Winter Interest, Part 2

Winter interest part 2

I mentioned in the previous post that ways to create winter interest in our garden is to “think of the aspects to the garden that you like through the rest of the year, and then find winter tolerant providers– texture, colour, movement, smell”.

So a quick note on “movement”.

Wind causing movement of feathery plants:

Stipa tenuissima. Photo credit.

Stipa tenuissima. Photo credit.

Feathery grasses that "flow" in the breeze.

Feathery grasses that “flow” in the breeze. This Miscanthus will be brown now in January (picture was taken in July), but that just means you get not only the visual interest but also auditory interest–the crunchy/crackly sound of the dry grass blades.

Water flowing from fountain or stream:


This garden will have movement from the water  as well as the Pennisetum (Fountain Grass), altho’ it’ll be brown now in January, will still be “blowin’ in the wind”.


Thanks to Outdoor Makeover for the picture

Thanks to Outdoor Makeover for the picture

Here in coastal BC, we don’t often have to worry about freezing temperatures when it comes to water. But if you do, you may not have the luxury of letting your fountains continue fountaining through the winter. Check your night-time temperatures, and if it’s going to be below 0° C, just keeping it running through the night might be enough to keep it liquid. Unless it’s well below 0°.

Birds of course create an delightful amount of movement, and even more so if you provide “some of their favourite things”–food and water.

House finches

House finches and a junco at the bottom.

This feeder is filled with mostly black sunflower seed top and middle, and then Nyjer in the bottom section. (I was disappointed to learn that most Nyjer seed is imported from Africa or India. So much for 100-mile diet!) Enlarge the following clip to get  better view of the house finches “eating and spitting”. 

Chickadee having a little drink.

Chickadee having a little drink.

Besides keeping the feeder filled, I like to leave faded flower stems in the garden in the fall instead of doing a fall clean-up, so the birds can enjoy the seeds.

Sedum spectabile 'Autumn Joy'

Sedum spectabile ‘Autumn Joy’–lots of seeds.

Rudbeckia hirta seed heads

Rudbeckia hirta seed heads. You’re right, this isn’t beautiful, but still provides joy when you see the birds pecking away at them.

Crocosmia seed heads. These are a big seed and I don't see much bird action around them. I wonder if I collected some and actually put them in the feeder?...

Crocosmia seed heads. These are a big seed and I don’t see much bird action around them. I wonder if I collected some and actually put them in the feeder?…

Stay tuned for the next post on “Water in the Landscape”.

Multiply Your Stock of Plants: Collect Seeds

There are some annuals in my garden that I just want more of, or I want to be able to give away to friends, so I make a point of collecting seeds as often as I can. But in many cases here in balmy Metro Vancouver, I don’t have to do the work, the plants do it for me.

Some annuals and biennials act like perennials. For example Foxglove and Sweet William are biennials, which means they have a two year cycle and then die. After they flower, they set seed, which falls to the ground. Next spring the seed germinates, and puts on herbaceous (green) growth, goes dormant in the fall. The second growing year puts on floriferous (flowering) growth. Then sets seed and dies. If the weather is favourable, and if they fall early enough, they may set seed, fall, germinate and start their first year of growth the same summer, then produce flowers the next year, their second year. So you had flowers this year, and you’ll have flowers next year.  Biennials, but they act like perennials.



Foxglove setting seed

Foxglove setting seed, still completely green, these won’t be ready for at least another month.

Then there’s snapdragons or larkspur. They’re annuals, but they set seed so well, and disperse if so effectively, they’ll grow more next year close by, and probably grow more than you had this year.

Snapdragon seed heads, not ripe yet.

Snapdragon seed heads, not ripe yet.

Seed head open, and black seeds visible.Columbine seed head open, and black seeds visible.

If you want to be sure to increase your stock, collect the seeds yourself, so you’ll get them before the chickadees do. You can either sow them right away, or save them in an airtight envelope in a cool place (fridge would do, not freezer) over the winter and sow in spring. You can even “winter sow” them–in containers, left outside in a secure area away form the racoons and the strong winter winds– and see them come up all nice and safe and prolific in the spring.

Want help figuring out how to collect seeds, or what to do with them once you do? Post a comment or question. Follow this blog to get more, or follow our Facebook page.