Sunday, February 5, 2017

State of the Winter Garden 2017

We live in a Region 7A - middle south - agricultural zone (see below, as realigned per the USDA in 2012 from 6B, or upper south), which basically means we see all four seasons, but plant hardiness has shifted somewhat. We can't rely on plants such as white paper birch to thrive in our heat, but crepe myrtle more reliably flourish through our winters.
While I am not a fan of winter, I suppose it wouldn't be winter without snow.  Our first winter snow of 2017 arrived on January 6th.
Only an accumulation of 4", but the freezing temperatures and wind chill in the few days following that snow were enough to convince me it was winter in our region, indeed. We walk nearly 3 miles almost every day, and those few days were days of layering long underwear under regular clothing!
We had a layer of ice under that snow in the wee hours, but it sure didn't stop a kid spotted in the neighborhood on a bike. I couldn't believe he was riding on that ice! By the time we were well into our walk, though, the snow was melting from travel and treatment on streets and sidewalks.
That snow was completely gone a few days later, with warming temps that had us feeling like it was spring! This kind of winter weather is much more typical further south of us, but I quite like the more moderate temps.

Apparently, our power company also liked the warmer temps, and they had their tree-cutting contractors out again. If you recall, I had a stay of execution on the tree on my property that camouflages the utility pole at back center of my landscape (as seen below last Fall). You can read all about that drama here and here. The contractors' last visit was in September (2016), and I pleaded for at least allowing the tree to reach its color peak and shed its leaves. They obliged.
Maple Tree in full fall color, 2016
When they knocked this time (early January), I answered the door, and happened upon a very reasonable man. He agreed they would cut my tree per my wishes - in similar fashion to the last hard prune we paid for by professionals (because I had seen the contractor's' work through the neighborhood!). This guy also promised to phone ahead when they were coming, so I could 'supervise'. Guess what? He stood by his word! Below is the before and after latest pruning photo of my tree.
Maple tree, before and after hard prune, winter 2017
I know it's a bit difficult to see the silhouette with gray background, but that's a typical winter day here in my region. The guys basically followed the prune cuts from the last job, and left the tree in a nice shape. Mind you, only one guy did the work (the one in red vest), but they changed my opinion of their typical performance with the result of my experience this time.
Power company's contracted tree trimmers
A walk around the yard the same day of the pruning left me a bit surprised. There were several plants showing signs of rebirth - a little too soon - leaving them at risk for the remainder of winter.
Winter sprouts 2017
Clockwise, in the photo collage above, (top L) my irises are pushing through, (R) love-in-a-mist sprouts are in the foreground of nandina in the back corner, and (bottom L) bluebonnets surprised me!
Winter nandina 2017
The front corner of the landscape is thick with a screen of nandina, full of berries (above photo). Only in very harsh and prolonged bitterly cold winters (like 2015) do those plants drop their leaves. Otherwise, they have year-round interest.
Winter 2017 back landscape
The very back of my landscape is where my glider benches flank the central garden flag. I disconnect and cover and all my garden hoses (3) during winter, and you can see one of them behind the hydrangeas in the above photo (far right). You can also see a glimpse of my maple tree just above the brick wall. Other plants visible are pansies (foreground), a lavender plant (behind flag), a cluster of English laurel (Otto Luyken, behind far left bench), and one of a group of three butterfly bushes (pruned, left of bench).
Winter 2017 daffodils emerging - too soon!
Imagine my surprise when I stepped outside on January 20th and my daffodils were already as pictured above! This is really early, too early I'm afraid, to be seeing what appears to be buds. These plants are in my front beds, closest to the river (read: warm). Grass is also sprouting outside the steel edging (reseeded late last fall after my summer annuals spilled over and killed the undergrowth).

If this warming trend keeps up, I may have to break out my new gloves soon and get busy outside. My sister gifted me the gloves pictured below this past Christmas, thinking they'd be helpful in warding off my proneness to poison ivy outbreaks. They're almost too pretty to wear in the dirt!
I'd be really surprised if winter stays as mild as it has been so far. I may have to start thinking about working some other species into my landscape mix. Maintaining year-round landscape interest is my goal, true of most gardeners. I may need to tap into my Southern friends' knowledge base to get some ideas for amending my regional climate twist. Maybe some camellia plantings?

Are you finding you're having to adjust your landscape plantings too? What are your favorite plantings for year-round interest? I'd love to hear your comments. If you love gardening as much as I do, feel free to explore my topic on my main menu, or search the labels (my garden, my landscape garden), or key those words into the search block on my sidebar. It's a favorite topic, hobby of mine. Let's share some dirt!

As always, thank you for your visit to my blog!
Rita C. at Panoply