UNITED STATES—Except for flowers that bloom randomly throughout the year, most autumn bloom is done. Much of the formerly spectacular autumn foliar color succumbed to wintry rain and wind. Many colorful winter berries have already gone with migratory birds who consume them. Overwintering birds appreciate what lingers. Fortunately, some winter bloom continues.

Cool season annuals likely provide most winter flowers prior to spring. Ornamental kale generates a foliar display like a pastel version of summer coleus. Snowdrop bulbs bloom only white, but look sharp if other bloom is scarce. A few species contribute winter bloom merely because they lack regard for seasons. African daisy blooms whenever it wants to.

However, winter bloom is not comparable to spring bloom. That is an unfortunate reality. Most species that bloom randomly throughout the year bloom best for spring or summer. Most species that bloom specifically during winter are relatively subdued about doing so. Although pollinators are less active, competition for their pollination services is minimal.

Pollinators are less active during winter.

Witch hazel is becoming more popular locally for its fragrant winter bloom on bare stems. Modern cultivars bloom with earthy tones of yellow, orange, red, and burgundy red. They prefer cool wintry weather though. Bloom may be inhibited somewhat within mild coastal climates. Winter jasmine bloom, although limited to only brilliant yellow, is more reliable.

Some species of Mahonia likewise bloom reliably but exclusively bright yellow. They are evergreen instead of deciduous. So is andromeda. Its pendulous ivory white or pale pink blooms are more striking in form than color. Daphne, which likely finished bloom already, is more striking in fragrance than color. Its evergreen foliage mostly obscures its light pink bloom.

Camellias are among the most reliably colorful of winter bloom. Their floral color ranges through all hues between white and red. Floral form and abundance are notably diverse. Some bloom rather sparsely. Various cultivars bloom at various times throughout winter. Sasanqua camellias generally bloom earlier, with relatively smaller but profuse flowers. Camellias unfortunately lack fragrance.

Highlight: Ornamental Kale

Flowering cherry trees are prettier but fruitless versions of their fruiting counterparts. So are flowering peach trees. It seems only fair that some vegetables could also be prettier than culinarily useful. Gourds are ornamental squash fruit that can qualify as vegetables. Ornamental kale, Brassica oleracea, is an actual vegetable that is primarily ornamental.

Ornamental kale is also known as flowering kale, or ornamental or flowering cabbage. It is more foliar than floral though. Its dense foliar rosettes unfurl like big ruffly roses. Some are very ruffly. Some have intricate lobes. Foliar color can be white, pink, red or purplish. Ornamental kale is as edible as culinary kale, but a bit more bitter. It is a splendid garnish.

Like cool season annual flowers, ornamental kale performs between autumn and spring. It grows quite slowly though. Seed that starts in August grows into seedlings for October. Seedlings that start in October only begin to get colorful during November, a month later. Their seemingly floral but foliar display ironically ends as they actually bloom for spring.

Tony Tomeo can be contacted at tonytomeo.com.