Thursday, November 20, 2014

Garden Travelers On The Go In 2015!

Ancient Sicily and the Amalfi Coast
April 15-28, 2015
(with an optional Amsterdam extension, April 28-30)
While winter weather sets in across much of the country, my mind is on traveling! 2014 found me leading groups to England, Scotland and Tuscany and 2015 is setting up to be even more exciting! We will be doing a total of three trips next year, the first in April to Sicily and Southern Italy with an optional extension to Amsterdam. You will find the full itinerary and pricing below.
September 9-21, 2015 will find us leading a trip to Normand and Belgium. That itinerary will be available soon and will also be posted on the blog, as well as on my website when complete.
November 19-December 4, 2015 will find us leading one of our biggest tours yet, exploring Australia for 17 days. We are currently working on this itinerary, hoping to have it complete by mid-December. It will also be available both on my blog and my website.
I hope you will consider joining us for one of these amazing tours to some of the world's most spectacular destinations. For questions, please email me at
Ancient Sicily and The Amalfi Coast
April 15          Depart the U.S. for Palermo, Sicily
April 16          Arrival in Palermo, Sicily--Dinner at our hotel in Erice
April 17                      Today we will visit the ancient Greek temple at Segesta, which can make a valid claim to being the best preserved in the world. This archeological site, about seventy kilometers southwest of Palermo and reflecting the presence of several ancient civilizations, will certainly amaze you.  Its amphitheater boasts a hilltop position on Mount Barbaro that is second to none.  We will return to Erice in time for you to enjoy free time in this wonderful town.
April 18                      Our second day of sightseeing finds us at The Cathedral of Montreal, one of the greatest extant examples of Norman architecture in the world. It was begun in 1174 by William II and in 1182 the church, dedicated to the Assumption of the Virgin Mary, was elevated to the rank of a metropolitan cathedral. The church is a national monument of Italy and one of the most important attractions of Sicily.   We will continue to the Villa Romana del Casale, a Roman villa built in the first quarter of the 4th century and located about 3 km outside the town of Piazza Armerina, Sicily. Containing the richest, largest and most complex collection of Roman mosaics in the world, it is one of 49 UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Italy.  We will spend the night in Taormina.
April 19                      This morning we will visit the private garden of Rossella Pezzino, Giardini Le Stanze in Fiore. Rosella began the villa restoration in 1996 and the garden followed shortly thereafter in 2000.  After visiting this garden masterpiece, we will be treated to a wonderful garden lunch. This afternoon we are in for another treat as we visit Villa Cuseni.  Often considered to be the finest house in Taormina, Villa Cuseni has enviable views of both the sea and Mount Etna. The terraced gardens were carefully designed to hold the rainfall from winter until needed during long, hot summer months. The gardens each display a stunning, eye-catching feature, as well as being adorned with some of the original citrus, other fruit trees, roses, vines and wisteria. As a relatively modern 20th century garden, you will see bold Rococo and Art Deco design. Dinner on your own tonight in Taormina.
April 20                      We will begin our day with a trip to the Benanti Winery where we will not only enjoy a tour of the winery, but also lunch and a wine tasting.  This winery, one of the most important in Sicily, has won several awards over the last twenty years and is located directly on the slopes of Mount Etna.  After lunch, we will return to Taormina where you will have an opportunity to visit this charming town at your leisure.
April 21                      Today we will visit the Garden of Biviere and Villa Borghese.  The garden’s owner, Maria Carla Borghese, will be our guide.  We will have a wonderful lunch after our guided tour and we promise that this will be one of the highlights of the trip!  After lunch, we continue to the garden of the Grand Marquess of San Giuliano at Villasmundo, near Siracusa. The property has been in the Marchesi PaternĂ² Castello di San Giuliano family for more than 800 years.  After our visit we will check into our hotel in Siracusa.
April 22          Today we will see ruins!  An early visit to The Archeological Park of Siracusa will start our day.  Until the Arab conquest of 878, Siracusa was the capital of Sicily and was by far the most important city on the island. We will visit the Ear of Dyonisus, the Greek Theatre, and the Ara (altar) di Ierone. Afterwards, we will walk through the historical centre of Ortigia to admire the Cathedral, constructed over the ancient Temple of Athena, the Aretusa fountain and the ancient and baroque streets. Lunch will be at your leisure in Ortigia. We will then depart for Catania where we will spend the night.
