Sunday, February 24, 2008 Winter Gardening

Only twice this week did Michael Aster (6) need to break the ice in the birdbath. Lily Ana (7) reported 0.25 inches of rain the other day and after re-filling the birdfeeder, Lara Rose (11) proclaimed me crazy for gardening in this cold weather. Perhaps, but I sure am having fun.

The flowering apricot (Prunus Mume ‘Dawn’) looks incredible. Hard to believe this is only its second blooming season. Having planted it 18 months ago and worrying about her during the summer drought, I am happy to report she is doing very well. With only moderate care during this past summers’ drought, adding about 5 gallons of supplemental water once a month, the flowers tell me now, all is well.

The Arum (Arum italicum ‘Pictum’) came up nicely from their late fall planting. Their arrowhead-shaped green and white leaves make the dullness of the winter landscape happy. They will go dormant in the summer, but it is in the winter I need for the spot under my Crepe Myrtle (Lagerstroemia ‘Natchez’) to have color – they seem happy to oblige.

We laid 10 cu. yds. of composted leaf mulch. It looks good, but could use 3 more. Nothing like newly laid mulch to make the garden look tidy. The water retention qualities, retarding weed growth, providing nutrients to the soil, as well as, keeping the roots cooler in the summer and warmer in the winter are the benefits to laying mulch – looking nice is just an added bonus.

I planted recently purchased Hellebores (Helleborus orientalis ‘Pine Knot Mix’) I picked up from Dick and Judith Knott of Pine Knot Farms. They were here to speak at the JCRA for the Winter Walk Tour. If that wasn’t enough, I added more to my collection after visiting Tony’s open house at Plant Delights Nursery (Helleborus x ericsmithii ‘HGC Silvermoon’, H. x hybridus ‘Winter Dream Pure-White’). These made wonderful additions to my Woodland Garden Too, Office, and Back Porch garden beds.

My Hellebores never receive supplemental watering. I noticed last year after weeks of elevated temperatures and drought, they went a little flat. However, a little rain perked them right up. They are blooming now and probably don’t even realize they are not just a gem in the winter garden, but also in a waterwise garden.

I find it thrilling to garden in the winter. We are so fortunate to have the weather and plant selections to garden year ‘round. Winter gardening is also interesting in that we don’t need as much to make our hearts sing. A tiny flowering snowdrop (Galanthus byzantinus) will dazzle a winter garden, but this same bulb blooming in the height of a summer bounty just wouldn’t have the same effect.

I noticed many tiny snowdrops nodding their sweet little heads in approval during the coldest of days. Perhaps, they too, must be a little crazy, but they sure look like they are having fun.

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