Tag Archives: winter garden

Winter Tracings And Seeking Inspiration

As predicted, yesterday afternoon temperatures dropped. Rain turned to sleet and snow, quickly dusting and revealing the garden borders and meditation circle.

It is sunny this morning. The snow will soon depart, but the image leaves me contemplating why my garden design has become so stuck. I have not given it enough attention in recent years—I know that. But even when I was actively trying, I never dreamed big enough it seems.

I say that because recently my husband and I have begun watching episodes on Netflix of two British reality TV shows on landscape gardening.

One featuring Monty Don is titled Big Dreams, Small Spaces. In this series he visits lucky home gardeners, hears their goals and plans, makes suggestions, then returns once to check on progress, and a final time to reveal the results to his viewers and celebrate with a glass of champagne with the garden owners family and friends. By the end of the show the home gardeners have cut down trees, invasive vines and cleared rubbish; built walls, ponds, terraces and pathways; planted orchards, installed living walls and created multiple borders around their property all full of hundreds of English garden flowers in full bloom.

The other show is a bit of a tear jerker, but it is more interesting to me. Love Your Garden features horticulturist Alan Titchmarsh. This show’s premise has him going around the U.K. providing garden makeovers for deserving citizens. The garden owners are sent away for a while (exactly how long is not clear) while a team of experts comes in creates a garden customized for the owners needs and interests. I like this show better because there is more effort to introduce and describe the plants being used, money seems never to be an issue, and the labor it takes to do such projects seems more accurately portrayed.  There are a few awkward contrivances, nods toward the reality show template that try to hype or to create drama, tension or humor—the show would be better without these distractions—but the episodes are full of information.

Both of these shows do a good job of showcasing public and private gardens where one can find inspiration for solving similar garden problems. Only one season each of these British shows are currently available, but I hope more will be released here.

While I am dreaming of a complete garden overhaul, I am curious what you think. Are you familiar with these garden icons? Do you study their books? Have you watched the shows?  Where do you find inspiration?

 

Fragrant Daphne

Early yesterday morning I caught my first whiff of Daphne odora.

Daphne odora (Winter daphne)

Just beginning to flower, the three shrubs are planted along the front of the house near the driveway. They have grown in together and appear to be one large Daphne. One of the three is D. ‘Aureomarginata’.

The cold winter and heavy snows this year severely damaged the foliage and buds. From the street side they look terrible, but the portion that backs up to the porch was more protected and will make a nice, if limited, show. And the fragrance will certainly be enjoyed.

Daphne odora (Winter daphne) protected by the overhang and proximity to the porch

The temperature yesterday reached 81° Fahrenheit. Today’s high is predicted to be 41°. I do not talk to my plants but if I did I would encourage them to “Be strong and courageous!”

In A Vase On Monday – Color In Winter

In A Vase On Monday – Color In Winter

Each Monday Cathy at Rambling In The Garden invites us to share an arrangement using materials collected from our gardens.

Wednesday brought a second winter snow to Chapel Hill and this time there was no messing around with a couple of inches. The garden was graced with spectacular 9.5 inches of snow. By Sunday the snow was nearly gone and the day was a pleasant 67°F.  

Snowy Beauty – On Thursday the sun returned.

The starting point for today’s vase was a piece from a large, broken branch of crape myrtle, a 3-inch circumference victim of the heavy snow. The crape myrtle wood is red and smooth and after the stark white snow it seemed especially appealing.

Crape Myrtles suffered damage from heavy snow.

I decided to sacrifice a stem from a salmon-colored phalaenopsis to set off the polished red bark. Unfortunately the portion of the crape myrtle branch that prompted this choice, the part that was interesting and colorful, was also much too thick and heavy for me to use.

In A Vase On Monday – Color In Winter

I ended up with a couple of branch tips that serve valiantly but lack the innate beauty of the red bark.

In A Vase On Monday – Color In Winter

Still I like the richness of the flowers against the gray stems. And outdoors in the garden, tucked deep within cold-touched gardenia shrubs, I found several sets of lush green leaves to fill out the design.

In A Vase On Monday – Color In Winter

Materials

Flowers
Phalaenopsis (moth orchid)
Foliage
Lagerstroemia (crape myrtle) branch
Gardenia jasminoides
Vase
Porcelain Ikebana vase, Georgetown Pottery, Maine. Triangle Black Wave (6.5 W x 6.5 L x 2H)

In A Vase On Monday – Color In Winter

Thanks to Cathy at Rambling In The Garden for hosting and giving us an opportunity to share flower designs across the world. Visit her to discover what she and others found to place In A Vase On Monday.

Six Years In A Blink And Waiting

Snowy View Of Meditation Circle

Snowy View Of Meditation Circle

Promising myself to work toward renovating the garden,  I launched pbmGarden with an initial post on January 7, 2011.

