February 2016 in Tryon Palace Gardens


Welcome to February, where the weather can be hard on both gardener and garden alike! Our poor pansies, violas and English daisies are struggling but the tulips are beginning to push their noses out of the soil so all is not lost. 

Between bitter frosts and soaking rains the gardeners and volunteers make a mad dash into the gardens to tidy up the beds. Some perennials held on until early January. We didn’t want to cut them back before the first killing frost for fear they would flush out new growth. Some of the hydrangeas, boxwoods and gardenias did have tender new leaves as evidenced by the burn suffered mid-January. The camellias were spectacular up until mid-January. 

During the first behind-the-scenes tour of the garden on Jan. 19 we admired ice crystals in the soil along with winter blooms with a few hardy ladies who had also attended our first garden lecture of the year on Jan. 16. In his lecture, Bryce Lane inspired us all to start plant shopping for a few natives and exotics for our gardens.

For our Feb. 20 lecture we welcome former greenhouse manager Timothy Minch, who will share his knowledge of the planting and care of camellias. Minch is currently the grounds coordinator at Lenoir Community College in Kinston and still gardens with his wife, Cathy, in Jones County. Members of the Twin Rivers Camellia Club will be on hand as well, so bring your camellia questions. 
Our second behind-the-scenes tour on Feb. 16 will feature a few new additions to the winter landscape as the crocus and an assortment of daffodils continue to bloom. 

The Cornus mas began to flush toward the end of January and with a few warm days of encouragement is now a vibrant yellow. Visible from George Street, in the corner of the Commission House back garden, Cornus mas is first cousin to the American dogwood. 

Although a favorite of the honeybees who are frantic for pollen and nectar sources on warm days, the Cornelian Cherry, a self-fertile deciduous shrub, has never fruited. Now that I have read about the cherries and their uses, I don’t know whether to feel cheated or hopeful it might fruit soon. 

In the winter garden the lemony scent of the First-Breath-of-Spring or winter honeysuckle (Lonicera fragrantissima), in the Stoney and Dot Tyler Gardens, are reminders of grandmothers’ gardens and are found around older homesteads. We recently discovered a line of them when clearing out the Clermont property. With some sunlight and a hard pruning in late spring, they will be wonderful soon.

Along the sidewalk of the Dot Tyler and Commission House gardens the sweet notes of the Fragrant Winter Sweet (Chimonanthus praecox) have recently given reason to pause.  Their weedy growth habit does not make them much to look at but that pretty little hint of something wonderful saves them from being dug up every year. 

The Flowering Japanese Apricots (Prunus mume), or the pink trees in the Carraway Garden, have held onto their coloration and are waiting for a few warm days when they will flush out again. They also offer another fabulous fragrance for a winter’s walk. 

Found behind the Podocarpus at the Disosway House is one of our favorite camellias that will bloom now through late spring. What can one say about a flower named “Perfection”? It is not gaudy like the big fried egg fuchsia camellia I can see from the office window, nor a hot mess like the ‘White Dove’ Camellia sasanqua that was blooming from Thanksgiving to Christmas. With formal double pink, non-fragrant flowers, Camellia japonica “Pink Perfection” blooms like a champ and waits to be noticed. 

As the Fancy Man in the Jonkonnu troupe sings, “Oh the winter soon be over children….” 

Happy Gardening,

Freda Pyron, Gardens and Greenhouse Manager, Tryon Palace


  • Annual phlox (Phlox drummondii), mix
  • English daisy “Bellissima Mix” (Bellis), pink, white 
  • Stock (Matthiola incana), fragrant mix        
  • Snapdragons (Antirrhinum majus), “Rocket Mix,” “Montego Mix”
  • Pansies: Coastal Sunrise, Ocean Breeze, Red Wing, Morpheus, Delta Cool Water Mix
  • Violas: Sorbet Delft Blue, Penny White Blotch, Admire Mix Maxi, Penny Clear Yellow, Penny Primrose Picotee, Penny Denim Jump Up


  • Bears foot hellebore (Helleborus foetidus), yellowish
  • Candytuft (Iberis sempervirens), white
  • Cape leadwort (Plumbago capensis), blue
  • Carnation (Dianthus sp.), various
  • Creeping veronica (Veronica umbrosa), blue
  • Crocus (Crocus sp.), yellow, white, purple
  • Daffodils, jonquils (Narcissus sp.), yellow, white
  • Hellebore (Helleborus X orientalis), pink, white
  • Ornamental grass (Miscanthus sp.), red seed head 
  • Paper white narcissus (Narcissus papyraceus), white
  • Poet’s laurel (Danae racemes), orange berries

Flowering Trees and Shrubs

  • Camellia (Camellia japonica) cultivars: 
  • “Pink Perfection,” pink, double
  • “Professor Sargent,” deep rose, double
  • “Debutante,” clear, light pink 
  • “Lady Clare,” carmine rose, semi-double 
  • “Alba plena,” white with pink cast 
  • “Lovely Surprise,” pink 
  • “Dr. Tinsley’ pink,” semi-double
  • Cornelian cherry (Cornus mas), yellow
  • First Breath of Spring or winter honeysuckle (Lonicera fragrantissima), white
  • Flowering apricot (Prunus mume), pink
  • Flowering quince (Chaenomeles speciosa), apricot pink, red
  • Fragrant winter sweet (Chimonanthus praecox), yellow
  • Himalayan sweetbox (Sarcococca hookerana), white, black drupe
  • Hollies (Ilex sp.), white
  • Leatherleaf viburnum (Viburnum rhytophyllum), white
  • Laurustinus (Viburnum tinus), pink to white
  • Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis), purple
  • Tea plant (Camellia sinenses), white and yellow
  • Winter jasmine (Jasminum nudiflorium), yellow
  • Witch-hazel (Hamamelis virginiana), yellow to reddish brown

Wildflowers & Bee Food

  • Henbit (Lamium amplexicaule), lavender
  • Dandelion (Taraxacum officinale), yellow 

Berries and Seeds (Bird Food)

  • Hollies (Ilex sp.):
    • Yaupon (I. vomitoria), red, yellow
    • Winterberry (I. verticillata), red
    • Dahoon (I. cassine), red
    • Dwarf Burford Holly (Ilex cornuta), red berries
  • Nandina (Nandina domestica), red, yellow
  • Japanese fatsia (Fatsia japonica), green to black
  • Poet’s laurel (Danae racemosa), orange-red 

Kitchen Garden Crops: 

Artichoke, beets, broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, carrots, cardoon, celery, collards, fennel, kohlrabi, leeks, lettuce, mustards, kale, onion, parsley, peas, Swiss chard, turnips