Tag Archives: winter garden

Winter Light

My front garden is still buried in at least 18″ of snow. And that’s the yard. I won’t even try to describe the 4 foot mountains (plural)  by the sidewalk and driveway where we shoveled loads of it. Those I shall have until May, I’m sure.

crepe myrtle showing off at sunset

I went to take some pictures this afternoon to show some before and after shots. Before = spring,  when my garden was lush and green and my shrubs & perennials sported hundreds of blooms. After = now, when my shrubs and perennials look like avalanche victims who desperately and futilely stick one arm out of the snow in the hopes that someone, anyone, will notice and come to their rescue.  Too depressing. Plus, the sun wasn’t shining in my front garden, which makes everything look gray. And depressing.

coast luecothoe: "Where are my 4 brothers? Wait, where is the rest of ME?"

azalea screaming "save me!"

goldflame spirea says "mercy!"

My back garden, on the other hand, faces southwest and was filled with the most lovely late afternoon light. I grabbed these shots during the last moments before I lost the rays for the day – and decided that all was not lost.  True, we’ve had many feet of snow on the ground for two full weeks (unusual in Philadelphia). Also true that there is absolutely no street parking in the entire Delaware Valley. If someone has made the time and effort to dig out their car and clear their space, you can be darn sure that they’ve filled said spot with outdoor furniture of some kind. “Mine!” those aluminum lawn chairs scream. “Don’t you dare park here!”

Last year's garden phlox

virginia sweetspire

A third truth, though. We’ve had the most beautiful blue skies almost every day since the second big dump a week and a half ago. The snow is on the ground, but the sun is in the sky. And when snow is on the ground, the sun is brighter, the sky is bluer, the shadows are sharper.

swamp milkweed

So I guess I’ll turn a blind eye for the time being to the casualties that certainly lie beneath. I could rework my budget for the spring to include replacements for a bunch of azaleas and leucothoe and boxwoods which didn’t survive the sheer weight of the snow. But who wants to do that? I’ve got a few more weeks of ignorance before these 40 degree days melt enough snow for me to take inventory. I’ll keep hoping that they all made it through (couldn’t possibly be true) and that I can spend my budget on all the fun new things I’ve been wanting to add to my garden all winter (helebores, clematis, witch hazel). I’ll turn a blind eye and enjoy the show the light provides on a daily basis.

I take a risk in saying the following, as I know that quoting John Denver may cause you to label me forever as a complete cheeseball. But here goes: Sunshine almost always makes me smile.

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To do in September: Plant Snowdrops

The problem with the winter garden is that there is precious little you can do to improve it in the winter. Gardening in general takes forward thinking and faith.  The 2 foot sapling that you might trip over on the way out for a jog today will shade your home years from now. But spring, summer and fall give us wiggle room. If we forgot to plan for blooms or foliage in one corner of the garden, a quick trip to the garden center for a flat of annuals can fix us right up. We can even move containers of lush tropicals around to pretty up those problem spots.

Not so in winter. Any beauty that shows up in the winter gardens was arranged for months or years ago. Plant a flowering shrub that holds its dried flowers ‘till spring – you’ve got winter interest. Add a berry bearer – there’s your winter color. Bury early blooming bulbs – you’ve got flowers in January! Check out what’s BLOOMING in my garden:

Snowdrops (galanthus), 1-21-2010

Again, I have my neighbors to thank for planning ahead. (Remember, I’ve psychologically annexed all the yards within walking distance of my home as “my garden.”) I know you have to plant bulbs in the fall. I plant bulbs in the fall. Why oh why have I never thought to plant super early blooming bulbs in the fall? These beauties are snowdrops (galanthus). According to various internet sources, there are over 75 species of these little gems that originated in Europe and Asia minor. They are thought to have been introduced to England by the Romans in the 16th century, and I guess they made their way across the pond to Pennsylvania with some colonial gardeners who had that forward thinking down.  They bloom really early in the winter – in warmer zones they can bloom from fall all the way through. They don’t like warm winters, though. Ha – they’re one thing those southern California gardeners will have to envy in our gardens. They multiply well, especially if you help them along by dividing clumps after the flowers have faded but while the foliage still looks happy. And, did I mention, they bloom in January?!?!?!

So – another resolution. I will plant snowdrops in September. Apparently, the bulbs don’t store well, so they’re only on shelves for a short time. I will seek them out. I will plant them. I will have blooms in my garden (my real garden) next January!

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