New Year’s Day Plant Count

– Posted in: Garden Design, Garden Photography

My friend, Janet, has a wonderfully complex garden full of interesting plants she has acquired from years as a garden writer and plant docent. She recently told me she and her Mom make an annual New Year’s Day plant count and have found in a mild winter she has many as 60 plants in bloom.

What a great idea for a bloggers to share !

Janet’s 60 flowering plants on New Year’s Day is a lot, even for zone 9a. But when I got to thinking, maybe I have a lot too. It has not been mild this winter here but we had early rains, the subject of my Ocober 21 blog when the first paperwhite daffodil and early sasanqua camellias bloomed. Since then winter has progressed rather normally and my first wildflower, the delicate Dentaria californica – Milkmaid have begun.

OK, let’s do a survey beginning with a little photo lesson.

winter bencch

I can always count on Rosemary to be in bloom now, typical of many Mediterranean plants that begin their annual rejuvenation with rain. Looking at the winter bench photo, taken one New Year’s Eve a couple years ago on my back deck, one would think it is a spare scene in my garden. Ah, but that is the point of that photo, and we know the camera always lies.

A close up might make one think it is a lush plant:
rosemary blossom

A reminder to have a purpose when taking a photo – above is the same plant as in the bench photo but with another intention.

A different dilemma faces the photographer trying to tell the story of Hydrangea quircifolia ‘Alice’ which will not stop blooming until I cut her back.
Hygrangea alice bloom

Is the story about blooming on New Year’s Day or the gorgeous rich maroon fall color of the foliage?
H. ‘alice’ fall foliage

When we photograph our gardens there is always a story to tell by what we include or exclude in each photo. As a professional photographer I try to imagine multiple stories when I photograph so that I can get my camera to give me multiple “lies”. Only later, when an editor needs a photo do I decide which story to tell. With Hydragrea ‘Alice’ I get a photogenic chameleon of a subject, which is also why it is such a wonderful garden companion.

I don’t intend this to be a photo story but a list of plants in flower today. I invite anyone who reads this to make their own list. I know I am blessed with zone 9 California winter and little may be blooming in cold zones – but I would love to know and hear from readers. Maybe we at Gardening Gone Wild will keep an annual log of New Year’s Day plant counts.

Here is mine, 25 plants in bloom New Years Day 2008;
Arctostaphylos ‘Monica’
Arctostaphylos ‘Howard Mcminn’
Salvia involucrata
Potato Vine – Solanum jasminoides
Viburnum bodnantense “Dawn’
Hydrangea quircifolia ‘Alice’
Sugar snap peas
Camellia sassanqua (4): ‘Yuletide’, Cleopatra’, Apple Blossom’, ‘Kanjiro’
Camellia japonica ‘Sensation’ (inherited name of uncertain authenticity)
Narcissus (2) ‘Ziva’, ‘Rijnveld’s Early Sensation’
Miniature rose ‘Rainbow’s End’
Primulus vulgaris
Cyclamen persicum
Milkmaids Dentaria californica
Bellis perennis
Reinwardtia indica
Abutillon hybrid (Salmon)
Fuschia thymifolia
Impatiens (barely hanging on but must be counted)

What is your list ? Don’t be shy; this is not a a competition but a survey. I will never have as many as Janet. What is happening in your garden? Be sure to include zone number.

Saxon Holt

Saxon Holt
Saxon Holt is the owner of, a garden picture resource for photographs, on-line workshops, and garden photography stories. An award winning photojournalist and Fellow of The Garden Writers Association with more than 25 garden books, he lives and gardens in Northern California. PhotoBotanic - Garden Photography online at
Saxon Holt

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Lisa at Greenbow January 1, 2008, 3:59 pm

It is interesting that you have something outside in bloom. Here in SW IN, zone 6b, the snow is swirling and I am happy as a clam just to have some green showing at this time of year.

It is nice to see photos of some of your bloomers.

