GardenSMART Newsletter Signup
Visit our Sponsors!
Visit our Sponsors and win.


Article by Anne K Moore

“O, it sets my heart a-clickin’ like the tickin’ of a clock.
When the frost is on the punkin and the fodder’s in the shock."

James Whitcomb Riley, When the Frost is on the Punkin, 1883.

After the frost leaves the pumpkin and a hard freeze turns it to mush, I say Halleluiah!  I can finally get some rest.  In the winter, I don’t really have to garden, just because I can. 

During this time of rest, if less work is “rest,” I like to take stock of how the garden is evolving.  A piece of paper and pencil replace the shovel and trowel as I wander through the garden.  Guilt often accompanies me on my walks.  There is so much to do and so little time.  Guilt is fleeting, though, as I make plans and discoveries in the winter landscape.

During these walks in our backyard private spaces, I notice the evergreen azaleas (USDA Zones 5-8) grouped in separate areas.  They were chosen to blossom at different times throughout the spring season.  I think azaleas are splendid in their short-lived spring glory.  The rest of the year, I like to hide them behind other greenery with more attractive foliage.

A good shady-side combination, much more attractive in summer and winter than the azaleas, pairs thick long-leaved, deep green cast-iron plants (Aspidistra elatior) and prickly, mature holly ferns (Cyrtomium falcatum), both zones 6-11.  Both of these attractive plants thrive in deep shade.  To keep them looking topnotch, I trim off the yellow leaves in early spring.  Otherwise, they take no care.  Any wonder why they are favorites?

A couple of weeping yaupons (Ilex vomitoria 'Pendula'), zones 7-10, have not been so favored.  They were puny looking when we bought this place.  They are finally beginning to fill out.  It does not hurt to be too busy to tackle some chores.  The yaupons have earned a reprieve from the axe.  That stay of execution might not last if they do not decide to set their translucent red winter berries by next year.

Dog hobble (Leucothoe racemosa), zones 4-8, is another tall, graceful plant.  Its arching branches screen out the ugly metal storage building.  Its evergreen branches also provide fine cover for the birds on frosty nights.  Sweet little bellflowers scent the spring air.  This native should find more homes in gardens.

Dwarf gardenias enhance the look of the azaleas out front and lay at the feet of an edgeworthia in the backyard.  Paperbush plant (Edgeworthia chrysantha), zones 6-10, is a member of the daphne family.  It is next to the screened porch, where the winter scent and unusual flower structures can be experienced close up from inside.

Variety zings up a garden.  There are so many innovative plants on the new plants lists.  I either have to quit falling for new plants or pull something out.  Something has to leave.  Last year we yanked out the Indian Hawthorns.  The Indian Hawthorns gave the front garden formality.  They have been replaced with looser, more informal and for the most part, deciduous shrubs.

Now my favorite bloomers, hydrangeas, occupy the beds where the Indian Hawthorns once crouched.  Hydrangea paniculatas come in many flower and shrub sizes.  ‘The Swan’, zones 3-8, is one of my favorites.  You must be patient to grow this beauty.  It can take up to five years for this ugly duckling to turn into a beautiful swan, but Oh!  The flowers.  ‘Big Daddy’ is another favorite with his huge flower heads, zones 6-9; and the hardy ‘Limelight’ and ‘Pinky Winky’, zones 3-9, are more favorites.  They all replace the sickly Indian Hawthorns, along with Weigela ‘Ghost’, zones 4-8, with its near-white foliage and bright red flowers, and white blossoming evergreen abelias, zones 6-9.

A winter garden is more than cloudy skies and rose hips.  The weather outside is not always frightful.  Count on spending some delightful work-free days in the winter garden.


All articles are copyrighted and remain the property of the author.

Article URL:

Back to Articles List                               

GardenSMART Featured Article

By Natalie Carmolli, Proven Winners ColorChoice, Photographs courtesy of Proven Winners

There are few things more satisfying than seeing your beautiful garden in full bloom...and it's especially thrilling to see it abuzz with the activity of butterflies and bees. Want to bring more activity to your garden? Here's a guide to choosing unique, colorful, easy-care plants that provide a much-needed place for pollinators of all sizes to do their work. Read more...

Jump into Spring with savings up to $2200 on this Exclusive Cruise of the Rivers of Holland & Belgium with Eric Johnson Host of GardenSMART from PBS

Sail right into the pages of a storybook on our European garden tour through Holland and Belgium.

MAY 6-16, 2018

As low as $3799 per person/do, Price includes airfare from New York, Atlanta, Seattle, Chicago. CALL FOR OTHER CITIES THROUGHOUT THE USA

> Click Here For Details <

Watch filming and be part of the fun, telling your favorite...and not so favorite Dirty Tales. 2 Nights Amsterdam & 7 Nights River. Visit Amsterdam, Holland, Belgium, Kinderdijk, Antwerp, Bruges, Keukenhof Gardens, Rotterdam and More!

This Exclusive, Five-Star, Cruise & Garden Tours Vacation Includes:

  • 2 nights in Amsterdam including gorgeous hotel, wonderful tours and daily breakfast
  • 7 nights on the new, flagship Amadeus Silver III river cruise ship Incredible excursions in Arnhem, Kinderdijk, Rotterdam, Antwerp, Ghent, Bruges and Utrecht
  • All of your meals on board the ship, including wine with dinner
  • Deluxe motorcoach transportation
  • Transfers and luggage handling in Amsterdam
  • Hosted by Eric Johnson of PBS' GardenSMART
  • Fully narrated so you won't miss a thing!

Reserve space now by calling toll-free 206-935-6848 or make a reservation here.

  Click here to sign up for our monthly NEWSLETTER packed with great articles and helpful tips for your home, garden and pets!  
Copyright © 1998-2012 GSPC. All Rights Reserved.