Saturday, November 14, 2015

Making Winter Interesting

The barren time has an ironclad grip from November to the end of February. It takes two more months, March and April to loosen its grip and for the time of vegetation to return. That is near six months, half the year, of down time in the garden. That is completely unacceptable.

It might not be so bad if I did not live in the land of deciduous, but I do. When the hemlocks died, half of the evergreen there was in the forest was no more. All that was left were the rhododendrons. That was not enough to get a gardener through the winter.

I aim to change that. A major focus of my gardening efforts is to create winter interest, more accurately, to create a functioning garden that stands through the winter.

Evergreens and conifers are a big part of that. My elevation poses challenges to many of them. All I can do is try to choose wisely and experiment.

Juniperus conferta 'Silver Mist' was newly planted this fall.

Yucca filamentosa has proven a reliable, colorful and fast growing evergreen perennial. I have planted a long arc of two dozen plants across the slope below the cabin.

Picea pungens 'Globosa' is a dwarf Blue Spruce. It should love my elevation. Three of these were planted in the spring. Gardening in the utility easement means no trees. Dwarf and ground cover evergreens are the only logical options.

Two damaged 'Daub's Frosted' Junipers followed me home. I bought a third to make more of a statement. The damaged two are alive and slowly growing.

The Hesperaloe parviflora is a true experiment. The tag said to zone 5. The interwebs gave conflicting information leaning more towards a zone 7. I made sure they got well drained locations. That is most often the crucial element in winter hardiness for succulent type plants.

They were cheap at the big box discard rack. Nobody wants cactus in North Carolina except oddballs. I bought nine. I sure hope they live long and prosper.

Taxus cuspidata 'Emerald Spreader' has struggled. That is not what I expect from a plant labeled to zone 4. The first year it over wintered fine only to get zapped by a late freeze. Excuse me? A late freeze damaging a zone 4 plant. I was not happy.

I forget who this carex or sedge species is. It is an evergreen on my mountain top though. It forms a fat clump about six inches high. I have about a dozen in two places. I could use more.

This is Yucca filamentosa after two full seasons in the ground. They would be stiffer and more spiky if they were not buried in the shade of the Lush all summer. That is variegated Feather Reed Grass behind the yuccas. I have added a number of grasses for the texture they add to the winter garden.

Chamaecyparis nootkatensis 'Pendula' is one of the few evergreen trees I have planted. It is quite lovely and grows as slow as molasses. It looks happy and it is growing. I am grateful for that.

Chamaecyparis obtusa 'Crippsii' on the other hand is looking meek and pathetic. It should be a dense conical evergreen with golden yellow foliage. Apparently my half day shade is more partial shade than the tag allows. It was also damaged by a late spring freeze its first year in the ground.

I planted two of these in a new garden last year. When I finally made it back to have a look, one was missing, as in gone. The other look incredible. I couldn't believe how much it had grown in one year. Full sun is key.

My cold hardy, evergreen, clumping bamboo, Fargesia rufa is at the far edge of it cold tolerance. It is alive and it has grown substantially from the size it was planted at. The last two winters put a hurting on its evergreen and stunted the new spring growth. Gardy don't like that. Maybe if I prune out the dead next spring I can handle the disappointment.

There can be more to winter interest than evergreens. When a new wave of archaeologists come around digging to find out what caused the collapse of 21st century civilization, the broken crockery strewn about could lead to all kinds of wild speculation.

A stacked stone wall with grottoes and Wamboldtopian art. When the snow flies, I will be able to find something of interest in the garden.

(Blogger seems to be having some post editor issues. Normal formatting will return at a later time.)


Janice said...

The funny thing that caught my eye in this post was about the 'H. parviflora', as I also bought it off the discount shelf a few months ago. I'm in central Florida, zone 9. Previous to buying that, I purchased some Tibouchina off the same rack and a blogger in California got some a few weeks later, same chain. Just weird...
I enjoyed your spectacular meadow this summer, it will be missed.

Christopher C. NC said...

Janice that Hesperaloe should do great or you. The bloom spikes will be awesome. The plant buyer for Lowes was clueless this year. They had papaya, banana and tons of tropical hibiscus. The meadow will be back next year, even better I hope.

Lisa at Greenbow said...

I really like the pendulation in your garden. The ART rocks too.

Christopher C. NC said...

Ha. My garden sure does have extreme mood swings Lisa. I've been coming around to liking the new mood in the last few days.

Anonymous said...

Your 'Crippsii' is actually quite interesting-looking, if you don't think about the fact that it's not really supposed to look that way.