Thanks Lisa. It would be interesting to see what might bloom in zone 6b in a warm winter. – Saxon

Doug Green January 1, 2008, 4:17 pm

Flowers?! In bloom?! Yeah right.

We’re in the middle of a New Year’s Day snowstorm with about 5 inches down and more on the way. 🙂

Got some decent sculptural shots this morning – a very black and white day with wet snow holding down all the branches.

So – does black and white count?

Frances January 1, 2008, 5:31 pm

The count here needs only the fingers of one hand. Looking for prospective bloomers for the fifteenth of the month today found slim pickin’s. Rosemary, erica darleyensis, a lone quince, are blooming outside. A couple of the orchids are open and an impatiens volunteer in a fern pot brought in to be overwintered are the inside blooms. Five?

Carolyn Ulrich January 1, 2008, 5:35 pm

Chicago has about 5 inches of snow cover and it’s supposed to be around 10 degrees tonight, but inside I have Plumbago auriculata putting out intermittent bloom and also a convovulus that’s covered with half-inch powder blue flowers–an impulse purchase at a greenhouse that I expected to be dead by now. Plus the usual paperwhites and amaryllis.

Thanks Carolyn for taking the time to reply and I hope your indoor plants get you to spring. – Saxon

Sheri Ann Richerson January 1, 2008, 5:37 pm

Today we have snow outside but yesterday I picked Brussels sprouts for dinner and they were good! I didn’t see any blooms yet but all the plants were looking including my hardy Eucalyptus considering it is winter here.
In the greenhouse and house I have plenty blooming. Zantedeschia aethiopica ‘Green Goddess’ which I grew from seed two year ago has two gorgeous blooms. The photo can be seen on my blog at I also have various begonia, poinsettia, patchouli, geranium, tomatoes, asarina, nepenthes, Adenium obesum, orchids and two hibiscus – H. sabdariffa Jamaican Cocktail and H. schizopetalus. You can see a photo of H. schizopetalus here
I don’t think this is too shabby considering I am in Indiana and my greenhouse plastic was torn by a cat a few weeks ago causing all my precious babies to get frosted on.


Saxon Holt January 1, 2008, 7:55 pm

Thanks fro ther reply Sheri Ann. Greenhouse bloom definitely counts.

What zone are you picking your brussel sprouts ?

Saxon Holt January 1, 2008, 7:57 pm

Frances reports five. What zone ?

Kelly D. Norris January 1, 2008, 7:58 pm

What a wonderful idea! Until a few days ago I could have reported a single blossom of Helleborus argutifolius but alas it has been covered in more snow. Here in a Midwestern Zone 5a garden, January 1st isn’t a day on which much, if anything, is to be found in bloom. But winter is a tremendously important season in the gardener’s year. If not for the appreciation of winter-blooming plants, in certain climates as it were, it is a prime time to evaluate and enjoy structure. The bones of the garden, from trees covered in ice to stoic conifers, shine in the winter sun. I might be tempted by zonal denial after reading many of you “warm-climate” gardeners’ posts but instead I remember another important purpose of winter: a rest enjoyed by colorful catalogs which flood the mailbox! Thanks Saxon for starting this and nice blog, btw.

Kelly – You don’t need to remind me of the beauty of seeing the bones this time of year, and believe it or not I am envious of you folks in the colder climates who have those photo ops. OK, I am only a little envious of cold weather photo ops – and will not be planning a move anytime soon… Saxon

Ellen Zachos January 1, 2008, 8:06 pm

Oh how I envy you Saxon! My garden in Shohola, PA is under more than a foot of snow; if there’s anything blooming out there, I couldn’t say. So I seek refuge in the greenhouse orchids, African violets, Anthurium, and Begonias are in resplendent bloom. And suprisingly, a few blue Browallia which self-seeded at the end of the summer. I wish I never had to leave.

