WINTER GARDEN WALK
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."
Whitcomb Riley, When the Frost is on the
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
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
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.