My recent posts on blooms and foliage made me reflect on those other winners in the winter garden, stems, seeds and berries. They provide food for the birds and other animals along with structure for your garden. In Oklahoma, the true growing season starts around the end of February for cool weather crops and after April 20 for tender veggies and flowers. Then, the flora and fauna fun doesn’t stop until around the end of October or even later in moderate years. I think our long growing season sometimes gives us tunnel vision that gardens are only interesting when they are in bloom.
I beg to differ. I think the garden can still provide you with delight if you think of it as a four season activity at least visually.
For years, I considered the months of winter only for planning, but in the last five or six, I’ve added many plants to help me through the gray winter months where shades of brown remain dominant in the landscape. I do still plan during winter, reading the plant and seed catalogs, but I don’t stop there. I try to get out and take photos while I check the garden for heaving problems. With the cold weather and this week’s projected warmup, we should all be checking our precious plants to make sure they are firmly in the soil. Just take a moment and press them into the soil with your shoe or your hands. You may have to dig a little around them to make this possible. Your heucheras and hemerocallis will thank you.
If you’re interested in winter gardening books for southern gardens, you can’t go wrong with Gardens in Winter, by Elizabeth Lawrence (frugal hint: I bought my copy used). Although Lawrence also lived in USDA Zone 7, her climate is more moderate than ours, so keep that in mind when she speaks of bloom times.
Oklahoma’s winter blooms often come a month or so later than those in the true south. Further, Lawrence’s summer weather is more humid, so there are some things she could grow which don’t perform as well here, or we need to plant them in the shade.
If you would like to add some winter shrubs, a good place to start would be with the five suggested by Vincent A. Simeone in his guest post at Gardening Gone Wild. I can attest to the beauty of Hamamelis x intermedia ‘Diane’ and ‘Arnold Promise.’ Both bloom here in late winter/early spring. They are a bright spot in the landscape and smell so good. His book, Wonders of the Winter Landscape: Shrubs and Trees to Brighten the Cold-Weather Garden, has great photographs and information to further help you choose.
These blooms, above, aren’t foliage, bark or berries. Still, they evoke the same mood as foliage in the foggy landscape. If you live in Oklahoma or anywhere for that matter, and have a place for her, you should grow Hydrangea arborescens ‘Annabelle’. She’s a four-season interest plant so worthy of garden space.
These aren’t really foliage either. I believe, from where they are in the terraced garden, that they are spent Echinacea purpurea seedheads. The birds have stripped them bare. I find echinacea seedheads all over the garden, sometimes still full of seeds, other times, not.
Finally, all is not brown. I promise, cross my heart, that this shot of the coral bark Japanese maple was not altered. It truly is this color especially on a cloudy day. In the spring, leaves emerge as a yellow/green compliment to the red bark. Later, they turn a brilliant yellow in the fall. Find a shady spot (if you live in the south) and plant this beautiful tree. You won’t be disappointed so long as you remember to water it. However, it’s so striking I bet you won’t forget.