Whose Viewpoint?

I’ve posted too little over the last two years, so with this forced isolation still upon us, I think I’ll try to post a little something most days. Remains to be seen–it always takes longer to write than I think it’s going to…

So for today, it’s about your viewpoint. This is the view from my living room window, where I stand and stare just about any time I’m not doing something else. (Duh! I mean when I’m not actually working on something else.)

See the little white flowers in the bottom of the screen? Sanguinaria canadensis, aka “Bloodroot” (altho’ you know I hate to promote “common names” because there are too many names for the same plant, depending on your location, and very often the same common name applied to more than one plant).  A few weeks ago, when they were just emerging from the soil, I couldn’t see them from my preferred viewpoint, because they were hidden under the foliage of an Asplenium scopularium–Hart’s tongue fern. They could be seen from another vantage point, but not my vantage point. So there’s the thing: who are you planting/designing for, who’s viewpoint gets priority? Is it you, from where you stand staring out the window? or is it passers-by? or the person wandering through the garden?

Sanguinaria canadensis

Sanguinaria canadensis

I decided to dig up the Asplenium and put it into two areas (it was big once removed, so I split it into two) where they could grow as much as they liked, not overshadow anything, and enjoy being the stars of their own shows.

Another example:  at the top of the screen (beginning of the short video) you’ll see a Choisya ‘Goldfingers’, and behind it an Edgeworthia chrysantha, in bloom from January, before the leaves appear. Edgeworthia begins to bloom when it’s still cold and miserable, so it’s great if I can see them from the window and not have to brave the weather to do so. But these two pretty shrubs were cleverly concealed by a Nandina domestica, species variety (so growing pretty big, unlike some of the cute little cultivars like  ‘Firepower’ or ‘Moon Bay’). Thus, my two little shrubs behind, and especially the Edgeworthia which is still quite young, small and not massively blooming, were invisible to me from my preferred viewpoint. So out came the Nandina, got pruned back a little, and replanted over near the street. Now the Nandina is fully visible to anyone walking by, but almost invisible to me because there’s an evergreen in the way. Hmmm, we’ll see how that works out…

Edgeworthia chyrsantha

Edgeworthia chyrsantha

Sometimes it’s worth having things a little hidden. This little Erythronium is unintentionally concealed behind a row of boxwood. I chopped away at a nasty rose which gave me access into this little space.

Like the Sanguinaria, it’s a spring ephemeral–it disappears completely once the weather heats up. So in this case I really do have to go out to find it. Worth the effort.

Erythronium americanum

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.



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.