By Stephaine Hudak
Okay, it isn’t officially winter, but it sure looks and feels like it. The intense cold temperatures finally did in the last of the plants in my yard. Well, except for those wonderful winter weeds. Yes, I should have put out that pre-emergent I told you all to do, but didn’t. So as I look out the window I see lovely lines of wild onions and henbit flowing beautifully throughout my yard.
Now, while I can enjoy the beauty of henbit in bloom – that huge haze of purple – especially in the morning mist – it is still just a weed. Now what can we put in our yards so that on winter days we can look outside and take joy in what we have created?
How about things with texture and color! Native grasses that take on a lovely tan color, trees with awesome exfoliating bark and stunning structure, or deciduous hollies that are heavy with lush red berries, just waiting for the birds to land and dine.
As I looked out my front window (no weeds here yet) I saw the beautiful exfoliating bark of the elm tree I put in two years ago. I love my neighborhood; just wish I had been fortunate enough to get a plot with trees in it. So, in came a wonderful elm, an outstanding trident maple, and three Natchez crepe myrtles.
All of which have beautiful summer attributes, but in the winter their exfoliating bark is stunning. And — I finally have a source of leaves for my compost pile!! Back to the back yard! Not enough going on there I decided. Then my beloved magazine “The American Gardener” arrived. Christmas Note: this is one of the best gifts you can give – to anyone, including yourself. It is the magazine of the American Horticultural Society – check into it.
It was filled with ideas for winter gardens this time but each issue has worthy articles to help you with your gardening concerns. So what were those ideas? In the winter, it is all about texture and bright colors. Well, wait just a minute while I tell you about the benefits of Lenten roses. They don’t have lots of texture or bright colors, but in the coldest months we have, they produce lots of pleasure.
Please check out Piccadilly Farms in Bishop, Georgia, and my good friend, Sam Jones – he produces the best Lenten rose stuff. Then there are the edgeworthia plants. Okay, for most of the year they are ordinary, but WOW in the winter when they put out their blooms it is show stopping fragrance.
I wouldn’t put them in the front of a garden bed but as a background shrub – awesome! What else? Consider any plants that have berries in the winter. Any of the cranberry viburnums – they give four season pleasure and the birds will love you! Don’t forget paper bark maples (Acer griseum), one of my favorite trees, just for its beautiful peeling bark.
If you have the shade in summer to accommodate any of these perennials, they will reward you in winter: Bergenia (Bergenia cordifolia); Christmas fern (Polystichum acrostichoides); or another tough favorite – Sacred lily (Rhodea jaconica), shade only please. Something else to consider in your winter landscape is “hardscaping”. It never goes away, needs no maintenance and critters don’t mess with it. Hardscaping is all that stuff that is “hard” – rocks, pebbles, sand, etc.
The morning mist on a rock way path is a pretty nice sight. This is a busy time of the year. Not one where we even want to be worried about outdoor chores, but gift giving is probably on our minds. So consider giving a winter worthy plant to someone you love. And if you can’t find any of these goodies, go back to that great magazine I mentioned. Hugs to all.