Tuesday, January 29, 2013

The Dead of Winter - Part One

Dead? Not so much. 

Winter interest in the garden is key to keep it "alive" during the bleakness of dormancy. Fruit, seed-pods, evergreen foliage, texture and movement is what helps to keep the garden interesting during the cold days of winter.

This is the time of year to take a long look, to ponder what can fill some holes and offer some ideas for your garden.

Here is part one of some of my favourite choices to help keep winter interest alive.

Cornus serica "Flaviramea" - Yellow Twig Dogwood  
I tend to enjoy seeing this in gardens more than the average red twig dogwoods. Grouped side by side would make a huge impact. Their yellow/green stems just say 'I'm alive', when all else is brown.

Lavendula augustifolia - Mundstead Lavender
I love silver foliage in all seasons. The silver covering of lavender is commonly mistaken for ground cover junipers. It drapes rockery really well and helps attract snow - making softer edges. You can still cut sprigs of lavender and use for pot-puree even in winter.  Bonus!

Callicarpa dichotoma - Purple Beautyberry Bush 
You don't see these coloured berries every day. What a delightful bush to plant next to an evergreen. The purple/pink berries against a back drop of green just says - "look my direction!"

Rudbeckia Goldstrum
Rudbeckia fulgida 'Goldsturm' -Black Eyed Susan
 Nearly every garden has them. Why not! They are such a versatile perennial. One of my pet peeves however, is many whack them down to the ground in late fall. I see no sense in doing that, when against snow, they offer such texture and dark contrasts with their seed heads. Not only that, but they provide a wonderful food source for various birds. I've witnessed Chickadees, Warblers, Juncos, and Finch feed off them in my backyard! 

Berberis thunbergii - Barberry
Given the height and its grouping, I gather this Barberry is "Ruby Carousel". Used often now for contrast colour in summer months and great red leaf fall demonstration - yet most folks don't realize the great red berries on Barberries. When they are healthy and happy, they produce and retain red berries throughout the winter.

Sedum x "Autumn Joy" - Stone Crop
Like the Hydrangea below, the umbrella, mushroom flower head holds just enough snow to make this perennial a keeper for winter interest. The seed heads and rigid stems stand a lot of wind and make the garden still seem to bloom in the middle of winter.

Ilex meserveae - Blue Holly  
Holly has some troubles growing in Ontario, but as our zones seem to become warmer, I find more and more areas where holly thrive. Plant a male and female holly together and not only do you get rich dark green foliage (most evergreens turn bronze in winter), but you'll get a great display of red berries too.

Calamagrostis Karl Forester - Karl Forester Feather Reed Grass
I love this grass for its vertical growth habit. Karl Forester grass remains rigid and upright in the most exposed areas. I took this picture down by  Lake Ontario, a stones throw away from the water. Winds and traffic have whipped this grass about, and yet it remains standing tall. Grasses add such great texture and provide visual interest when other vertical elements just stand there.

Hydrangea paniculata  - Conical Flowering Hydrangea
Not sure which variety of Hydrangea paniculata, but its dried flower heads make a great display, even in winter. Don't cut them back in the fall, let the snow and the birds make use of their dried flowers. Beats looking at sticks all winter.

More to come in part two!

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