Thursday, February 15, 2024

Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day & Foliage Follow-Up February-The Subtle Beauty of Winter

Welcome !
The 15th-16th and 19th of January brought our only two snowfalls of the winter, the first with just 2.1 inches and a dusting on the 19th, with milder temperatures predicted for the month of February. It has been a noticeably milder and rainier winter than those of the past, which this gardener does not mind a bit! But wait...Is there snow on the way? The forecasters say so! There is much interest to be seen in the winter landscape, so join me for a tour of my Long Island garden.
Juniperus 'Blue Star' and Lirope 'Variegata'
The first stop is to view this combination of Juniper 'Blue Star' and Variegated Liriope. My goal when designing is to plan for continuous interest throughout the year. This blue colored evergreen foliage of the juniper against the yellowish-green fronds of Liriope produce both contrast and varied texture for all the seasons, especially during winter. Helpful Tip: Avoid cutting the foliage of Liriope (Lilyturf) in autumn. Allow it to remain throughout the winter months for added interest and to protect the crown, then cut it back in early spring to allow for new growth. 
Helleborus 'Merlin' (Lenten Rose)
One of my favorite perennials for winter is Hellebore, or Lenten Rose. Here is Hellebore 'Merlin'. The buds are now forming in February and the colorful bracts will open within the next couple of weeks to expose pink blooms.
Helleborus 'Champion' (Lenten Rose)
Another variety of Hellebore is 'Champion' displaying its greenish-yellow buds. It will be ready to bloom in a couple of weeks, while 'Shooting Star' has been blooming since January.
Helleborus 'Shooting Star' (Lenten Rose)
Planting Tip:  Hellebores can usually be purchased in nurseries from the end of December into February and can be planted once the ground thaws (after the last freeze date). Locate in partial sun to shade such as a northern or eastern exposure or beneath the canopy of trees. 
Hydrangea Dried Blooms
Along with winter blooming plants, I look for other forms of interest this time of year. While walking around the garden on a mild winter's day, even the simplest thing such as sunlight filtering through the dried flowers of hydrangea or the dried fruit of St. John's Wort can bring beauty.
St John's Wort Dried Fruit
As a gardener, I have always made it a point to appreciate all that nature has to offer, if even on the smallest scale.
'Rhode Island Red' Dwarf Japanese Maple Winter
Bark on trees and shrubs can bring interest this time of year. The burgundy-red stems of Dwarf 'Rhode Island Red' Japanese Maple are especially pronounced this time of year. This slow growing red maple is excellent for smaller spaces, reaching a mature height and width of just 6 feet after several years.
Groundcover Sedum Wintertime
Along the pool waterfall Sedum 'Angelina' remains semi-evergreen throughout most of the winter, especially when it is mild. This low maintenance perennial is perfect for growing within the crevices of rock walls.
Front Garden with Evergreens and Heuchera
Here along the front garden border is a combination of  Dwarf Cryptomeria (back left), Osmanthus 'Goshiki' (False Holly), Dwarf Norway Spruce (front left) and Heuchera 'Caramel' (front), a perennial which maintains it's color all winter long for the most part. Helpful Tip: With freezing and thawing, the crowns of Heuchera may rise up out of the ground. If this happens, lightly push the plant back down into the soil with your foot to help protect it from cold.
Front Lawn
Circling around to the north of the front island bed is Weeping Japanese Maple with Blue Atlas Cedar in the backdrop. The twisting structure of the Japanese Maple is much more visible in wintertime when the tree is dormant.
Front Driveway Border
Along the driveway border, Skyland's Golden Oriental Spruce and Coral Bark Maple can be seen. The pinkish-red newer growth of the Coral Bark Maple is prominent in wintertime. The colder it gets, the more vibrant the bark appears.
Skyland's Oriental Spruce
Here are the interesting seed cones of Oriental Spruce close-up.
All-Season Interest
For additional all-season interest, these dwarf  'Anna's Magic Ball' Arborvitae cannot be beat. These have been part of the garden for years and are only about two feet high by wide.
Signs of Spring!
The groundhog did not see his shadow and as the legend goes, he is predicting an early spring. Even though the groundhog is only 40% correct, isn't it a nice thought? The Sedum seem to think so!
Allium 'Globemaster' Popping up Already!!
Allium 'Globemaster' and (Hyacinth too) bulbs are emerging from their winters sleep. It is way too early, but Mother Nature seems to know best.
And what a difference a day makes...
And what a difference a day makes! From spring bulbs appearing just two days ago to waking up to a winter wonderland on the 13th…nature sure does have its beauty. I guess Mother Nature has it all under control.
What's Blooming Indoors?
While it is wintertime outside, I get to focus on my indoor plants. For the month of February,  Thanksgiving Cactus are on their third round of blooms, African Violet is blooming away and Echeveria are sending up spikes of orange bell-shaped flowers. I love bringing the outside in!
Outdoor Planter
Outside, the evergreen seasonal planter that I created in December is nice and cozy up against the foundation. It is happy and healthy and will remain along the entry where I can enjoy it every time I go outdoors or happen to peak out!
Thanks for Visiting!
I hope you enjoyed your visit to my February garden. I so appreciate you being here, look forward to your comments and look forward to seeing what you have growing in your garden. Special thanks go out to our hostess Carol at May Dreams Gardens, who makes it possible to see blooms on the 15th of every month with her meme Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day. Also, special thanks to Pam Penick at Digging who had hosted Foliage Follow-Up, a meme I will continue to honor. I am also linking with some other wonderful hosts and hostesses at Floral Friday FotosNature Notes at Rambling WoodsImage-in-ing weekly photo share every Tuesday, Weekly Photo Link-Up at My Corner of the World on Wednesdays and Garden Affair at Jaipur Garden

