Tuesday View: The Front Border 11.21.17

It’s been three weeks since my last Tuesday View with Cathy so I guess it’s about time to check in again.  Winter is getting real and to sum up the passing weeks, the days are shorter, the first freeze has hit, winter cleanup has begun (and been finished), and we even woke up to our first inch of snow yesterday.  I hate the gloominess of this time of year but miraculously the sun came out just enough to capture a highlighted Tuesday view of the border.  And then it was gone again.

front border

The Tuesday view.  Nice enough but I already miss the flowers of summer.  A keen eye will pick out the mushy, frozen lump of my precious cardoon about mid border….

It could look worse.  Right now there’s still some contrast between dead-brown, dead-black, and dead-grey and the different forms and textures could be considered ‘winter interest’ to the more optimistic.  My opinion on winter interest leans more towards the warm shores of a tropical beach so I’ll have to trust others on that.

mailbox planting

The sunflower skeletons have finally been cut down, but that’s as far as the winter cleanup will go

Maybe evergreens are the way to go.  I of course love the too-bright yellows, but I’m sure there’s something more refined for those of better taste.

winter interest

The pink muhly grass has faded so now it’s up to this juniper to carry on for the winter.  I believe the juniper is ‘Old Gold’.

Coniferous color could carry the border through the lean months but for now (and hopefully the next  few weeks) the healthy green hellebore foliage is making the inner parts of the border look healthy and full.  During the heat of summer the taller perennials and shrubs shelter the hellebore leaves.  Now that they’ve died back again the hellebores can shine.

hellebore foliage

The giant reed grass (Arundo donax) has been trimmed back for the winter and the ten foot tall canes lugged away to the compost.  Without the grassy mess the red twigged dogwood ‘Midwinter Fire’ and the green of hellebores are back on stage.

I saw that this week Cathy has devoted her post to a recap of the year’s views.  I love it.  Being able to follow the whole year in just a few minutes is a fun way to spend these waning days of 2017… even if it does mean you’ll miss the garden and maybe get a little excited already for 2018!

Have a great week 🙂

Winter Interest? I guess….

Just like nearly all the rest of the Northern hemisphere we here in NE Pennsylvania are dipping into another cold spell.  As far as cold spells go it’s not anything too intimidating, since we’ve only dipped into the single digits one night, but it is cold enough to make you reconsider running out to the mailbox without a coat on and it encourages you to think of the garden from more of a spectator point of view.  Even from the comfortable side of a windowpane winter interest is still slim pickings around here, but now that a few years have passed things are starting to turn a corner.

paperbark maple winter

A low winter sun catches the russet peels of paperbark maple (Acer griseum).  I may have it in a spot far too close to the house, but at least it’s finally starting to grow well.

Winter interest here does not include early snowdrops or hellebores nor the occasionally exotic winter blooming shrub, winter interest here is a desperate flash of green holding out against the winter, or a fresh blush of colorful bark or bright conifer needles brightened by the weak winter sun.  I guess if pressed I’d include dried seed stems and stalks, but honestly unless they’re frosted in ice or topped with snow they really just remind me of all the cleanup yet to be done before spring.

winter panicum dallas blues

Ok I guess I do like the golden(?) winter tint on the dried stalks of Panicum ‘Dallas Blues’.  While other grasses take on a faded dead beige, these seem to hold on to a much richer color which shows up even better when surrounded by snow.

In the meantime, before the rush of spring hits, there’s still plenty of time to sit back and consider the winter garden.  Snow helps.  There’s really nothing to do out there when snow hits other than watch the comings and goings at the bird feeder, but until we get a couple inches down there’s always a restlessness every time the sun comes out and things look like they’re just waiting.

box hedge winter

The smallest bit of winter structure.  A boxwood hedge which has finally grown in enough to look intentional.  It may not say good design the way I just have it randomly in the yard, but I do love my little hedges and always try to get it just a little more level and a tiny bit straighter.

If cropped perfectly and shot from just the right angle… and if the light just happens to work out, you can halfway believe that my garden has something worth seeing once the flowers have died and the leaves fallen.

winter interest garden

A lawn still holding on to green (which has faded significantly from the last arctic dip), a few little bluestems and dried hydrangeas, a blue spruce… it all looks somewhat interesting right now.

Maybe in a few years I’ll be able to offer something more constructive in the way of winter gardening advice, but for now I’m just glad I can wander through without snowshoes.

magnolia grandiflora seedlings

Future winter interest may be just what these Magnolia grandiflora seedlings will offer… assuming they prove hardy.  Last winter was a protected outdoor test for several dozen, this winter will be an open garden test for the remaining three.

More snow will come of course, and when it does things will officially enter the indoor “puttering” stage of seed sowing and houseplants, but for a few more days I’ll brave the cold and look for even the tiniest sprouting buds of hope.  My anxious side wants to find them everywhere, my cautious side wants them to wait another two months.

galanthus merlin

Here’s a new snowdrop which didn’t get the NE Pa memo on winter storm watches.  Here’s some news for you ‘Merlin’, there will be more blasts of cold, and you shouldn’t be out so early.

