February in the Garden

First photographs of the new year. Out of the blue it occurred to me that up until this week I had not taken one garden photo in 2022. How can this be? It seemed unnatural, so with camera in hand on a rather gray but dry February day it came time to rectify the situation. Two units of compost and 10 yards of gravel occupied us for the last several weeks, and we are happy to report the spreading of the wheelbarrow loads is complete! Here's the score: FM: 38 wheelbarrows full of gravel, 127 compost. Me: 89 wheelbarrows of gravel, 5 compost. Not that it's a contest, but it's a fun way of keeping it going without going bonkers.

Now, back to the garden as it stands today (but let me get some ibuprofen first).

The entrance, if you will, to the gravel garden.

Flowers in February? There are a few. The most abundant and visited by bumblebees is hands down Arctostaphylos. Pictured here is A. 'Sentinel'.

Daphne odora 'Aureomarginata' in part shade has been a slow grower for me; however, it is healthy so slow or not, I'm happy to have it.

Erica carnea 'Rosalie' is at the beginning of its long bloom period. I appreciate erica and calluna for their long flowering period, ease of care and evergreen leaves. 

Sarcococca confusa perfumes the shade garden and is a useful evergreen shrub.

Viburnum x bodnantense 'Dawn' is a relatively new addition to the garden. I decided to plant one for its early bloom and fragrance.

Unknown hellebore in the shade garden. 

Hellebore seedling with rather dark coloration that I find attractive.

Euphorbia rigida flowers stand out with chartreuse flowers this time of year.

Clematis cirrhosa 'Wisley Cream' began blooming in December and looked fantastic. The snow we had in late December kind of did it in but a few flowers still look reasonable enough. 

There are a few other flowers scattered about the garden, but this is the bulk of them right now. Soon, though, there will be much more to share.

Now, on to the rest of the garden, an overall tour. In the shade garden, I just liked the way this Fatsia japonica 'Spider Web' was looking this day. It is incredibly joyful to see the evergreens in the shade garden grow to a decent size for they will be the backdrop to many ferns and spring ephemerals. When they are so small the overall vision just isn't there, but I see hints of it in scenes like this.

The new gravel was used to freshen up the many paths we have here at Chickadee Gardens, including the shade garden.

 Schefflera delavayi is the largest and oldest of four we have planted. This is literally at the edge of our property and pokes through the deer fence, so I was curious whether or not the deer would nibble. So far they walk on by. It's finally growing to a decent height and can be seen from a distance.

Ah, yes, in the middle of February it's pretty grim out there. But Arctostaphylos 'Sentinel' (left) and A. 'Saint Helena' (right) add year round beauty and grace.

The edge of the meadow on the right with the gravel garden area on the left. The meadow was cut back this week as we've had a long spell of 50 degree (or warmer) days which, I am told, is what's needed for nesting insects to become active and fly away. Whatever the magic number is (and I'm sure it varies from garden to garden and which insects you are protecting), leaving it as long as possible has always been my goal.

Cornus sanguinea 'Midwinter Fire' adds a bit of color to the winter garden.

Callistemon sieberi and its interesting seeds. This is placed next to a suet feeder and the little songbirds love sitting in it, awaiting their turn at the feeder. I think it provides a level of protection for them with the prickly leaves.

Sedum spathulifolium 'Purpureum', one of many sedums here, simply caught my eye this week. This is its winter coloration, it is much more silver when spring comes around and it is partially shaded by neighboring plants.

Wide view of part of the labyrinth garden with Salix elaeagnos ssp. angustifolia front and center. You can just barely see buds forming and that means spring is near. This whole area received the gravel treatment as well as some areas receiving a little compost treatment - it depends on the plant.

A winter view of a piece of the gravel garden with a coralbark maple in the background adding a little red to the scene.

Typical winter day here at Chickadee Gardens.

The edge of the labyrinth garden with Arctostaphylos pumila looking fine. I have seen many bumblebees visiting this plant the last week or two.

Pretty reddish leaf coloration of Cistus corbariensis. This very useful evergreen shrub for sun has white flowers with a yellow eye and is a favorite of bees. 

Another reality check - the mixed dry border in winter. Again, it has a fresh top dressing of gravel as well as compost in some areas, notably the area on the right of the path that is especially dark is where echinacea live - they seem to thrive better in the summer when I apply compost in winter.

