Monday, January 16, 2012

Growing in My Garden: January 9-15

Not so fast Spring! I'm now wondering if this blog has more influence than originally thought. As soon as I publicized my worry of an early spring, winter was delivered. Temperatures took a nosedive mid-week as a cold front carrying high winds and light but constant snow moved into the Midwest. Over the course of three days, a thin blanket of snow covered most of the garden.

I left a few sturdy plants in containers on the front porch, waiting for snow. The plants (including this mum) provide interest even without a covering of snow, but fulfill my aesthetic intentions once covered with a couple of inches of the white stuff.

Aronia 'Brilliantisima'
The shrubs in the driveway border no longer blend into the brown mulch. I'm now wishing I had planted more Aronia, as it has turned out to be a spectacular specimen in winter.

Picea pungens 'Fat Albert'
The needles of the Colorado Blue Spruce collect the light snow up the length of its twigs. The icy snow didn't melt much, so individual flakes could still be seen along the ridges.

Pinus mugo
I barely notice the Mugo pine in the front border until we have a snowfall. The rest of the year, it's a solid shrub that provides good shape and constant color. When its green needles poke out through the fallen snow, it becomes a highlight of the garden.

Picea pungens 'Fat Albert' and Clematis 'Jackmanii'
I'd like to claim credit for planning it this way, but rather accidentally the front border is filled with plants that make excellent show catchers. Of all our garden areas, this part is the best example of the winter garden.

Hylotelephium 'Autumn Joy'
The tall sedum that grows at the base of the spruce may be named 'Autumn Joy' for its russet flowers, but my favorite sedum season has always been winter. The upright stems topped with broad corymbs will collect snow for most of the winter. As stems are broken by the weight or wind, I'll remove them.

Baptisia australis
I tried a new technique with the Baptisia in the front border while cleaning up the garden in fall. Instead of cutting the old stems down to the ground, I pruned the front of the plant down to half-height and the back to around 3/4 height. I'll take them down completely in spring, but I'm enjoying the different architecture it provides for now.

Miscanthus sinensis
Temperatures in the upper teens led to a very dry snow; very little stuck to plants without horizontal surfaces. With the strong winds that we had, I'm surprised any held on to the seed heads of ornamental grasses.

Hylotelphium 'Matrona'
Tall sedum makes an excellent companion to tall ornamental grasses, in both autumn and winter. Against the snow, their color becomes even more pronounced.

Itea virginica 'Little Henry'
My jury is still out on 'Little Henry' sweetspire. It has interesting summer flowers and good fall color, but its habit and overall impact in the landscape is underwhelming. I'm growing two of these shrubs in the back border, and if I'm honest they've been disappointing. Even with a snowy background, the branches and seed heads don't scream "look at me." It's possible they need to be moved to place where they are less of a focal point.

Hibiscus syriacus
Despite the high germination rate of their seeds, I leave Rose of Sharon (Hibiscus syriacus) pods on for winter. I'll be pulling saplings out next season, but I enjoy the ornamentation they provide during winter. I always chuckle when I see a Rose of Sharon sapling for sale in our garden center. I could probably retire by selling the seedlings I remove.

As I write this, it has warmed up to 46F and large areas of mulch have reemerged in the garden. If this is our only real taste of winter this year, I'll be disappointed. But as most gardeners will attest, satisfaction in the garden is an undefinable mix of hard work, good (perhaps lucky) choices and a willingness to accept what Mother Nature provides.


  1. We had almost the same scenario here in the Northwest the last two days! I took a similar shot of the grass. I just adore the way they look with snow on them. also, I really like your idea with the Baptisia, I think I will do the same.

  2. seedpods are so important to the winter garden! The electric company just came in with their heavy equipment and churned my winter interest into the sand... killin' me.
    Nice snow pics, the white helps offset everything nicely.
    I'm very happy that I don't get much practice shooting snow pics... h8 that cold stuff.

  3. I guess it's a "Be Careful What You Wish For" moment! Your garden looks lovely with all the snow...and I agree, some plants look their best in contrast with snow. We just got some heavy wet snow, which, unfortunately, has taken its toll on the garden.