Ellen- Do count flowers in the greenhouse, and do it again next year. I bet you will see trends and changes there too. And who knows, with global warming, you may not need a greenhouse one day… Saxon

Dave January 1, 2008, 10:55 pm

Only one lonely little Mediterranean White Heather (Erica x darleyensis) is beginning to bloom for us. The tiny white blossoms are just starting to emerge in our zone 7 Tennessee climate.

Thanks for the response (including zone!) Nice to hear the Erica does OK in your decidedly non Mediterranean site. Saxon

Frances January 2, 2008, 8:31 am

We are zone 7 with three outside blooms and two in the sunroom.

Kathy J. Washington Gardener January 2, 2008, 11:37 am

Per your GWL request:
I have in flower outside —
– hellebores
– a few forsythia blooms and lots of swollen buds on my winterjasmine and heathers
– pansies and violas
– sweet alyssum still hanging on
Indoors I have lots from violets to paperwhites to white petunias potted up in containers in my unheated sunroom.
I am in MD – just a block north of the DC border – zone 7b – inching towards zone 8.

Thanks Kathy, It seems so many of the other responses were from folks under snow with nothing to report. Who knows though, with global warming how this annual plant count will change…

Kathryn January 2, 2008, 12:04 pm

Haven’t done a count on the garden at sonairte but you inspired me to run outside with the camera here. Less than we usually have at this time of year but still worth the trip of only for the scent of viburnum bodnantense, a winter-long staple in the Irish climate. No primroses or snowdrops yet, which disappointed me, but an early daffodil that have never been able to identify has three blossoms out and several of the hellebores are already looking lovely. Most are Ballard hybrids but Boughten Beauty is covered with blossom and there is a little red orientalis that always flowers from November onwards. Couldn’t find a flower on the Iris lazica which usually has several at this time of year, and unusually there is no blossom on the Gloire de Dijon but I’ve cut lots of twigs of forsythia to bring indoors and Prunus subhirtella Autumnalis is busily producing its clouds of pink blossom which always last from October to May, sometimes being damaged by a hard frost but always coming back for more. And of course the ever reliable rosemarys are covered with blossom in shades from dark blue to pink.

Thanks for the great response Kathryn. I only wish I knew which American zone you garden in, sounds like 9 – Saxon

Mr. McGregor's Daughter January 2, 2008, 5:16 pm

LOL – here in suburban Chicagoland (Zone 5a) the plants in bloom are: nothing. We’ve gotten about a foot & half of snow since Friday. Last year if you had asked, I could have said 1, my Snowdrops. But, last I saw them. on December 26th, they were just little sprouts. If it had stayed warm, I would have had 1 plant blooming. On Boxing Day it had buds that looked ready to open. That won’t be happening any time soon, though.

Well next year we will ask again and hopefully your snowdrops will be counted. I will mention a reader in Alaska responded to this Plant Count thread on another list by saying his iceberg lettuce was doing fine … Saxon

carolyngail January 3, 2008, 9:23 am

California dreaming , eh, Saxon ? To think there’s flowers in bloom on New Year’s Day in Chicago is one , too !

Winter is just about the only thing I don’t like about this Zone 5 I’m in. We are expecting a little present from the Gulf of Mexico this weekend when the temps will reach the mid-50’s.

The only color I have now in my garden are the evergreens.

Not California dreamin’ – California reality. Oh sorry don’t mean to rub it in. Put some flowers on the window sill next fall and count them in next year’s Plant Count… – Saxon

Marina Blomberg January 3, 2008, 12:34 pm

(as per GWL request; I am a perennial lurker)
Gainesville, Fla., is in 8b – we still have a few crape myrtles showing flower color; most are in their fall foliage mode though (pretty!). Early narcissus in the yard, last night’s hard freeze took down the late hibiscus; turk’s cap still radiant; camellias (sasanquas and japonicas are overlapping this year) in full splendor. Snapdragons unfazed. Osmanthus still fragrant.