Undoubtedly, making a public commitment in an online journal helped me stick to a few of those early improvement goals.  The labyrinth and meditation circle is one achievement from that period.

Snowy View Of Meditation Circle

Snowy View Of Meditation Circle

In the intervening six years plants, plans and even enthusiasm for gardening have cycled through high points and low.

An unexpected benefit stemming from penning that first garden entry has been receiving the support of gardeners from many corners of the world. Entering the wonderful community of garden bloggers has been a joy. I thank you readers for your kind comments, helpful advice and generous spirit, all of which have led to genuine and cherished friendships.

Snowy View Of Meditation Circle

Snowy View Of Meditation Circle

Today the garden is decorated with a winter coat of white, just a couple of inches of fine powdery snow, though six to eight inches had been predicted. The smaller amount is cover for a treacherous icy layer beneath.

For those of us living in this area, temperatures are extreme, as this forecast illustrates:

SAT SNOW AND SLEET 27°F/ 8°F
SUN MOSTLY CLEAR 27°F/ 1°F
MON PARTLY CLOUDY 31°F/ 16°F

The exact numbers keep changing but frigid cold promises to make traveling the little winding curving roads leading out of my neighborhood dangerous to nearly impossible for the next few days. In the fifteen years of living here, snow plows have come through only once.

Normally I would not mind waiting it out but this has proved a particularly frustrating and disruptive weather event, affecting a planned all-weekend activity and threatening an important appointment for early Monday.  Deep sigh. Deep sigh. Deep sigh.

Lessons learned from walking this meditation path are more valuable than ever today.

Breathe in.  Breathe out.

Snowy Meditation Path

Snowy Meditation Path

A Hellebore Festival

Helleborus x hybridus (Lenten Rose)

Helleborus x hybridus (Lenten Rose)

A week ago my friend and I travelled 70 miles north into southern Virginia to attend a hellebore festival at Pine Knot Farms (PKF).

I learned of this event a few years ago when the hellebore nursery owners, Dick Tyler and Judith Knott Tyler, spoke at a local garden club meeting. The couple holds this open house annually for three weekends in late winter, obviously the time when hellebores are in season.

Two years ago I had attempted to visit Pine Knot Farms but my travel plans were thwarted by an ice storm. So when after a fundraiser event last spring my friend ended up with two gift certificates for PKF, I jumped at the chance to try again to visit this nursery.

Weather in February is particularly variable and unpredictable. This year our trip seemed threatened again.

A week before the festival started, another big snow and ice storm arrived.  Fortunately the ice cleared up quickly though and the day of our visit was picture-book lovely, deep blue sky, sunny and temperatures in mid-60s F. [Where I reside in piedmont North Carolina, people are used to this back and forth kind of weather, often remarking they like living in a place where they can experience four distinct seasons of the year, sometimes all in one day.]

We arrived at the hellebore festival in the late morning, about an hour after opening, surprised there were not larger crowds. We parked easily and were directed toward the greenhouses.

At the first greenhouse we were quickly ushered in and greeted by friendly smiles, shown coffee and cookies.

Hellebores-Pine Knot Farms

Hellebores-Pine Knot Farms

Next we were given guidelines about where to find each category of hellebore: seedlings on this table (some from their friends Ernie and Marietta O’Byrne at Northwest Garden Nursery), other vendors offering spring ephemerals here, all PKF singles in the back set of greenhouses on the left, PKF doubles in the greenhouse on the right (or vice-versa).

Already by this time, just hearing these directions, I was overwhelmed and I think my friend was as well.

In anticipation of this trip I had tried to prepare myself by looking on PKF’s website at the categories of hellebores they sell: Hellebores species, Interspecies Hybrids, Helleborus x hybrids, and Northwest Garden Nursery Hellebores. But despite this minor research and later during the trip, despite several engaging conversations with willing and knowledgeable staff, I was hesitant about how to sort out the differences among the hellebores being offered.

Many of the hellebores were not yet in bloom and later we wondered if our choices would have been made easier by visiting the third weekend of the festival rather than the first. Perhaps more flowers would have been open and that would have made it easier for an hellebore novices like us to decide.

Hellebores Near Entry Table at Pine Knot Farms

Hellebores Near Entry Table at Pine Knot Farms

I wish I had just pointed to some of the flowers floating in dishes and asked for them, but in the end it all went fine. Even though we never found hellebore enlightenment we had a good time exploring the offerings.

Before I could get started shopping for hellebores, I became distracted by other vendor tables, including one with a beautiful array of Cyclamen coum. There was also a nice display of primroses in bloom and affordably priced, but I decided to concentrate first on the hellebores. I do regret not picking up a few of these cyclamen.

Cyclamen coum

Cyclamen coum

We made our way into the back greenhouses. Along the route there were a few other temptations, in particular daphnes and a really nice edgeworthia.

