A dreary winter’s day

Today is cold and gray, with a drizzle of rain swirling about that threatens to freeze to make roadways perilous. Temperatures in the past week have strayed only a few degrees above freezing, and little of last week’s snowfall has melted. My garden is quite cold-natured as winter’s chill settles into the bottom land between foothills, and snow will often remain weeks after the neighboring properties are green.

With a seven inch blanket of crusted snow the buds of hellebores are hidden, just as I was beginning to be comforted as the plump buds emerged. The earliest bloomer in the garden, ‘Arnold’s Promise’ witch hazel (above) appears to be on schedule to flower late in February despite the cold. Today there is barely a peak of its ribbon-like yellow blooms, which will continue to unfurl as the month progresses, the only sign in the garden that spring in near.

With the month of February fully ahead I have read all the books that had been set aside for the winter, the seed and perennial catalogs have been scoured cover to cover, and lists have been prepared for perennials and shrubs that have caught my eye. On this dreary day I’m anxious to get started, ready to rake leaves and cut back spent perennials, and impatient to visit the garden center to bring home a trunk full of treasures to begin planting.

The long list of must haves and maybe’s will be amended through the month, with some additions, but likely more subtractions as I consider that there is no space for this or that. A few purchases are certain, though I am still undecided where they will fit in this already over planted garden. 

I was mesmerized when I first saw Acanthus ‘Whitewater’ (above), and so a spot will be found at the front of one of the sunny borders. Though Whitewater is a bit tall for planting at the front, the marvelous, creamy variegated foliage grows only a foot or so in height, and the tall flower spikes are so sturdy that they will not flop about.

Through the years I have accumulated a handful or two of hummingbird mints, and I have no doubt that a sunny place can be found for Agastache ‘Summer Glow’ (above), with fragrant foliage and blooms mid-summer through late in the autumn that are visited frequently by butterflies and hummingbirds. 

I have been inspired by my winter reading to plant bellflowers (Campanula ‘Summertime Blues’, above), and so several have landed on my wish list, some tall clumpers and a few low spreaders that will seed themselves about if the seedlings can find a spot of sun. A damp piece of ground along the sunny back property line should suit the campanulas nicely, though I must clear some brambles and scrub for planting.

This will be a considerable project for early in March, clearing to eliminate the brambles and grading some swampy ground, but the effort will be worthwhile, and on this gray afternoon I look forward to the labor.

Photos of acanthus, agastache, and campanula are courtesy of Terra Nova Nurseries.

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3 thoughts on “A dreary winter’s day

  1. Help! I need advice on some flowering full shade tolerant perennials. Our neighbor put in a wooden fence on the south property line, and my new border of yellow and purple sun loving perennials (stella d’oro, yellow rudbeckia, echinacea etc.) has been cast into semi-permanent shade. I want to transplant all these plants over to the other side of the yard and replace them with about a dozen bright flowering perennials that will tolerate some oak litter and shade. Something besides ostrich fern and hosta, but what?

    • You might be surprised that daylilies and echinacea will tolerate a good bit of shade, but here are a few perennials that flourish in my garden with little care, and no water except in the first several weeks while they’re becoming established.

      I am particularly fond of hellebores (late winter blooms and deer proof) and tricyrtis (toad lily, late summer blooms into early autumn). Other favorites are gold Japanese Forest grass (Hakonechloa aurea), spring blooming epimediums (very deer proof), corydalis, heuchera (available in a bunch of foliage colors, yellow to plum purple), brunnera, and variegated Solomon’s Seal (Polygonatum variegatum). Astilbe are usually recommended for deep shade, but they must have rich, damp soil or they go dormant in late summer.

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