April 23          This morning, we will depart Sicily for our short flight to Naples. Once we have landed and collected our luggage, we will meet our private coach for a visit to Pompeii. As you know, Pompeii is one of the world’s most famous archaeological sites, having been buried in the eruption of Mt. Vesuvius in 79 A.D. when it was a thriving city of 11,000 people, complete with a complex water system, an amphitheater, a gymnasium and a port. When we finish at Pompeii, we depart for the Amalfi Coast.  Tonight will find us staying in Ravello, one of the most beautiful and picturesque towns in all of Italy.  You will not be disappointed in Ravello!
April 24          We have been on the go since we landed in Sicily more than a week ago, so we hope you find this day a real gift—a day of leisure to explore Ravello! Ravello is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The town’s Duomo (Cathedral), the villas Rufolo and Cimbrone and their gardens, the church of San Giovanni del Toro, and more await you in this most beautiful place. Or maybe you’ll make your way down to the water for a relaxing and leisurely afternoon.
April 25          Today we will travel to the Island of Ischia where we will visit the private home and garden of the late Lady Susana Walton.  This is a truly magical place and you will be awed by its beauty.  We will tour the garden and be treated to a garden lunch, followed by some free time in Ischia before returning on the ferry to Ravello for the evening.
April 26          This morning, we will depart Ravello and make our way north to Rome via the Palace of Caserta, known as the Versailles of the south. This extraordinary palace and garden is difficult to describe. Its sheer size and beauty will take your breath away. You really have to see it to believe it!  We will also make another special stop before arriving in Rome.
April 27          Today, we will spend the day in Rome. You will have the opportunity to see some of Rome’s most famous sites, including the Roman Forum, the Colosseum, the Pantheon, Trevi Fountain and more.
April 28          Depart Rome for the U.S. or take the optional extension to Amsterdam, listed below.
The cost of this trip is $4,250.00 per person. This package includes all ground transportation by private coach in both Sicily and Italy, your flight from Sicily to Naples on April 23, all entrance fees into the public and private sites visited as a group as noted in the itinerary, a minimum of one meal (breakfast) each day with some lunches or dinners also provided. Not included are the tips for our coach drivers in Sicily and Italy, usually $5.00 per traveler, per day.
Should you wish to travel singly, a single supplement is available on request. Single spaces are always limited due to limited availability of single hotel accommodations, so please inquire early.
Dec. 15, 2014—Deposits of $450 are due no later than December 15 and preferably sooner to secure your space on the trip. ***If you are traveling singly, your single supplement will be due at the same time as your deposit to secure your space.
Jan. 10, 2015—The first installment of $1,000.00 is due to Garden Travelers.
Feb. 10, 2015—The second installment of $1,400.00 is due to Garden Travelers.
Mar. 10, 2015—The final installment of $1,400.00 is due to Garden Travelers.
Optional Extension:  Due to the timing of this trip, we have a unique opportunity to add an optional, 3-day extension to Amsterdam to visit the world famous bulb display at Keukenhof, Het Loo palace and leisure time to explore Amsterdam. The cost of this extension is $450 per person, which will include a 3-night hotel stay (April 28, 29 and 30), ground transportation for group visits, cost of admission to the sites we visit as a group and breakfast each morning.  ***PLEASE NOTE*** If you choose to join us on this optional extension, you will be booking a “multi-city” international flight. You will be flying from the U.S. to Palermo, Sicily and then from Rome, Italy to Amsterdam, returning to the U.S. from Amsterdam at the end of the extension.  This is not difficult to book and we will be happy to answer any questions you may have. If you choose to join us on this extension, you will be returning to the U.S. on May 1, 2015 (staying in Amsterdam the nights of April 28, 29, 30 and flying out the morning of May 1 to land in the U.S. that afternoon/evening).
AIRFARE:      International airfares are NOT included in the price of the trip. This allows travelers to use a variety of means, including airline and credit card points, to purchase their airfare. Garden Travelers will be happy to answer questions and can offer some assistance to travelers in booking airfare and will suggest flights for all travelers to ensure that the group arrives at the appointed destination in a timely manner and we stay on our first day’s schedule.  ***PLEASE NOTE*** (repeating from above) You will be booking a multi-city flight if you choose to do the Amsterdam extension—U.S. to Palermo, Sicily, then departing Rome for Amsterdam and then Amsterdam to the U.S. at the end of the extension. Please consult with us regarding flights and times to ensure that the group arrives in a timely manner at each destination where the group will meet.
