Nope, it's not forsythia. It's buttercup winter hazel blooming at Gibbs Gardens in Ball Ground, GA.Photo: Steve Bender 

If you're like Grumpy, you can't stand eating sauerkraut pumpkin pie more than three nights a week. You want variety in your garden too. Sure, azaleas, boxwoods, and 'Knockout' roses are nice, but you deserve more. You want something new, something exciting -- something that shouts to the world, "I am superior to you hordes of dullards!" And that's what "Sneak Peeks for Plant Geeks" is all about!

Starting in 2013, Grumpy has taken it upon himself to introduce you to outstanding plants you won't read about on the pages of Southern Living. To be selected for a Sneak Peek, a plant must meet the following criteria:

  • Must be new to most people and deserve much wider use
  • Must be easy for the average gardener to grow
  • Must be available at garden centers or online

The first winner for 2013 is a totally wonderful shrub called buttercup winter hazel (Corylopsis pauciflora). If you can grow this, you should. Let me count the reasons.

1. Pretty flowers. Pendulous chains of small, fragrant, bell-shaped blossoms of soft yellow appear in late winter or early spring before its leaves. Buttercup winter hazel blooms about the same time as forsythia, daffodils, and flowering quince. Its ethereal beauty is especially evident when combined with early purple rhododendrons and azaleas.

emChains of fragrant, primrose-yellow blossoms gradually elongate in late winter and early /Photo: Steve Bender./em

2. Good size for the home garden. Unlike some loropetalums, winter honeysuckle, pyracantha, and cherry laurel, this refined shrub won't gulp down your house. It grows 4 to 6 feet tall and wide, never gets out of hand, and seldom needs pruning.

3. It's easy to grow, if you live in the Upper through Lower South (USDA Zones 6-8). It likes sun or light shade and moist, well-drained soil. No pests that Grumpy knows of bother buttercup winter hazel, not even deer.

4. The leaves, which resemble those of the hazel nut, turn soft yellow in fall.

5. Cut branches are very good for forcing into early bloom indoors.

6. Nobody else in your neighborhood will have one, so your rank in society will rise to elite levels.

Where Can I Buy Buttercup Winter Hazel? If this were a sane world, garden centers all over would sell it. But since most customers don't know what the heck buttercup winter hazel is, they don't ask for it and most garden centers don't stock it (the good ones do). Fortunately, you can order one online from one of Grumpy's Certified Purveyors of Geeky Plants, such as: