SIGNS OF SPRING

Last day in January and there are signs of spring everywhere.

                                                                               

The  daffodils  (Narcissus) are coming up in the meadow…

                                                                                       

and the Prunus mume  (Japanese Apricot ) is blooming!

                                                                                                 

                                                                                            

I didn’t have my glasses, but you get the idea. Too bad one  can’t photograph the fragrance.

I know there will be more ‘cold snaps’ before winter releases us from her grip… but these signs that she is waning, gladden the gardener’s heart.

 © All photos & text 2011

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ANOTHER ESSENTIAL PERENNIAL

Arum italicum ‘Pictum’ is, in my mind, essential in any garden where it is hardy.  This perennial sends out its foliage in the late fall and remains green all winter.

                                                                                       

The handsome leaves resemble arrowheads with strong creamy veining. They make a sensational groundcover. Since one NEVER cuts the leaves off daffodils (Narcissus),  the Arum makes a  good companion for them in a vase.

                                                                                              

In spring  a creamy spathe appears. The flower & foliage disappear in the summer, followed by a column of orange/red berries.

If one gardens in zones 6-9 they are indispensable in the winter shade garden.

© All photos  & text 2011

WINTER ‘TO DO’ LIST

Phillip Oliver of  Dirt Therapy  has put together a wonderful ‘to do’ list  for January. Which reminds me to move the rose I have been meaning to for years! It is ‘Graham Thomas’ a David Austin introduction.

                                                                                 

 Temporarily planted at the entrance of our driveway 13 years ago, my husband & guests complain it scratches their cars….  the post office threatened to suspend delivery…..

INDISPENSABLE PERENNIALS 2

Another indispensable perennial for the  winter garden would be  Epimedium or Barrenwort. Pleasant foliage all summer turning bronze / rose in the winter. They make a very useful groundcover in dry shade and  are magnificent paired with Helleborus. Below in my garden…

                                                                                             

 In very early spring the delicate flowers, commonly called Fairy Wings, emerge and proclaim winter officially over.

 Although they find their way into my miniature vases, they are by no means ‘show stoppers’. I use them primarily as ‘filler’ although some of the newer varieties just introduced from Asia can definitely stand on their own. Below Epimedium ‘Making Waves’

                                                                                            

 I encourage you to add some to your garden. The best & newest  can be found at http://www.plantdelights.com Another bonus… they are deer resistant.

Photo of  Epimedium “Making Waves’   used with permission from Plant Delights Nursery.

MORE ON HELLEBORES

I neglected to include a close up photo of the hellebore ( Helleborus orientalis) I featured in the last post… so here it is.

                                                                                      

There are many hellebore species (15 according to Armitage). I grow only the  two common types successfully.  The second one is the Bearsfoot Hellebore (Helleborus foetidus). This is the earliest hellebore to open in my garden.The lime green nodding bell-shaped flowers with a thin purple rim  often greet me just before the New Year.

                                                                                          

 The blue-green foliage is a wonderful foil for the flowers.

This is also known as the “Stinking Hellebore’ but I have never detected an odor and I do use them in arrangements indoors.

The other commonly known hellebore is  the Christmas Rose (Helleborus niger) and I have presided over the funeral of every one I have planted. I REALLY would like to grow it, so if anyone reading this has any advice I would appreciate it. It does bloom before Christmas & through the holiday, just not in my garden.

The last few years there has been much made of the new double hellebore, but quite frankly they have disappointed me. Unlike the photos in catalogues, which feature only the flowers, they are quite small (6-8″tall) and fall short of making a big show. IF they were to be grown say, at the top of a wall or in a raised container  seen at eye level, yes, they would be delightful, but I am frankly interested in landscape appeal on a larger scale.

                                                                                             

 For the next few posts I will cover a few more perennials I consider indispensable.

© All photos & text 2011

AN INDISPENSABLE PERENNIAL

I am not a huge proponent of perennials. I find they require too much maintenance for a very short show and then, even the foliage disappears for the winter. There are of course exceptions. Peonies for example are worth whatever effort is required for even one day of bloom but of course they do last 10 days to 2 weeks in the garden and are stunning in a vase (see Reggie Darling on the pronunciation). The foliage too is quite handsome for most of the summer and useful in arrangements with other flowers as well.

The perennials I consider indispensable are those that have evergreen foliage. Perhaps the best of these are the Hellebores (Helleborus species).

                                                                                                  

They exhibit handsome leathery foliage, appreciate shade, and furnish the garden with much-needed greenery when it is most welcome .

I particularly like them planted at the feet of deciduous shrubs…

                                                                                             

 and at the base of large trees where not much else will grow.

                                                                                                

  Planted in masses, they make an effective ground cover.

Even in northern climates where there is snow cover for most of the winter, their flowers popping up through the melting snow is a sight to behold.

I do hope you include some in your landscape.

© All photos & text 2011

THE WINTER GARDEN

With all the holiday activities over I finally got into the garden. What a relief! It is so quiet and peaceful, in stark contrast to the last weeks. It truly is my sanctuary… just as I planned it.

                                                                                           

Gardening in Georgia, one can have a winter garden that BLOOMS.  From time to time a hard freeze will turn my magnificent camellia flowers to brown mush….

                                                                                             

 but in a day or two when it warms, the new buds open and the show begins again.

                                                                                           

 Even if they did not bloom, their evergreen presence create the ‘bones’.  I always start with the winter structure when I design landscapes. Without structure,  a collection of plants scattered about without any rhyme or reason, is just….. well, a collection of plants just scattered about!  Below,’ BEFORE’ at a client’s.

                                                                                             

While I love the warm spells, my hydrangeas (the macrophylla types) are all too anxious to welcome spring and start to break bud. Not a good thing!!

                                                                                          

The next frost will damage the flower buds that are already exposed. I’m going to try covering with ‘Remay’ a protective covering , or ‘floating row cover’ used in the nursery trade. Hopefully they will be spared. I’m keeping my fingers crossed!

© All photos & text 2011