TRAVEL INSURANCE:  Garden Travelers does not offer travel insurance, but it may be obtained reasonably by individual travelers. We strongly suggest that you consider insuring your trip, as none of us knows when an unforeseen issue may arise. If you have questions about purchasing travel insurance, please do not hesitate to contact us, as we are happy to help.
PASSPORTS: Current passports are required for travel to nearly all destinations outside of the U.S.  Please be sure that your passport is current or that you apply for your passport (if you don’t have one) at least 90 days prior to departure, and even further ahead of time is preferable and highly encouraged.  Better to be safe than sorry!
G  A  R  D  E  N     T  R  A  V  E  L  E  R  S
T   E   R   M   S       &       C   O   N   D   I   T   I   O   N   S
RESERVATIONS & PAYMENT:  To guarantee your reservation, a deposit, noted above, is required at the time of booking. Payments must be made in accordance with the payment schedule.  Final payment is due no later than 60 days prior to departure, or as noted in the itinerary, after which time a late fee of $100 per person may apply.
CANCELLATIONS & REFUNDS:  A full refund minus $500/person administrative charge will be made where written notice of cancellation is received more than 90 days prior to departure.  If the airline ticket has been purchased, the client will own the ticket and will pay for it in addition to the $500.00 administrative charge.   Cancellations received 45-90 days prior to departure will incur a cancellation fee of 50% of the total tour price.  It the airline ticket has been purchased, the client will own the airline ticket and must pay for the ticket in addition to 50% of the total tour cost.   A cancellation fee of 100% of the total tour price will apply where notice of cancellation is received less than 30 days prior to departure. Garden Travelers will try to recover from its vendors part of the cost of the trip, but cannot guarantee what will be recovered for the client.  Once a tour has commenced there can be no refunds on unused portions. We strongly recommend that you take out trip cancellation insurance, which we are happy to make recommendations for.
PRICE CHANGE:  Tour price is based on a minimum of 20 passengers. Should the number of passengers fall below 20, Garden Travelers reserves the right to alter the tour price, in order to reflect that change. Price is also based on hotels as given, motor coach costs as negotiated, and an exchange rate of 1.5. Should hotels change for reasons beyond our control, or coach companies impose a fuel surcharge, or should the value of the dollar drop significantly against other currencies, the tour price may increase. Increase in tour price, for whatever reason, will not exceed 15% of list price.
TOUR PRICE DOES NOT INCLUDE:  Airfare (unless otherwise noted), excess baggage charges, items of personal nature, telephone calls, room service and alcoholic beverages or other special beverages ordered at group meals, optional extensions, meals not listed in itinerary, or tips to the tour guide and driver. (At some special meals the cost of beverages will be included, and the customer will be made aware of these occasions.)
PRICES:  All prices are based on double occupancy and are in US dollars. Single supplements are charged to cover additional costs imposed by hotels on Garden Travelers for single occupancy rooms.
RESPONSIBLILTY:  Tour itineraries are planned in advance.  Garden Travelers reserves the right to make necessary alterations, should local conditions dictate.  When weather or unforeseen conditions beyond our control affect our routes or itinerary the best alternative will be provided. In exceptional circumstances outside the control of Garden Travelers, its agents or suppliers, such as, but not limited to the threat of war, political unrest, riots, civil disturbances, terrorist threat or action, legal or illegal labor disputes, adverse weather conditions and Act of God, Garden Travelers, its suppliers, or agents cannot be held responsible for such limitations or withdrawal of facilities. The use by Garden Travelers of transport and accommodations in connection with the tour is subject to the conditions of the operator/owners of such transport or accommodations, for whom Garden Travelers act as an agent.  If air travel is not booked with Garden Travelers, the client is responsible for meeting the group at the destination airport upon arrival.
Passengers agree that Garden Travelers or any associates thereof, will not be held liable in the event of any circumstance that may cause personal distress or injury to any traveler.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Chicago--Where Garden Communities Matter