Thursday, February 1, 2024

This Month in the Garden: Winter Gardening: Protecting Your Outdoor Plants from the Cold

Over the last couple of years, temperature extremes during the winter months have taken a toll on our outdoor gardens. From weeks of mild temperatures in the 40's and 50's to cold blasts plummeting temperatures into the teens and even single digits, these extremes pose a risk to plants, and safeguarding them from the harsh cold becomes crucial for maintaining their health. Some broad-leaved evergreens such as Rhododendron will even tell you when temperatures are below 20 degrees. Their leaves will curl in severe cold, a process known as thermonasty, which helps to reduce surface area and conserve moisture. There is a way you can be proactive. Here are some effective strategies to help you protect your green companions during the chilly months.

Choose Cold-Resistant Plants: When purchasing plants, be sure to choose those which can withstand temperatures which are one to two zones colder than your location. Research and select species that thrive in your specific region, as they are more likely to withstand winter conditions. For sensitive plants or those in containers, consider bringing them indoors during extreme cold spells. A garage or enclosed porch can provide a temporary shelter until milder weather returns. For certain landscape plants which are broad-leaved, such as Rhododendron, Azalea, Osmanthus (False Holly), Euonymus, Aucuba, Cherry, Skip and Mountain Laurel, Leucothoe, Boxwood and Holly, the use of an anti-desiccant before winter sets in is recommended. 

Apply Mulching: A layer of organic mulch around the base of your plants will insulate the soil and regulate temperature. This acts as a protective barrier, preventing extreme temperature fluctuations that can be harmful to plant roots. Ideally, the best time to mulch is during late spring to early summer, or early fall. Be sure to mulch way before any sign of frost, as applying at the incorrect time can have the opposite effect and cause harm.

Proper Watering: Adjust your watering routine as winter approaches. Ensure that the soil is adequately hydrated before the first frost, as moist soil retains heat better than dry soil. However, be cautious not to overwater, as waterlogged soil can lead to root rot. With your outdoor containers, give them a good watering before you know there is going to be a severe temperature drop. This will help them to hydrate before the deep freeze.

Watch for Frost Heaving:
In freezing temperatures soil around your plants may be subject to frost heaving. This is when ice forms underneath the soil and expands upwards from the ground causing plants such as perennials to push upwards exposing the crown. Heuchera (Coral Bells) and Liriope are especially prone to this type of damage. As a preventive measure apply mulch finishing to your garden beds. To remedy, once the ground thaws, slightly tap the soil back down, and brush the mulch back around the exposed crown of the plant. During the time of frost heaving, avoid stepping into garden beds, as this can cause the soil to become too compact. Compacting the soil too much can have a negative effect on future soil drainage. 