Doubles - Helleborus x hybridus (Lenten Rose)

Helleborus x hybridus (Lenten Rose)

Soon we were carrying around pots of hellebores. A white double with greenish overtones was the first plant I chose. I also found a single with a greenish cast.

Helleborus x hybridus (Lenten Rose) -double

Helleborus x hybridus (Lenten Rose) -double

Helleborus x hybridus (Lenten Rose)

Helleborus x hybridus (Lenten Rose)

Below is another single that was especially charming. The green coloring with tinges of red/pink reminds me of apple.

Helleborus x hybridus (Lenten Rose)

Helleborus x hybridus (Lenten Rose)

I selected other hellebores in Golden Sunrise and Apricot Blush color ranges. The apricot blush is not yet blooming but the golden sunrise has two flowers.

Helleborus Winter Jewels 'Golden Sunrise' -Hellebore Orientalis

Helleborus Winter Jewels ‘Golden Sunrise’ -Hellebore Orientalis

One color I was especially interested in acquiring was dark purple. I had already picked up one of these Black Diamonds without a bloom. When I asked about finding others the man I spoke to said he and others had been commenting that this year the darks are scarce.  He accompanied me back to the seedlings table to help me search.

Helleborus Winter Jewels Black Diamond (Hellebore Orientalis)

Helleborus Winter Jewels Black Diamond (Hellebore Orientalis)

While we were talking he stopped suddenly having spotted this little plant, also a seedling. He suggested it was unusual and I might want to buy it because of it unusual marking. I did.

Helleborus x hybridus (Lenten Rose)

Helleborus x hybridus (Lenten Rose)

One useful tip he offered was that it can be more successful to gather ripened seeds and toss them where you want new plants, instead of transplanting the the little seedlings that spring up on their own.

Eventually my friend and I settled on our purchases.  She generously shared a gift certificate with me, making check-out time a lot less painful. Back in Chapel Hill we discussed hellebores over a late lunch.

Unfortunately I did not get a picture of her plants before we parted; however, within a few minutes after returning home I was photographing my new plants on the front porch.

Hellebore Purchases From Pine Knot Farms

Hellebore Purchases From Pine Knot Farms

Serendipitously, a neighbor stopped by my house, opened her car trunk and lifted out two Bearclaw hellebores she had dug from her yard that morning for me. A nice gesture.

Helleborus Foetidus (Bearclaw Hellebore) from my neighbor

Helleborus Foetidus (Bearclaw Hellebore) from my neighbor

Visiting the hellebore nursery made for a fun expedition and I was happy at the chance to expand my collection. Hellebores are winter-flowering wonders.

 

Early Sunday Morning

Sleet and frozen rain on Friday was followed by snow on Saturday and snow is an Event around these parts.

Now Sunday, the first rays of sun touched the meditation circle at 8:30 a.m. this morning. 28°F (-2°C).

Sun Returning To Garden

Sun Returning To Garden

A half-hour later sunlight found the garden’s back corner and began waking up the landscape.

Early Sun On Icy Garden

Early Sun On Icy Garden

Though it looks deserted it actually is filled with avian friends just waiting for me to close the upstairs window and let them get on with eating.

Morning Garden

Morning Garden

Morning Garden

Morning Garden

Morning Garden

Morning Garden

Eastern Bluebird, Dark-eyed Junco, Northern Cardinal and many other species are visiting the feeders this winter.

Yesterday they were desperately focused on food and were less worried about me taking their picture.

Winter Birds

Winter Birds

Notice the Eastern towhee under the left edge of the feeder with its black head and back, rufous sides and white breast. It is normal to have one or two Eastern towhee in the garden, scratching and foraging along the ground, and occasionally checking out the feeder.

This weekend I was surprised to see a much larger group of them, maybe 8-10. At every chance they abandoned their traditional rummaging and went for the easy food.

And what is a collection of towhee called, I wondered? A “tangle” or a “teapot.”

Garden Bloggers Foliage Day – January 2016

Daphne odora (Winter daphne)

Daphne odora (Winter daphne)

It is time again for Garden Bloggers Foliage Day (GBFD), but everything along the East Coast except for bird feeders is shut down for the weekend, courtesy of Winter Storm Jonas.

Predictions for here in Chapel Hill were for 4-6 inches of snow, but in early afternoon we are getting freezing rain and sleet, 29°F (-1.6°C). Conditions were not bad when I went out to get the newspaper this morning and snapped several photos, but now most of the grass is white and roads are icy and dangerous.

Foliage Day Panorama 2016-01-22

Foliage Day Panorama 2016-01-22

I am using panoramas to help me study and evaluate the structural elements in the garden. So many trees and shrubs have died and I am making plans to tackle a plan for improvements. Thanks to Christina at Garden of the Hesperides for hosting. Read her foliage update and see more links to foliage perspectives from many parts of the world.