So in the mean time we will deal with the ice storms, shovel out from the snow storms, and bundle up for the cold spells.

ice storm

A nice glazing of ice kept the kids home last week.  No good for sledding but they were fine with the day off 🙂

All this talk of braving the weather has been made a whole lot easier with a look at the ten day forecast.  The fluffy snow and single digits from yesterday will warm up and melt rapidly in temperatures that don’t even dip below freezing in the foreseeable future.  This wouldn’t be the first January thaw to ever hit us but considering the ground is barely frozen under the snow, I don’t hold out much hope for convincing bulbs to stay dormant.  February may be ugly if too many things decide to give growing a go, but we’ll cross that bridge when it comes.

GB Foliage day -winter greens

I’m a day late minimum with just about everything lately and this post is no exception, but I wanted to squeak in one more Garden Bloggers Foliage Day post with Christina for the 2014 season, since who knows if we’ll have anything other than snow next month… so here goes!

juniper 'old gold'

Even after a few days of shockingly cold days and nights the grass is still green and juniper ‘old gold’ still fresh.

With the autumn leaves gone, foliage is down to the evergreen plantings.  Evergreens are more expensive than perennials and don’t grow well from seed… hence do not match up well with my frugal gardening 🙂  I’ve been doing my best though, and some such as juniper “Old Gold” are finally showing off  -finally- after five years in the ground from a $4 rooted cutting!

A more recent addition are three new rhododendrons which look absolutely overgrown and lush considering the $12 I spent on the bunch.  This purchase went absolutely unnoticed when I mixed it in with a cartload of mortar and tile from the Depot.  You could almost say they were free with purchase, right?

planting rhododendron

Look at the buds on this $4 rhododendron! The plant and price make me understand how hard a nurseryman’s business must be, I’m sure he made no money off this purchase…..

Small patches of winter color are beginning to show up in the backyard too.  This is the first year my boxwood cuttings are big enough to look even remotely like a hedge, and when the grass goes completely brown these bits of green foliage will at least look slightly hopeful.

boxwood cuttings hedge around vegetable garden

My design makes little sense, but hopefully in a few years the vegetable garden will at least look “interesting” even if it never makes it to beautiful.

The only winter color here when we purchased the house were a few foundation plantings along the front, and a line of meatball yews along the south facing side.  After three years of sweaty summertime hedgetrimmering I said ‘screw this’ and let them do their own thing and break away from their tight ballism.  Now I have to chose between the abandoned house look and the bare look of a brutal trim-back.  Any suggestions?  I probably wouldn’t mind trimming them back for a straight hedge along the side,  I could remove them completely, or I could leave just one between the windows and let it get even bigger….. I need a plan though, eyebrows are already being raised here in my end of suburbia and the MIL will soon question my motives since it faces her house 😉

overgrown yew hedge

overgrown yew hedge

Man cannot live on green alone (even with a little yellow) so I foolishly placed an order for some last minute winter foliage via Conifer Kingdom.  God must love either procrastinators or he loves winter garden interest because although Pennsylvania froze the week after I ordered, the box full of evergreens showed up the minute the thermometer went back over freezing.  Today will hopefully top off at 50F (10C), the gale force winds have died off, and it should be perfect for getting these guys in the ground.

Not to overstep my boundaries, but I smell a 50% off sale on fall bulbs at Brent and Becky’s for the day after Thanksgiving.  I will not be able to resist, so I guess we’re going to see how God feels about late bulb orders.

conifer kingdom purchase

My Conifer Kingdom purchase made me happier than a cat in catnip. In a few years I hope to really ‘up’ the level of my garden’s winter interest.  Just look at the needles on that pine! ( Pinus densiflora ‘Burke’s Red Variegated’)

Premium conifers might be as cheap as marigolds in your neck of the woods, but not so much here, so mailorder is my weapon of choice.  For those interested, here’s the breakdown on my order…. $127 total including $25 shipping and $20 discount via a Facebook coupon code (fyi code expired 😦 Nov 21st).

purchase Picea omorika 'Peve Tijn' graft

A free gift included in the order, you can easily see where this dwarf Picea omorika ‘Peve Tijn’ (Serbian spruce) was grafted onto the rootstock.

There’s a reason you can pay through the nose for many of these treasures.  Two of my purchases are 1 year old grafts and really don’t look like much yet,  but that’s because they start life as run of the mill conifer seedlings grown on for a few seasons and then a small bit of the desired cultivar is grafted onto the stem.  Once the graft puts on some size (a slow process at an inch or so of growth each year), the original seedling is cut off and the new plant takes over.

purchase Picea pungens 'Walnut Glen' graft

Dare I say I spent nearly $30 on this little spit of conifer? It’s picea pungens ‘Walnut Glen’, a blue spruce which develops a yellow tinge in the winter. I expect great things form this little guy!

So how’s that for a foliage post?  A November report which speaks of excitement, hope, and anticipation for the future!  Not bad considering the weather, I just have my fingers crossed that I don’t have to re-title this to “That Was Stupid” in another year 🙂

If you’d like to see what foliage is contributing to other gardens across the globe pay a visit to Christina’s blog “Creating My Own Garden of the Hesperides“.  I believe you’ll find some bloggers who are enjoying good foliage now, and not just in their dreams for the future!