Cover Plants: Stay informed about upcoming weather conditions. Cover plants when extreme temperature drops are predicted. Use protective covers, such as burlap or frost cloth, to shield your plants from frost and freezing winds. Make sure the covers are secured tightly to prevent heat loss, especially during the coldest nights. If you have potted plants, consider moving them closer to the house or clustering them together. This provides additional warmth and protection against the cold. Elevate containers to prevent them from sitting directly on cold surfaces and use frost covering until the freezing temperatures subside. Once the threat of plummeting temperatures has passed, you can uncover the plant and keep the cover nearby. For larger plantings, the use of temporary windbreaks such as wooden or fabric barriers can be used to shield plants from strong offshore winter winds.

Tips on Pruning & Fertilization: As a preventive measure, any dead or damaged branches should be pruned off trees and shrubs before winter sets in. Pruning encourages healthy growth and minimizes the risk of disease. However, avoid heavy pruning in late fall, as it may stimulate new growth that is vulnerable to frost. Adjust your fertilization routine in late fall to promote plant hardiness. Avoid nitrogen-rich fertilizers, as they can encourage tender growth susceptible to frost damage.

The winter months can be quite unpredictable and tend to be more drastic during the months of January, February, and even through March when the seasons are changing. By taking these proactive measures, you can ensure the health and vitality of your outdoor plants. Remember that each plant is unique, so tailor your approach based on their specific needs and the climate of your region.

I hope you enjoyed This Month in the Garden. Be sure to stop by on the 1st. and 15th. of each month as I continue to share gardening tips, information and horticultural adventures! 

"As Always...Happy Gardening!" 

Author: Lee @A Guide to Northeastern Gardening, © Copyright 2010-2024. All rights reserved. 

Monday, January 15, 2024

Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day & Foliage Follow-Up January: The Subtle Beauty of Winter

