My feijoa is budding out. I'm not sure why it's so early. If I knew anyone else with a feijoa, I'd ask them what theirs is doing. Feijoa sellowiana is the pineapple guava, and everybody should have one, at least everybody who has ever brought home a Benjamin fig tree.
I'm not sure how Benjamin fig trees got so popular. What have they got going for them? They have leaves. That's it. And sometimes they don't even have leaves, because they'll drop them all on a whim. Change the light, change the temperature, move it a little, overwater it just a tad, underwater it a smidgen, and next morning you'll find all the leaves on the floor.
The feijoa has leaves, and they stay on the tree. What's more, they're nicer leaves than the fig – leathery with silver backs. The big difference, though, is the flowers. The feijoa produces dozens of grape sized blooms with red and white petals surrounding a tuft of gold filaments, like little crowns. And get this – you can eat them. They taste sweet.
My little tree usually has its first flush of flowers in early summer, but for some reason it is getting ready to bloom in a few weeks. That will be just in time to replace some plants that are blooming now.
I have two dwarf camellia trees. One flowered in December and one is in bloom now. It's only a foot and a half tall and has half a dozen five inch, double red flowers with more buds getting ready to open. Anyone who has a cool, bright room must have – MUST have at least one camellia. Even when it isn't in bloom, the glossy green leaves are prettier than a fig. It is easy, but it does need to be cool in winter.
In summer I put them outdoors on the east side of the house, where they get morning sun. They like acid soil, so I use the same fertilizer I use on rhododendrons and azaleas. I leave them out until a hard frost threatens in fall. Pretty easy.
Veltheimia is another sure fire flower for winter, and summer care is even easier than the camellia. It doesn't need any. In May the top dies back, and you can throw the bulb in the basement. What could be easier than that? One bulb produces one eighteen inch stem topped with a cone shaped cluster of pink florets. I have six handsome stems blooming right now, because one bulb divides and multiplies. I'd have more, but everyone who sees it in bloom this time of year wants one.
Most of my amaryllis are still sleeping in the basement. They're late this year, probably because we had such a mild fall.
The butterfly amaryllis, though, just opened this morning. It doesn't go dormant like normal bulbs. It just slows down a bit in summer, drops a few leaves, then new ones grow right away. It produces only two flowers per stem, but what flowers they are! If you've seen the pictures in catalogs, I can tell you that the pictures don't do them justice.
My one orchid has thrown out four stalks that will begin to open in the next few days. It's an oncidium, and believe it or not, it's easy. In summer I put it out in the sun and turn the hose on it every few days. In winter it rewards me with sprays of flowers that last two months.
Larger spring bulbs I've been forcing are almost done with their cold period. Grape hyacinths and iris are blooming now, and daffodils and tulips will be right behind them. The New Guinea impatiens has noticed that the sun is getting stronger and has started to flower again. Lemon blossoms scent the kitchen and three clivias have fat buds climbing out from the fan of leaves. Don'cha just love February!