Thursday, January 24
We've been pretty lucky this winter so far; even during periods of cold temperatures, we have had pretty good snow cover. I like to feel as though Ma Nature has tucked in my plants with a layer of white, fluffy insulation to help keep them cozy in the ground.
The other nice thing about the snow is that it reveals things that you may not otherwise know or see. For example, these footprints lead directly from my mailbox to the neighbor's, right through my garden!!!
Now, I know that the snow is hiding a lot of my plants, and that others have died back to the ground entirely, but still... only someone who wants to pretend that they aren't walking through a garden could mistake this area for a lawn. And since I do not have a new mailperson, she knows what this looks like during the rest of the year. Grr.
Snow also reveals the "bones" of the garden, including the branching structure of some shrubs that are otherwise hidden beneath a leafy canopy.
This is my doublefile viburnum, and between its horizontal branching habit, the beautiful, leathery green of its leaves, and the way it looks against the snow... well, so far those pluses have outweighed the negative of it being a moisture-sensitive plant.
I am looking for a more drought-tolerant replacement for it, but until I find something to fill is rather large shoes in terms of year-round interest and... well, handsomeness, here it remains. (Anyone want to weigh in on the merits of replacing it with a larger oakleaf hydrangea? I have a dwarf one planted approx. 14ft away from this spot, and can't figure out if I would really like or really hate having two oakleafs in the same bed.)
The snow also reveals what a distressingly messy gardener I can be. I'm not terribly apologetic about this, to be honest, because I love seeing seedheads and frost-frazzled leaves from plants like yarrow, echinacea, and of course all of the grasses as well.
I may regret my decision not to clean up a few prolific self-seeders, like bronze fennel, atriplex hortensis, 'Hopi Red Dye' amaranth, and these Northern Sea Oats... but I figure that doing a spring cleanup, and weeding out or transplanting a bunch of seedlings, will give me some "light duty" projects to do in a few months, when I'm itching to really dig in the dirt but know that I shouldn't!
Last but not least, when the snow has provided a ground of white for your plants, and flashy annual color is a distant memory, you can sometimes better assess your overall design where perennials and shrubs are concerned. I've always struggled a bit with identifying my own garden design style, but it's probably technically identified as "eclectic." That said, I like the way that Craig at Ellis Hollow described it to me not too long ago: controlled wildness.
I've been taking several looks at my new front yard garden this winter, and think that I have figured out a few things that I want to tweak in the coming year. (You can see what it looked like this fall, when newly planted, here.)
Right now, this garden seems to have a little too much "wildness," and not quite enough of it is "controlled!" A couple of the more formal elements that I had introduced, like planting the Japanese hollies in a row, and echoing that with a row of 'Hameln' pennisetum in the middle of the garden (above the golden yucca) really stand out now as places for your eye to rest.
I think that providing another formal but modern element, and providing the eye another place to rest, answers my question of what to do in the 18-inch strip in the foreground of this picture, in front of the yucca, caryopteris, and euphorbia.
In fact, I think that what I need is to have a straight line of shorter grasses there. Much as I have been enamored of my carex buchanii (left) of late, I think that something unfussy, in a medium green would be best. Something that is not usually used in a formal way. Maybe some prairie dropseed--which I've been trying to find a place for in my garden anyway--or maybe the 'Hameln,' but more of it, with the prairie dropseed planted in its current place instead.
Whatever the actual plant, I think that making this tweak will help tame this area and give it a little structure. Unless, of course, further viewing of the snowy pictures reveals another idea for me!