Thank you Marina. Lurk no longer. Hard for me to believe the crape myrtles still flowering in zone 8b (get’s that cold in Gainessville ?) but that is why we want to hear “what’s happenin'” – Saxon

Nancy January 3, 2008, 12:47 pm

Here in coastal NC, zone 7B, we had been very mild until yesterday. Blooming on Jan. 1 were three roses (Mutabilis, Graham Thomas, Caldwell Pink), Helleborus orientalis, Rudbeckia (!-unusual), violas, rosemary, dianthus, and Camellia japonica.

OK everyone, follow Nancy’s lead (well done, girl !): quick in and out response – zone, location, and what’s in bloom. – Saxon

Janet Sanchez January 3, 2008, 1:30 pm

Saxon, we do have it easy in Northern California. I’m delighted that you took up the challange of a New Year’s flower count. We were surprised to find 56 plants in bloom here. Only eight are also on your list. A complete list would be too long, but I’ll note that we found a few blossoms each on four different salvias and roses, a couple of penstemons, lavenders, and asters, as well as Malvastrum lateritium, Osmanthus fragrans, and Choisya ternata, among others. These are all sort of “accidentals”, plants that put on their main show earlier or later in the year. A few others bloom practically year around, such as calendula, Santa Barbara daisy, feverfew, and Jupiter’s beard. My real favorites are those planted especially for winter bloom. These include a couple of heaths and hellebores; bulbs such as paperwhite narcissus and snowdrops; Lonicera fragrantissima; Correa harrissii and C. ‘Dusky Bells’; and the wonderful evergreen Clematis cirrhosa ‘Freckles’.
Janet Sanchez

I really appreciate your contribution Janet, and while I should not be amazed at your count knowing your garden, I am still amazed at the great diversity and reminded of how much more I want to do in my own garden.

Saxon Holt January 3, 2008, 2:33 pm

Hooray ! Janet jumped in. We are honored. She who inspired this Plant Count survey finds 56 flowering in what I assumed was an off year. Seeing her list I am reminded her garden has much more sun than my own and I suspect I would have more “accidentals” in my garden too in if my north facing California hill saw more sun this time of year.

Either way, it is an inspiration to us all to monitor our gardens year to year with a little scientific observation.

Robin (Bumblebee) January 3, 2008, 5:24 pm

I hate to admit it, but when it’s this cold it’s all I can do to dash outside to fill the bird feeders. It was 25 degrees this morning!

I did wander about yesterday and found little or nothing blooming, not even my helebores. Until about a week ago I did have a mallow blooming!

Oh, I do have a potted rose on my deck, which has four tiny blooms. Go figure.

–Robin (Bumblebee)

Don’t know why you hate to admit to not gardening when it is 25. I think you are admitting to sanity. Wandering about sounds like fun, and now you have something to compare for next New Year’s Plant Count. – Saxon

Michelle Derviss January 4, 2008, 5:48 pm

I think I had about a couple dozen plants in bloom until “The Storm” blew through my Northern Californian garden.
Plastered against my 6 foot tall fence is a colorful confetti mix of shredded blooms.
Even our neighborhood asphalt street is quite colorful at the moment with bits and pieces of Camellia blooms and stamens , Bougainvillea bracts, Salvia wands, whole branches with big yellow lemons attached and a generous healthy mixing of fallen leaves, branches and twigs.
I’d go out and do a final count but I’m afraid that I might be taken out by a flying Meyers lemon .
Thank gawd no one has a Monkey Puzzle tree in my hood, or we would be on ‘lock down’.

jodi January 7, 2008, 8:55 am

Although I’m trailing behind late…there WAS one thing in bloom on Christmas Eve, when the snow melted enough that I could plant the rest of the bulbs. It was a yellow wallflower (Erysimum) of some sort, its deep green foliage still bravely green, and about six soft-yellow flowers looking a bit the worse for wear, but not dead. I did mean to take its photo, but I was covered in mud…and now it’s buried again under two feet of snow or so! But we’re having a January thaw, so who knows what will happen this week.

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