Welcome: January Garden!
The start of the 2024 gardening season brought our first snow on the 7th, as I ran outside like a little kid with cell phone to capture the moment. It only lasted a while with no accumulation, but had been something I had not experienced in a while. It has been a milder than usual January with temperatures in the 40's and larger amounts of rain than we have seen in the past, but now a cold blast has arrived! As the garden sleeps for winter, there is still much of nature's beauty to be explored. There a a well-known quote by Josephine Neuse that I live by, “Anyone who thinks that gardening begins in the spring and ends in the fall is missing the best part of the whole year; for gardening begins in January with the dream.” Welcome to a new year in my Long Island garden! 
Foliage, foliage, foliage!
The first stop is along the patio garden with Dwarf Cryptomeria (backdrop), Weeping Norway Spruce (right) and Nandina 'Obsession' (left). One of my main missions is to have combinations of color along with various textures of foliage for something to see all year long. All three additions are evergreen and the Nandina is a dwarf form with red tips that show up nicely, especially during winter. 
Shade Garden
In the back shade garden is Nellie Stevens Holly along with 'Fernspray' Golden Hinoki Cypress. The foliage of the Hinoki Cypress is wispy with a nice golden color, while the bright red berries of the holly are quite abundant this year! 
Nellie Steven's Holly
Here is a view of the berries up close. The birds are loving them! Do note: They are not edible by humans!
Nestled in for Winter
Nestled in for winter is this statuary of a sleeping cat that my mom had bought me many years ago. It resides right along the patio garden where I can see it every time I go outside, it reminds me of her, and it creates a smile.
Crape Myrtle Bark Winter
Here is the Crape Myrtle tree that sits on a raised island bed in the backyard. While the blooms in late summer are magnificent, the bark of Crape Myrtle is interesting during every season. It exfoliates near the end of the summer into fall, revealing even a deeper color pattern for wintertime.
Winter Interest
Gold Lace Juniper grows beneath the mature Crape Myrtle tree, which is now over 30 years old.
Ajuga 'Black Scallop'
Noted for its deep marron color, Ajuga 'Black Scallop' has larger leaves than other ajuga and lasts throughout most of the winter, bringing color to the garden. Purple blooms will emerge in early spring.
Dwarf Golden Hinoki Cypress
In the pool border is Dwarf Golden Hinoki Cypress 'Nana Lutea', which grows to just 2-3 feet tall by wide at maturity.
Hellebore 'Shooting Star'
Let's venture to the north side of the property where Hellebore 'Shooting Star' resides. I love this perennial for its winter blooms starting in January. The buds are here, but it is a little behind schedule this year. I expect to see full blooms very soon!
Weeping White Pine and Hellebore
In the back pool surround is Weeping Norway Spruce with another cultivar of Hellebore, 'Helleborus 'Champion'. Its buds are a little ahead of schedule, as I usually see buds in February followed by blooms in March for this particular variety.
Hellebore 'Champion'
Here is Hellebore 'Champion' up close. The pinkish buds open up to expose greenish-yellow blooms.
Weeping White Pine Seed Cone
For other winter interest in the January garden are the seed cones of Weeping White Pine...
Stachys (Lamb's Ear)
and the soft white foliage of Lamb's Ear, which persists throughout the season.
Back Shade Garden
Here along the north side of the pool area is the newly planted Sky Pencil Holly, which seems to be adjusting nicely. Joining the holly is evergreen Golden Sweet Flag and the red tipped foliage of Leucothoe 'Axillaris', which adds a little punch of color. 
A Little Whimsy
Around the bend is one of my newest and favorite pieces of garden statuary. I thought you may enjoy seeing it too!
A Little Nature
Up in the trees is a winter's treat indeed, as this beautiful cardinal remains long enough for a photo capture.
Seasonal Planter
A new addition to the back entry, that gives me joy every time I see it, is this planter I created last month with Dwarf Alberta Spruce, golden and blue Cypress, Osmanthus (False Holly) and Gaultheria procumbens (Wintergreen). The planter containing all evergreens will be enjoyed throughout all the seasons!
Sedum Rosettes Wintertime
In the garden are the rosettes of Sedum anxiously waiting for spring...
Hydrangea 'Tardiva' Wintertime
while the dried blooms of  Hydrangea tell us winter is here to stay for now.
Indoor Garden
While the temperatures are cold outside, I especially enjoy tending to my indoor garden. My collection  contains numerous houseplants, each unique for its varying characteristics. On a bench in the southern facing window, Thanksgiving Cactus is very happy and continues to bloom.
Thanksgiving Cactus
In other news, I was honored to learn that my newest book, Shade Gardening for the Northeast & Mid-Atlantic: Planning the Ultimate Shade Garden made it to the Top 10 Garden Books of 2023 for Washington Gardener Magazine! In addition, check out Washington Gardener Magazine's Podcast for the Top 10 Most Popular Podcasts for 2023. During one of the discussions I got to talk shade gardening! Also, to bring in 2024, I just became a proud member of the NGB (National Gardening Bureau), joining those who's purpose is to educate, inspire and motivate people in the world of gardening.
Thanks for Visiting!
I hope you enjoyed your visit to my January garden. I so appreciate you being here, look forward to your comments and look forward to seeing what you have growing in your garden. Special thanks go out to our hostess Carol at May Dreams Gardens, who makes it possible to see blooms on the 15th of every month with her meme Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day. Also, special thanks to Pam Penick at Digging who had hosted Foliage Follow-Up, a meme I will continue to honor. I am also linking with some other wonderful hosts and hostesses at Floral Friday FotosFriday Bliss at Floral Passions, Macro Monday 2, Mosaic Monday at Letting Go of the Bay Leaf, Nature Notes at Rambling WoodsImage-in-ing weekly photo share every Tuesday with NC Sue and Gardens Galore Link Up Party every other Monday with Everyday Living. I am also happy to join the Weekly Photo Link-Up at My Corner of the World on Wednesdays and Garden Affair at Jaipur Garden. Wishing all a wonderful 2024 with gardens that thrive!