Their brightness will energize your home and garden.
Winter Whites

Winter's garden feigns quiet slumber. In reality, though, it's catapulting the New Year into four seasons of floral profusion. As the first petals face the world, the landscape begins its progression of nonstop color.

The Southern spirit of each season can be captured in a dominant shade. Right this minute, white flowers abound. In spring, the world erupts with a flurry of pink. Summer's cool blues offer a reprieve from heat, and the first hint of gold promises autumn's onset. Now and in the coming months, we will celebrate each one in its time, explaining how you can keep your world blooming throughout the year.

Creamy vanilla primroses bundle uncomplicated charm and innocence in the petals of a flower. The Upper South enjoys these happy plants as perennials under trees and shrubs. The rest of us appreciate them as seasonal potted plants.

Primroses prefer cool weather and damp soil. If you choose to keep them indoors, find a chilly windowsill, and water the soil as it begins to dry. Outdoors, they snuggle into containers and thrive, provided they don't suffer a hard freeze. Again, moisture is key. For the longest bloom time, peek down between the petals in search of buds when buying plants; you'll be rewarded with several months of easy-care flowers.

Pansies and Violas
Facing winter without flinching, these flowers are tenacious against cold, undemanding, and endlessly cheerful with snowy white blooms. New crops appear in stores for immediate planting and last willingly through spring's unpredictable behavior. To really appreciate your flowers, fill containers, and keep them close to entries and paths you pass by frequently. Pick them in copious amounts for indoor bouquets; this encourages new buds.

These flowers drift across the landscape in clouds of whiteness. Plant them on the edge of a walkway, or let them tumble over a wall. Their drought-tough nature makes them the perfect choice for a chronically dry spot.

If there's a belle of the winter ball, pearly white camellias preside over the season. These iconic Lower and Coastal South flowers personify timeless elegance. In these areas, they require protection from hot sun--especially their roots. Plant them under the canopy of tall shade trees or on the north side of your home. In the coldest regions, indulge in one as a container plant. Keep it away from harsh winds, and move it into a garage when a freeze is predicted. It is worth every moment of fuss to see this magnificent flower unfold.

Like kids on Christmas morning, crocus appear long before we expect them. In the Upper and Middle South, these bulbs naturalize in the garden. Translucent, tissue-paper blooms perch above the still-cold earth and stretch for warmth on sunny days. These early risers also take to containers, so you will find them coaxed into bloom in garden shops.

Nurseries produce blooming containers for immediate enjoyment. Find the best selection for your particular locale, take them home, add them to your collection of winter pots, and then plant them in the garden for future years. This perennial ground cover's profusion of flowers also signals that winter is winding down.

"Winter Whites" is from the January 2008 issue of Southern Living.