I know, I know. I'm behind--again. Bad blogger. I'm having a moment of inspiration, though, because out of all of my travels so far this summer (more on those in upcoming blog posts), the past 3 days in Chicagoland hanging out with buddy and fellow partner in horticultural crime, Shawna Coronado (, have been some of the most fun! Not just fun, but really garden-centric--real gardening, vegetable and flower gardening, dirt gardening. Real people, real gardeners and the kinds of gardens that are born of a love and need and desire to do better for ourselves and to do better by and for those around us.

Chicago is the first leg of a two-week-long driving trip that started in Nashville and will take me from here to Indianapolis, Cincinnati, Raleigh, Asheville and back to Nashville before it's over. The purpose of the grand tour? I'm doing the photography for an upcoming book by Charlie Nardozzi ( called "Foodscaping" and needed a wide variety of gardens and places to visit and photograph to get the needed material for the book. So, here I am and as luck had it, I'm here on the weekend of an "edible garden tour" that is happening in the Oak Park area of Chicago this weekend. This was not just a tour vegetable gardens, though--or at least not in the traditional sense. This was a tour of gardens belonging to passionate gardeners who were blending flowers, vegetables and herbs together on their urban lots to make the most of their space, both aesthetically and productively.

I can't share the photos that will eventually be a part of the book, but I can definitely share a few snapshots of some inspirational community-based gardens that are really delivering for the folks in their neighborhoods.

The first stop of the day was the Forest Park Community Garden, where people from all around the neighborhood garden in about 30 plots.

These decorative raised beds were in a nice sized green space that butted right up to the interstate, traffic whizzing by on the street above, as well as on the freeway just to the right and slightly out of view in this photo.

Inside of the fenced area (rabbits, you know) the individual garden plots were immaculately kept and held everything from traditional peppers, tomatoes and eggplants to cosmos, salvia and other flowers for cutting and bringing indoors. One gardener was even growing their own hops! I wonder how many hops it takes to make a batch of home brew?

Perhaps my favorite of all was this small garden--maybe 20' x 30', at most--just outside of the Wonder Works Children's Museum. Magnificently done, it had everything from fresh greens to tomatoes, peppers, sunflowers and even watermelons growing vertically on a sturdy trellis. Every child who comes to the facility--a creative and imaginative education center for young children up to age 8--gets to experience this garden and all it has to offer.

The watermelons at Wonder Works were growing so well they had to be supported in mesh bags on their trellis!

This innovative vegetable garden was seen at an apartment building where space was extremely limited. Gardening vertically allowed them to grow an impressive number of plants in a small space. In this simple space--about the size of a 55-gallon barrel--there were collard greens, mustard, eggplant, kale and beans all growing together and successfully producing a bountiful harvest.

Our final stop of the day was at this small community garden. The lady who tended this bed of corn and beans, as well as the two beds you can see toward the right of the photo, was so proud of what she had accomplished and ready to tell the story of her success! At the end of the day, that's what it is really all about. Inspiration. And a little elbow grease that turns into successes that turn into more inspiration. I'm already wondering what I can take out of the garden when I get home to make room for more edibles!

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Bring On Spring!

Well, as is typical here in Tennessee, spring officially arrived last Thursday and today it snowed! It snowed so hard, in fact, that when I was driving home around lunch time you couldn't see from one telephone pole to the next.  Near white-out conditions!  20 minutes later, the sun came out and as quickly as the snow came down, it was gone. Unfortunately, it cleared off late this afternoon and as I write this at almost 10 p.m., the temperature threatens to drop into the low 20's and do some real damage to tender buds and foliage that are just beginning to break.

Today, I went out and covered a few things--something I normally don't do. But I need to get some good photos of a few early risers like the trilliums, epimediums, quince, and a few spring wildflowers this year, as well as a couple of plants that are quite rare and have decided to emerge a little earlier than normal (of course!).  So...I gave in and took the blankets out to try and save a few plants from tonight's low of 22 degrees.  I hope it doesn't get colder than that or my covering may not do a bit of good.  We'll see.

Plants that are still tightly budded will be just fine and the temperatures are supposed to moderate quickly and be back to more spring-like conditions in a day or two.  In the meantime, I'm taking a few precautions and hoping for the best!  I'll post an update in a few days and let you know how it goes.  See you in the garden!

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

England & Scotland's Greatest Hits!

I have another exciting opportunity for those of you who love to travel and see beautiful gardens and historic sites, but maybe couldn't work our earlier trip to England into your schedules. We still have several spaces left on a spectacular trip that starts in London, makes its way through northern England and ends up touring the castles and gardens of Scotland. The dates are June 27 - July 8, 2014.  The itinerary follows.

The cascade at Alnwick

June 26         Depart for Heathrow Airport London, England

June 27         Morning arrival at Heathrow.  Meet our motor coach for the transfer to West Green House for lunch and a visit to the garden.  West Green House was built in 1720 and is now the home of Marilyn Abbott who has restored and designed the gardens.  We visited several years ago and look forward to a return visit.  We will then continue to Cheltenham where we will spend the first two nights at The George Hotel.   This hotel is in a Georgian building and in the heart of Cheltenham.  Although the rooms have been recently redone, the building retains many of the original features.  You will have time to unpack and relax before we have dinner at the hotel. Lunch at West Green House, & dinner included.

June 28         We are trying to arrange a trip to Highgrove, the garden belonging to Prince Charles, this morning.  We will not know if we will be able to visit or when until after Feb. 1 when ticket requests are granted, but we are hopeful that we will be able to visit either in the morning or afternoon.  We will also visit the small English village of Tetbury.  We will be back in Cheltenham in time to visit the town and pick a place for dinner. Breakfast, Lunch included.

June 29         We head north today to York where you will have the afternoon and evening to explore the city of York and its treasures.  We are also trying to arrange a visit to Castle Howard and the Yorkshire Arboretum.

June 30         This morning we travel from York to Alnwick Castle for a visit of the house as well as the garden.  Alnwick is a young and modern garden, created by the young and modern Duchess of Northumberland, Jane Percy. This remarkable place even has a "Poison Garden" full of deadly plants, which we will have the chance to see! We will have a group lunch here.  After our visit, we will head for Edinburgh, Scotland which is about a 2 hour drive. We will be spending 3 nights in the Apex City Hotel.  Not only is this a very nice hotel, but the location is fantastic. Breakfast, lunch included.
The "Poison Garden" at Alnwick

July 1             After two days with relatively long bus rides, you will have a free day to enjoy the City of Edinburgh.  There is much to see. We are sure you will want to visit the Edinburgh Botanic Garden and may plan an impromptu tour on our own, with Troy pointing out some highlights and talking about some of the plants,  before dispersing to explore at your own pace.  Attendance will be optional if you want the day to explore Edinburgh at your leisure. Breakfast included.
The rock garden at The Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh

