The first snowstorm of the season has been twice replaced. It’s January, and with the new year, my thoughts have returned to the garden. I dig out my winter boots and wander outside to survey up close what’s left of last year’s garden.
Out front on the south side most of the recent snow has gone. I check out the yucca that I planted near the driveway several years ago. My husband calls it “the sword plant” because he remembers using the leaves (which have a sharp edge) for sword fights when he played as a boy.
Behind the yucca is the small Elberta spruce I planted two years ago. Its brown remains are a reminder of the drought that claimed its life this fall. I need to dig it out or saw it down. Guess I’ll do that when I’m cleaning the oak leaves out of the yucca this spring.
Further down the driveway I check out the bed that runs along the west side. I smile knowing that with research and a lot of trial and error, I’ve finally put the right plants in the right place this time. The tall oak tends to drink up whatever water penetrates the soil. It’s a dry shade bed that has killed most of the dry shade plants I’ve planted here.
Hellebores are evergreens here in Zone 5. I wasn’t sure I’d like them when I saw my first one. I just couldn’t resist the temptation to save it. Surrounded by mostly brown and barely living rejects of the earlier plant season, the lone speciman had stood out as a survivor despite its spent flowers and droopy green leaves at the time. With careful shading and plenty of watering my salvaged hellebore survived and even flourished that first year. The next spring I dug it up and with a sharp knife and cut its roots into three. Those three plants grew well in the spring and when their seed pods finally dried out and dropped seeds later that year, I discovered that I could get plenty of hellebores just by letting them seed.
A year ago I moved one hellebore to this driveway bed just to see if it would like it here. Then when our redbuds died and the hellebores needed more shade, I decided last fall to put all of them under the oak. I’m pleased to see that my transplants appear all to have survived. I smile in anticipation of the winter blooms they will soon be sporting.
On the other side of the driveway I check out my low-growing plant bed. These are some of my favorite plants because they seem to hug the soil with beautiful colors and texture.
I am busy moving leaves so I can get a better look when I hear a familiar sound behind me. I know from his voice right away that my dear friend that moved in next door last summer has come by to pay a visit.
“Hi, Sparky!” I greet him back. It’s a stupid name that I really don’t like, but he’s not my cat, so Sparky it is. Last summer he would watch for me each morning and then he’d follow me into the garden. After many strokes and “you’re a good boy” assurances, he’d finally lie down in the soil nearby and watch me for a while. Eventually something would catch his eye and he’d wander off, but when I started walking toward the door, Sparky had a way it seemed of magically appearing in my path. As if to say he objected to my going inside he’d position himself against my legs effectively blocking my movement forward. Today did not appear to have changed that pattern any. Once the pettings were over and I’d stepped onto the sidewalk, we began our dance again.
I smile as I look toward the fake blue cat that resides by the door on my front porch. I bought it several years ago at a second hand shop. Somehow it caught my eye and for just $5 I could not pass it by. Seems all the more appropriate now with Sparky next door.
After a few more minutes of stroking and dancing up the path, Sparky spots his owners coming home and he hurries back across the street. I continue my survey to the east and northern sides of the house. The snow is still here and I’m glad I wore my boots. Some of my favorite plants peek out above the snow.
Santolina was another plant that I just decided to try. I found it in a High Country Gardens catalog several years ago. It was one little plant with a single stem when it first arrived. Since then I’ve taken cuttings and started several others on my own. These are actually low growing shrubs that stay gray all year long. They grow fairly quickly. I think this particular one is about 3 years old. In the summer they bloom with numerous small button-like yellow flowers, but the plant is grown mostly for its foliage.
I always grow a few vegetables each year. Last year was the second year I tried growing brussel sprouts. I didn’t think the plant was very attractive the first time I grew it and the growing season is so long I barely get much produce off them by the time I get them planted. I don’t know why I decided to try it again this year, but I’m glad I did. The only problem is I forgot to write down the variety I purchased this time. While I thought the first plant was ugly and a waste of my valuable space, I really love the way this second plant looked. This is how it appeared in my garden last summer.
They continued to grow and by last fall they were 3-4 feet tall. I got one batch of sprouts that were still quite small before the season ended, but I think they are gorgeous to look at whether their sprouts got any size or not. I just left the plants standing like large blue statues to enjoy from my guest room window. With the passing season my brussel sprout statues have been sculpted by the cold winds and moisture, but they are still standing (except for the one lying down in the middle). I think they have a lot of character. I’ll be growing these again next year but I’ve got to plant them sooner, and pay attention to the varieties a little closer.
I have learned from observation how much roses love the cooler weather. It seems that the cooler temperatures of fall bring out the best in all of them. The colors are never more vibrant than they are when cool fall nights come around. My “Green Ice” roses were blooming beautifully just before the cool got too cold. Today the roses have browned a little but they still hang on to their stems.
I continue my walk around and make several mental notes before I return inside. I sit down by the door to remove my boots and coat. Wilma is there to greet me and she’s checking out my coat. I’ve got the smell of betrayal coming off me everywhere.
- Beat the Winter Blues with Hellebore Hues! (funflowerfacts.com)
- Green in the winter garden (csmonitor.com)
- Beautiful contradition of the Christmas rose (blogs.vancouversun.com)