January in the Garden
As months go in the garden, January is not photogenic. It is rather a good time for chores and maintenance or, in the case of this time last year, thawing out bird baths and clearing snow from the deck. I am tremendously relieved that we are not dealing with snow and ice this year (so far) even if the snow is pretty for an hour or two. Nonetheless, I aim to document the garden in all its non-snowy blandness. After all, you want the whole story, not just the good bits, right? Here is a look around Chickadee Gardens in the dead of winter.
Deer grass or Muhlenbergia rigens was very impressive this year. It seems to be evergreen, we'll see what happens later in the growing season. Last winter's snow caused it to go dormant, so it took a while to get going in the spring.
One of my favorite views out of our dining room window, this Japanese maple's new red growth set against a mossy green background from its cousin, an Acer macrophyllum or big leaf maple. Note the bat house on the maple.
See what I mean about bland? At least there are shrubs and grasses to look at, despite their young age. In time, they will knit together and alleviate the spotty look.
We have been quite fortunate and had a few sun breaks here and there. At times it feels like March or April in the garden but the plants tell a different story. It is in winter that the structure of the garden is most appreciated. The gravel juxtaposed with the edge of my rather rambunctious meadowy area is a pleasing effect; if the gravel path were not there the whole scene would feel messy to me.
Time for those evergreens to shine! Arctostaphylos 'Saint Helena' in the background, Callistemon pityoides 'Mt. Kosciusko' in the foreground. To the right is Trachelospermum jasminoides 'Variegata' - variegated evergreen jasmine which in time will hopefully trail around the banister.
New growth on A. 'Saint Helena'.
The paths in the labyrinth garden pull this whole messy winter garden together. The gravel also keeps the mud at bay. In the distance is the veggie garden. That bit of the garden is in major planning stages right now, more to come in the not too distant future.
Ozothamnus rosmarinifolius 'Silver Jubilee' foliage. Another fantastic evergreen shrub for sun.
Seed heads of Sedum 'Matrona' with one silver germander in the foreground Teucrium fruticans. Since we haven't had serious snow, the sedum is still upright adding some texture to what would otherwise be a sea of soil. The germander is evergreen.
What am I looking at here? My goodness. What a mess. It's my thyme carpet - Thymus x 'Pink Ripple'. It has filled in nicely and stayed evergreen. This time last year the little starts I had planted earlier in 2016 had all died back. I thought I would have to replace it all after last winter, but it did regrow and gratefully spread. When this is in full bloom in the spring, it is a beautiful sight, especially for the bees.
Wavy leaves of Cistus 'Blanche'. She will get about 5 or so feet high and wide with single white flowers in spring. Another underused shrub for the Pacific Northwest - cistus in general.
A sad sight, a Viburnum tinus 'Robustum' that lived in a large pot on our front porch at the old house. Facilities Manager moved it out here December of 2016 a year after we moved here (yes, it took a year for the house to sell). It got a bit fried on that cold day in the back of his truck and slowly declined in its pot on our new front porch. I knew I had to try to save it so we planted it in the ground last summer. It promptly lost all of its leaves but I kept it watered knowing these things are tough.
Tough old plant! It wants to live. I bet it will be covered in green within a year or two. Normally I wouldn't bother with such a struggling plant, but I have come to really appreciate what plants can do if given a chance. I take home all manner of throw-aways from work knowing that they look terrible now, but if given a chance, I'd say 80% of the time they bounce back with enthusiasm. Here, I have the space and time to do this - in the old garden with such precious real estate, this would have been in the compost.
Did I say winter is the time for projects? Well, sort of. The start of one, at any rate. I dug the edges of a path that will continue from the labyrinth garden to the vegetable garden. That's some heavy soil right now so I haven't gotten very far. My plan is to schlep wheelbarrows full of sod to the chicken yard since the girls have made all kinds of craters. I thought I'd fill up the craters and also give the girls a chance to dig out some fat, tasty worms. Once the sod is removed from this new pathway, we will fill it up with crushed gravel.
Melianthus major from fellow garden blogger Alison of Bonnie Lassie. From a tiny start it has grown to 3' tall and wide. I look forward to seeing this fill in.
An underused evergreen for sunny tough places. Coyote bush or Baccharis pilularis - a native to the West Coast. The flowers are kind of odd and don't really even show up with the naked eye. The beauty in this is that it's so blemish-free, evergreen, tough and handsome. I have *never* watered this and it went from a scrubby cutting purchased at Bosky Dell Natives to a beautiful 4' high shrub near the gate to our property. Zero maintenance and the pollinators love the weird flowers.
Our olive trees! All four of these Olea 'Arbequina' trees came back after multiple snow and ice events last winter which killed them to the ground. This year Facilities Manager is protecting all that brand new growth with a heavy leaf mulch and a stand-by bucket for freezing threats.
New to me this year, Hamamelis x intermedia 'Jelena' witch hazel. This is its first bloom and I am very excited. Mature witch hazels are something to behold.
Yuccas in the landscape. Yucca gloriosa 'Variegata' (I think, they had originally been labeled Y. filamentosa). Since becoming established in this garden, they nearly always look great. I'm so very glad I took them with me from the old garden. Yuccas are the fix for my Agave lust.
The "Himalayas" as Facilities Manager calls them have become the Appalachians. In other words, they have settled a lot. But, they are looking better with a few plants. I predict that in a year or two the plants will have spread so much you won't be able to see soil any longer.
These are wildflower seedlings that have self-sown from last spring's show. I am a little scared, there are so many. In the spring we shall see what monsters I have created.
The beauty of Arctostaphylos 'Sentinel'. It's a young plant but so happy and healthy, I look forward to watching all my arctos mature. Most were purchased from Xera Plants, as they have an amazing selection and very healthy plants.
The grasses are still upright, amazingly. It doesn't look too bad for the middle of winter, I must say.
Just about all of my bazlillion sedums are evergreen. Here Sedum spurium of some selection or another on the right combines with Sedum reflexum. I also see native to Oregon Sedum divergens towards the top.
January usually provides stunning sunrises. The color here has not been altered.
A couple of minutes later, the red eased up and became more purple.
If I look hard enough, there are amazing happenings in the garden year-round. Even in January. Although I am itching to really get out there and garden, it is satisfying to take in the completion of the natural cycle - that is the dormant period. I should be dormant myself, but when it's dry and above 40 degrees, I'm ready to go. What can I say? I'm a bit crazy. I am grateful, as mentioned in the beginning, for a mild winter so far. If this keeps up I think next year could be gangbusters. On second thought, maybe I should go take a nap and go dormant while I can.
That's it for this week at Chickadee Gardens. As always thank you so much for reading, and happy gardening and seed-catalogue shopping, wherever you are!