July 2             After breakfast we will depart for Abbotsford, the home Sir Walter Scott.  The house was completed in 1831 and was designed by Sir Walter Scott himself.  It sits on the banks of the River Tweed.  The house embodies the Romantic Movement that Scott helped to create.  We will visit both the house and garden, as well as have a group lunch at Abbotsford.  After our visit we will take the very short drive to Bowhill House where if you were going to pick a spot to create a garden with grand views, you couldn’t do much better than Bowhill. A stroll on the formal southern terraces opens up stunning vistas across the Ettrick Valley and the upper loch, which was deliberately designed to complement the landscape. Here you can also explore a rose garden, formal flower borders and a rock garden Unusually, the gardens to the front of the House are less formal. rhododendrons and azaleas fill the area. Walk to the east end of the House and you’ll come upon the Sunken Garden. We will visit both the house and garden.  After our visit at Bowhill, we will return to our hotel in Edinburgh. Breakfast, lunch, and coffee and biscuit included.
Bowhill House

July 3             We will visit Edinburgh Castle as we leave this city for Dundee.  After a visit to the castle our first stop will be Kellie Castle and garden.  This is considered to be one of the most romantic gardens in Scotland with many wall plantings. Our next stop will be Drummond which will be a treat.  We are hoping to arrange an after hours tour with wine and no other tourists.  Our hotel tonight will be the Apex Hotel in Dundee.  Breakfast included.
The Garden at Castle Kellie

July 4             Today we will visit Glamis Castle which will be a highlight of this trip.  We will visit the house and the garden and have a very special lunch in the castle.  The castle which is located in the foothills of the Angus Glens was the childhood home of Elizabeth the Queen Mother.  We will have a guided tour.  We will head back to Dundee where you will have some free time. Breakfast and lunch included.

July 5          Today we head for Glasgow where we will spend the last three nights of our trip.  On the way we will stop at Greenbank to visit this National Trust garden. Our hotel for the remainder of the trip will be the Indigo Glasgow Hotel which is housed in an old power station from the 1880’s.  The mix of old building and modern interior is quite nice and will help to make our stay very nice.  Breakfast and lunch included.

July 6          Today we will visit Culzean which is a Romantic 18th century castle which is situated with wonderful views of the Firth of Clyde and three miles of coastline.  The cliff top setting is dramatic and the Robert Adams architecture is wonderful. Again we will visit both the house and garden which is extensive.  Our other stop for today will be Lagg which has the national collection of hydrangeas.  It is also located on cliffs with dramatic views, Breakfast, lunch included.
The amazing garden at Culzean, where you will find palm trees growing in Scotland!

July 7             We will have free time in Glasgow and a special visit to Carnell.  Carnell is well known for the water features, Japanese stonework, walled garden, and pagodas.  This will be our last garden and definitely a treat. Breakfast and tea included.

July 8                Return to US

The cost of this trip is $3895.00 which includes all hotels, breakfast each day, all entry fees where we enter as a group, lunches and dinner per itinerary, guided tours at many locations, travel by deluxe motor coach in England and Scotland.  If you have questions, please contact me at

The Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh

Friday, January 24, 2014

Final Call for "Classic Gardens and Country Estates of England"

Good Morning, All!  It is frigid here in Nashville again and my mind is on beautiful spring flowers and warm summer temperatures as we take the polar plunge once again.  I'm not sure how the garden is going to fare. I have some plants that are looking pretty poorly after reaching 0 degrees here a couple of weeks ago and now we're down in the single digits again. A lot of the broadleaf evergreens (including all of my beautiful hellebores) are looking pretty freeze dried.  Epimediums are all frozen to the ground. Several broadleaf evergreen shrubs like aucuba and Florida anisebush are looking pretty rough.  We'll see what happens come spring...

In the meantime, I'm looking toward summer and the fabulous trip we have planned to England to raise funds for Volunteer Gardener, the TV show I co-host on Nashville Public Television. Unfortunately, while we have had a LOT of positive response, that response has not turned into actual commitment and we are still short of where we need to be to make the trip a success with only a week to go before the February 1 deadline for reservations. I wanted to reach out to my blog followers one more time with the link to the itinerary and my contact information, should anyone have any questions. I hope that some of you might consider joining us and if the trip doesn't fit into your own plans this year, I would encourage you to share with friends, family, clients, garden club friends or whoever else you can think of.

This is a really wonderful trip and we hope that we'll have some more interest in this next week before the deadline. You can download the itinerary at my website, here: or email me at  I hope you'll join us and help support Volunteer Gardener!

