratively with Sue Nicol, whose contributions to the jointly designed planting plan included the “intensely fragrant” Daphne bholua and ‘Korean Apricot’ chrysanthemums, among many other selections. Brooks has collaborated with Sue for her horticultural and arborist expertise on a number of Seattle area garden designs.

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