Wide shot of the edge of the meadow (foreground) and gravel garden behind the gravel path. Both coralbark maples can be seen in this shot as well as a bright punch from several Hebe 'Karo Golden Esk' and Erica 'Kramer's Rote', the pink flowering shrub in the middle.

Edge of the labyrinth with Oscar the agave and Brachyglottis greyi in the center.

Now for a few small chores. The weather this winter has been mellow, fine really. It was very mild and then in late December we had snow. Not tons, but several inches for about a week total. That snow did more damage to plants than I have seen in winters past when we experienced multiple weeks of freezes and freezing rain and snow. For example, this native coyote shrub Baccharis pilularis completely split and broke off. I have since pruned it back as they are pretty hardy. Other shrubs did the same - I have a hebe that I think is a goner from just a little snow breaking one of its branches. It's very odd, but one must roll with the punches.

Late last autumn I built my first "fern table" and I have to say that it is actually filling in and looking not bad for my first effort. More to come as it progresses.

We received a Chip Drop delivery (yaay! finally!) and redid all the paths and berry areas in the veggie garden. We also cleaned up the raised beds, gave them mesh bottoms (thank you, FM!) to keep the moles out and added a fresh coat of gravel. It looks bleak now but this area is primed and ready to go for some fresh spring veggies.

Here's a small before and after. This lovely planter was potted up last January. Let's see what she looks like today:

A little bit of new growth! The color of the succulents has changed but that's likely due to winter stress.

That's the reality check of the garden in mid-February. It's a rather slow and gray time of year typically but there are a few beauties to be seen sprinkled throughout. Whether it's a bleak day or not we love being outside working in it and hanging out with our friends the crows, chickadees and Doug the native Douglas squirrel. It's a hive of activity year round. And whether or not the garden looks great, it still brings immense joy which is what it's all about.

That's a wrap for this week at Chickadee Gardens. As always, thank you for reading and commenting, we love hearing from you all! Happy gardening!


  1. Your winter garden is looking great, Tamara. As always I'm impressed by all the heavy lifting you and the FM tackle. In contrast, it's most definitely spring here in my part of the country - in fact, we had a serious brush with summer temperatures last week, which damaged some of the plants that were already in full bloom while encouraging others to burst into bloom prematurely. As you observed, weather fluctuations and their affects are simply things we need to roll with.

    1. We had unseasonably warm temps last week - record highs, in fact. I hope your plants pull though, that's rough. We usually risk things coming into flower early then a freeze zapping them. I never considered the opposite! Sheesh. I'm sorry, Kris.

  2. Anonymous4:40 PM PST

    You are an Amazon! All those wheelbarrow loads...Yikes!
    Finally got to put in some gardening time on those sunny days. Felt good.
    That is the perfect planting for ytour lovely shell maiden. I so admire all the beautiful vignettes on your deck and elsewhere...hoping to transform our messy deck in a similar manner this spring. Just one of the many ways you serve as an inspiration.

    1. Ha ha....Amazon. Well, maybe crazy...

      Glad you got some time outside these past few mild sunny days, it felt so good! You are too kind and generous with your praise, Rickii. Love ya, woman! xoxox

  3. I love a winter garden. One can enjoy and examine the bones of it when the garden is quiet, taking a break.
    The amount of 'dressing' you hauled in is tremendous and I wonder if you do it every year.
    You'v accumulated lovely, fragrant early bloomers; you can never have enough of those.
    I try, with some effort, to leave dry grasses, flower stocks and seed pods as long as possible. Once they are sheered off, I discover tulip and Hyacinth bulbs that starting to push out and are thankful for the extra light.
    I wish I had more shade in the garden to add more fern tables: I adore them. And I love that HEAD pot: she is a looker.

    1. I do too, Chavliness - love a good winter garden. While ours is not what I would consider "good" - it has potential and we're working on it!

      The fragrance of the early bloomers is a treat we are happy to have. It's enough to get us outside on a winter's day.

      Thanks for your kind comments, sounds like you have a good routine for cutting back - and oh, yes - that is a benefit of cutting back all my grasses, the tiny native wildflower seeds suddenly have light and begin germinating, so hooray for that!



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