The garden at Chatsworth is just one of many fabulous estates we'll see on this one-in-a-lifetime trip!  Hope you'll join us, and in the meantime, stay warm!


Thursday, January 2, 2014

Baby, It's Cold Outside!

As I write this, we are facing some of the coldest weather we have had in nearly 20 years at the beginning of next week.  Now, I know that all over the world there are places where it gets and stays much colder than it will be here, but a high temperature of 13 degrees Fahrenheit with the low near zero is almost unheard of in this part of the world and that's what the forecast is for the early part of next week. This will put a lot of plants to the test in the gardens of those of us who like to push the zones and grow plants which, generally speaking, prefer to live a hundred miles or so further south. Inevitably, there will be some losses, but that is the nature of gardening. One plant's demise is another's opportunity! That said, here are a few favorites that will certainly withstand winter's onslaught without batting an eyelash (if plants did, indeed, have eyelashes)!

 Hamamelis x intermedia 'Primavera'

'Primavera' is one of the earliest witchhazels to flower, often beginning here in February and continuing, completely unfazed by inclement weather, until early March. Witchhazels have the uncanny ability to recoil their flower petals if the temperatures get too cold, winding them back up close to (or even inside of) the buds to protect them until the temperature moderates and the plant resumes flowering.

 Helleborus x hybridus 'Golden Sunrise'

'Golden Sunrise' has proven itself beyond a shadow of a doubt in my garden. A member of the Winter Jewels series from Ernie and Marietta O'Byrne at Northwest Garden Nursery, widely distributed now by Monrovia Nursery and a large number of mail-order outlets. In general, the plants in this series have been a little slow to establish in the garden here, but if you're patient, they will wow you with their clear and vibrant colors and exceptional form. The O'Byrnes double-flowered forms (Golden Lotus, Sparkling Diamond and others) are some of the best on the market!

 Helleborus niger 'Josef Lemper'

'Josef Lemper' belongs to the group of hellebores commonly called the "Christmas rose" because of its early bloom time. This variety takes that to the extreme, often beginning to flower as early as October and continuing right up through Christmas and well beyond. In a good year, I have had fresh, white flowers emerging nonstop from mid-October until mid-March! Few other perennials have this kind of flower power and almost none will flower this reliably throughout the winter.

 Helleborus foetidus 'Green Giant'

'Green Giant' is an older seed strain of the bear's foot or "stinking" hellebore (a terrible name, as there is nothing about it that stinks!). The foliage of Helleborus foetidus is most commonly a dark, almost blackish, green and the pea green flower buds begin to emerge from the top of the plant in November, hanging there as if frozen in time until the weather warms just enough in February to coax them open.  The display continues on through March and often well into April.

 Iris reticulata

We are just far enough north in the Nashville area that the true winter-blooming species of iris, like Iris unguicularis, won't thrive here. Enter this sweet little bulb whose leaves will emerge through the frozen soil as early as January and whose flowers may have already come and gone by February's end; certainly by the first week of March (later the further north you go). Iris reticulata, no matter the climate, is one of earliest bulbs to bloom and always gives us hope, as gardeners, that spring truly is on the way.

 Narcissus pseudonarcissus

If you live in the South, you know Narcissus pseudonarcissus as the spring daffodil (jonquil) that covers old farm and homesteads and lines the fencerows for what seems like miles in late February and early March. Sometimes, entire fields will turn yellow with a hundred years or more worth of these spritely daffodils who have reseeded themselves into every available corner of the rural countryside.

Crocus tommasinianus

I don't grow many crocus here because the chipmunks and squirrels can (and usually will) devour the entire lot overnight. Once, we planted nearly 5,000 at a client's home--naturalized throughout the lawn--and in spring we had exactly THREE blooms. THREE! That was both the beginning and the end of my crocus planting days until I discovered the "tommies", Crocus tommasinianus, which the chipmunks find less palatable. These will not only grow and bloom here, but will thrive and reseed, spreading over time into vast carpets that thrill passersby in the last days of winter.