It is truly winter now. The weather remained mild for longer than usual this season and the plants appreciated the respite from killing cold coming after the holidays rather than before. Leaves were still attached to some deciduous denizens but after several shocks of below freezing temps the garden now looks January appropriate. Along the south facing cedar fence clusters of lavender and rosemary carry on bravely. In making this bed, the naturally occurring little bluestem was left uncovered by the thick sheets of cardboard covered with mulch that was used to suppress the wily crabgrass. The tawny grasses catch the morning light and offer movement and color during these bleak months.
Along the opposite north facing fence, the collection of metal watering cans hangs from hooks. The perennials have been left standing to make note of which among them has their winter game on. In the foreground, Aster tataricus ‘Jin Dai’ presents an imposing vertical accent. Pieces of Jin Dai were spread in the area this summer so next winter should see an even more impressive winter statement. Lesser blobs of Rudbeckias, Penstemons and Verbenas add some thickness, but the daylilies are like straw colored melted snowmen. They should be benched, er, cut back in the fall once the frost reduces their turgidity. The green spikes are Eryngium pandanifolium, pushing our USDA Zone 7a envelope. No blooming on those as yet, but they did make it through a harsh and wet winter in 2014/2015.
Evergreens are stalwart winter interest performers and boxwood is a favorite of mine. These small specimens will be kept short, possible pruned as a low hedge or perhaps kept as rounded separate balls of greenery. These are Buxus ‘Wintergreen’ and do hold true to their name. Carex testacea gives a good contrast of color, texture and form along the edge of the upper nursery bed. It is hoped that they can hold up unscathed to the ice, snow and cold of the long nights ahead. The supine sea creature foliage of Musacari ‘Valerie Finnis’ adds embellishment now with the promise of pale blue flowers come March.
In the lower nursery bed which is more shady and more moist than the upper portion, there is another row of the same boxwood. Carex buchanii ribbons behind with a grouping of Echinacea ‘Green Jewel’ still standing proudly erect. The dark stems and seedheads contrast with the beige miasma of grasses and various perennial foliage in the center of the bed. I like it.
Miscanthus ‘Adagio’ blends well with neighbors, particularly the shapely Veronicastrum virginicum. We have high expecations that this combination will prove to be superstars of not only winter interest but for most of the year.
Stepping back for the long view, we can see the upper nursery and leading edge of the lower nursery plantings of four Miscanthus ‘Adagio’, two on each side of the dividing boardwalk. Strong presence is what was needed here and this grass fits the job description. Many more of this cultivar are in use in the front lawn/meadow planting between our yard and the next door neighbors. These were purchased last year in three gallon containers, each sawed into four bits for easier planting and frugality. The impact was minimal during the first cold season, but this year has seen them rise up and excel. The future looks bright as the years roll onward.
Moving to the front yard, the three Cornus ‘Midwinter Fire’ are attention grabbing in the mailbox bed. The suporting players still need some growth to gain girth to offer a better backdrop. Patience is a great gardening virtue, never forget.
A closer look shows the painterly colors of red, coral and gold on each stem. A few leaves at the tips echo the same hues. This is an outstanding winter interest shrub.
Redbor kale, grown from seed sown in September and eaten mercilessly by caterpillars offers a rich, velvety purple accent especially when frosted. It was surprising how much cold those hungry hordes of insect larvae could withstand. Luckily their bright green bodies were easy to detect against the dark leaves, once we noticed the holey leaves. Allium schubertii foliage has erupted to an alarming height already. There may be some damage to the leaves before bloom time in May since we haven’t really been hit with the harshest conditions of winter yet. Hang in there, guys!
Blue fescue, Festuca glauca is the matrix planting along the front walkway. The desired look was for year-round uniformity, and I love the blue. Snow in summer, Cerastium tomentosum was chosen as an accent. Violas and crocus are planted along the edge for color in late winter.
The red Phormium won’t last until spring without wilting down to mush, but it has done well and is such an architectural addition. More of that will be added next year.
These leaves never let me down. Frosted or unadorned, they always come through, especially when backlit. They are from the wonderful glass artist, Barbara Sanderson. Her online shop can be found here. It is so nice to have a real garden again, even in the depths of the down time. Winter interest is so important if you happen to live in a four season area like east Tennessee. Seldom is the yard buried in snow cover so what is left standing should offer a pleasing view from inside the house or when the weather permits outdoor perusing. We do love a good peruse.
There was a series of blog posts written a few years ago about this topic if you wish to learn more. The How To Have Winter Interest series of posts:
How To Have Winter Interest With Non Green Evergreens
How To Have Winter Interest -Garden Grasses
How To Have Winter Interest-Seeing Green
How To Have Winter Interest-Shrubs Small And Large
How To Have Winter Interest-The Big Guys
How To Have Winter Interest-Hardscape