Many gardeners put up their tools and prop up their feet during the winter months. It is a time to slow down and take life a little easier. Many gardeners spend the long evenings poring through garden catalogs and magazines. Getting inspiration for their spring planting. I do the same. But that is not the point of this post.
Here in Durham North Carolina, we usually have fairly mild winter with the occasional snow. Today for example the high temperature will be in the 60’s. It is still a little early to do a lot of cleanup in the garden as the leaf litter helps keep down winter weeds and moderates soil temperature fluctuations. Never know if bitter cold weather is still ahead. Besides, the dried tops of many perennials look good in their winter browns and tans. I especially like some of them when they are covered in frost and sparkle in the sunlight. So I usually wait until later in the winter to do my cutting back of perennials. Take the time to appreciate the subtle colors and textures of your winter garden.
I also take the time to see where the garden is lacking in interest during the winter. Around here the leaves drop just before Thanksgiving, and the trees don’t leaf out until late March or early April. That’s a good 4 months or more. Don’t waste that time! Add color for that third of the year. Find blank areas in the garden in the winter where you can add evergreens or plants with winter color like berries or a change in color. One of my favorite plants in my garden is a white pine called ‘Hillside Winter Gold’ As the name suggests, the needles on it turn gold in the winter.
Another plant that adds interest to the winter garden is Ilex verticillata. Some variety names are Winterberry and Sparkleberry. These are native deciduous hollies. As with all hollies, there are both male and female plants. If you don’t have berries, you may have a male or you have a female and there is not a nearby male. I usually insure berries by ordering a male any time I plant females. Most named varieties will be of a known sex.
Other plants with winter berries are evergreen hollies, hawthorn, and beautyberry. Many of the thuja cultivars have evergreen foliage that changes color with the cold weather as do some of the junipers. Many winters the oakleaf hydrangeas hold onto some of their deep red leaves. Some plants have interesting bark that shows more after the leaves fall. The oakleaf hydrangeas have a cinnamon peeling bark that is hidden by the large leaves all summer. Ninebark also has interesting bark that is unnoticed during the summer.
The point I am making is that the garden doesn’t have to be boring for the third of the year or longer that it is “dormant”. With some planning and some appreciation for winter’s subtleties the garden can be quite enjoyable year round.
So I haven’t posted on here in quite a while. 2011 got very busy for me and a lot of progress was made on Jaliya’s garden as well as the plantings around the house. I hired a landscape architect to help with my business as I found I didn’t have enough time to keep up with all the design work myself. He is a plant nut like myself. It’s like living with your crack dealer. He showed me new plants for me to try as well as new sources for plants I had been looking for. Needless to say, I spent a lot of money on plants last year and Jaliya’s garden is filling up. I found a source for native azaleas here in North Carolina and added several species to the garden. I also purchased the new Hamamelis ovalis which was a new species discovered just a few years ago. Other witch hazels I discovered were Hamamelis purpurea which has purple flowers and is blooming now. Another is Hamamelis vervalis Lombart’s Weeping which of course is a weeping witch hazel.
I’ve also added Physocarpus ‘Little Devil’ which is a smaller version of the more well known Physocarpus ‘Diablo’. The Diablo has done very well for me so having a smaller version was a no-brainer. I think I may actually like it better. I will write a post about it with pictures when it blooms later this year. Another new purchase is Diervilla sessilifolia ‘Cool Splash’ This is a rare native plant to start with but this variety is variegated. It held it’s leaves late into the season, and in fact still has a good many of it’s leaves now in the middle of January. More posts will follow through out the year as plants reach their prime season.