Nothing brightens the wintertime (this is winter, right??) like cheery blooms. Narcissus and flowering quince are starting to bloom, and I’ve seen a few early deciduous magnolia blooms. Another early bloomer is Helleborus, also known as Lenten Rose or Christmas Rose. It’s not even closely related to roses. But they are reliable bloomers for the winter garden, and do great in shady spots in the landscape. They can take quite deep shade, but bloom better if they get some morning, or late afternoon sun. They do like well-drained soil, as I have had some colonies repeatedly die off after a rainy spring in a spot with heavier soil.
Here are a couple of newer varieties. ‘HGC Josef Lemper‘ is a H. niger variety with very white, up-facing blooms (lots of Helleborus blooms nod to the side or down, so it is nice to have ones where you can “see their faces”. ‘HGC Cinnamon Snow‘ is also blooming in my garden, loaded with flowers. Both are newer clones from a German breeding program. Expect to see lots of new varieties in the trade, with a wider range of colors, even now with double flowers.