More Winter Interest

More Winter Interest

This time of year there are lots of blog posts about having multi-season interest, and especially Winter interest, in your garden. I love THIS from The Gardener’s Eden. Beautiful colour, strong contrast, everything you could want to take your mind off the bone shattering cold.

Or from Monrovia’s Top 7 Garden Trends for 2019: subtlety, wistfulness, peace. 

Unfortunately, most of these beautiful scenes depend on sun, snow, or both to really show the virtues.

Unlike the torrential rains, winds and gloom that is the usual lot for us in coastal BC, or coastal PNW (this past week notwithstanding…). 

So here we need to look for plants (or structures or art pieces) that can hold their own not only in the absence of glistening snow and soft winter-low sun, but in the presence of that pounding rain. The flowers of the Pennisetum (above in the Monrovia image) wouldn’t have maintained that lovely mounded shape through the deluge over the first couple days of 2019, but other grasses, like Carex ‘Frosted Curls’ (one of my all-time faves) can still give you the mounded shape, the potential for this frosted effect (real frost) when it happens, without the risk of total loss.

Carex ‘Frosted Curls’–actually frosted.

So assuming you don’t have the acres that for example Anglesey Abbey in Cambridge has…

Cornus stems and Rubus cockburnianus provide interest in the winter months. Credit: Jason Ingram The English Garden

…and that you don’t have California warmth and New England sun, here are my best tips for winter interest: berries and gold foliage.

Berries

berries

Clockwise from top left: Pyracantha ‘Flava’; Callicarpa bodinieri ‘Profusion’; Skimmia japonica

The Pyracantha and Skimmia will glow in pretty much any location, partly because they have evergreen foliage to frame the berries. The Callicarpa however is deciduous, and really needs some other evergreen colour to set off even these neon purple berries. The above pic was taken in late Autumn, when the grasses were still vivid. They aren’t now, so be sure to plant something else around your Callicarpa that will still be present at this time of year. Which leads to the next category of winter interest for dour dreary coastal BC:

Gold Foliage

Gold foliage

Chamaecyparis obtusa ‘Fernspray Gold’; Choisya ternata ‘Goldfingers’; Acorus gramineus ‘Ogon’

One of the great things about gold foliage is that it serves equally well as background colour and foreground colour.

gold foliage

Hamamelis ‘Diane’ in foreground, Chamaecyparis ‘Fernspray gold’ in the background

Had to borrow this picture of Euonymus japonica ‘Aureomarginata’ since my own has been badly eaten by root weevils.

Honourable Mentions

Everyone should have some creeping sedums in their garden.

creeping sedums

Sedum rupestre ‘Angelina’ and Sedum spurium ‘Fuldaglut’–both put on extra layers of colour when it gets cold.

 

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Hamamelis and Hummers–5 Things

Hummingbirds and Witch-hazel.

Hamamelis x intermedia ‘Diane’

I don’t know how this escaped my notice all these years, but it appears that the hummingbirds LOVE Witch-hazel–Hamamelis. The boys and girls were out there this morning drinking to their hearts’ content.

I scoured Google images for one of a Hummingbird enjoying the nectar of the Hamamelis, without success. And try as I might, I couldn’t get one myself.

So I’m afraid you’ll have to take my word for it–and the word of multitudes of garden writers like Ciscoe Morris in Seattle.

And here are a few other items of interest about the lovely Hamamelis species:

  1. The most commonly noted virtue of the witch-hazel is its fragrance. And indeed, if you’ve smelled ‘Arnold Promise’ or ‘Pallida’, you’d have to agree. But before you buy that ‘Diane’ (above) or ‘Jelena’ you’ll have to choose either colourful flowers or fragrance. ‘Diane’ reputedly has “subtle fragrance”, but it’s too subtle for my nose.  ‘Jelena’ has no fragrance.
  2. The shape of the Hamamelis is also delightful: some like ‘Diane’ and ‘Arnold Promise’ are vase shaped, others much rounder.

    Hamamelis x intermedia ‘Diane’. This pic is from 2015 when I still had a tiny front lawn. (Chafer beetle- and raccoon-assaulted as you can just see on the right upper corner.)

  3. Hamamelis, according to Cass Turnbull from Plant Amnesty ( highly recommend her pruning videos) is an “untouchable”. You will quickly destroy that desirable branch structure if you are a little too aggressive pruning her. Hamamelis easily suckers, which means you could have a shrubby messy hedge instead of a tree before long. The suckers must be removed and the earlier the better. If they’re only a couple inches tall when you notice them, removing them won’t do the tree any harm at all. On the other hand, if you’ve planted it a bit too close to the walkway or drive, and feel the need to remove some branches for convenience sake, you may end up with not only more suckers, but watersprouts as well. That’s shoots/branches that appear from some random spot on other branches or the trunk, and most often with a different appearance from the rest of the tree. Avoiding watersprouts is a good think. So plant your Hamamelis where it will have room to grow to its full natural size, only ever cut branches when you really have to, and cut whole branches, don’t “heading-cut”.
  4. Fall colour: hard to beat. Nuff said.
  5. Hamamelis x intermedia ‘Diane’ from Oct 2017.

    Hamamelis x intermedia ‘Diane’ from Oct 2017. This isn’t even late day sun; apparently it’s 10:24 am.

Winter Projects Part 1

Winter Projects Part 1

Helleborus Spring Promise ‘Elly’. Spring Promise is a series from Helleborus Gold Collection. Most have a very upright flowering habit.

one of the many newer upright hellebores–stlll can’t find a tag…

Those pictures are from a few years ago. I want to see the garden looking like above, but this is what it looks like now:

Hellebore in winter before pruning. The flowers haven’t started to show yet, but the foliage has no redeeming virtue as it looks now, so it goes.

Pre-winter pruning. This is ‘Mary Lou’; foliage looks good, but scroll down for more…

I’ve written about pruning your Hellebores several times before, so now I just want to amend the suggestions. Specifically, leave the foliage if you don’t need to cut it, and for some, cut the foliage before you think you need to.

Extremely ratty looking Helleborus nigercors

Regardless what the flowers are doing, early winter flowering, late flowering, short or tall, leaves that look like this should have been cut long ago. But it’s winter, and always wet, and I waited until the roofers had finished replacing my roof. In the meantime, the flowers started to grow tall, and making sure yesterday that I got the foliage and spared the flower stalks was a challenge.

And much as I love hellebores, this particular one never looks very beautiful. I may move it and see if it will do better in a little more sun. It’s currently in the shadiest spot possible–not only does the sun never hit that spot even on June 21, but it’s also growing underneath an evergreen shrub.

Helleborus nigercors ‘White Beauty’. Except not very beautiful.

But back to pruning. Below is ‘Elly’. It has no flower buds pushing up yet, and the foliage is actually in great condition. So I’ll leave it for now, and check again in a few weeks time.

Helleborus orientalis ‘Elly’

Helleborus orientalis ‘Mary Lou’

Mary Lou on the other hand is really trying to be seen, so despite the foliage looking quite good (see above), she should have had a haircut weeks ago as well. Can I remember next year to do this before Christmas? And again, carefully sparing the flower stalks while cutting all the leaf petioles–I was down on my knees with my head upside down. Uncomfortable. Fortunately, most of the petioles are green and most of the flower stalks are red.

Post pruning. Ahh, much better.