Thursday, February 8, 2024

State of the Winter Garden

Hello, readers! Today I want to dish on dirt - the dirt of my landscape garden and its winter state. 

We moved here in October 2021, and I've been working on overhauling the landscape ever since. 
Pictured below is what my front beds looked like on January 26, 2024, the second of two really nice, warm days where our temps hit the low 60s (F), and I was out there weeding! This was just after nearly 8" of snow melting.
Here's the way things looked just one week prior in our landscape, on January 19, 2024. 
And that photo above was after I had brushed all the snow off the shrubs, and paths had been shoveled.
I'm still babying those boxwoods, to prevent further burn like we experienced in last year's arctic blast, so getting snow off of the shrubs was necessary. I didn't even trim my boxwoods last year, giving them every opportunity to recover..

In my last landscape update, I wrote about amending a section of grass. All in all, I'm very pleased with the most recent changes of amending that patch of grass on the north-facing side yard. EXCEPT....just one problem arose, brought on by the compost I had added to all my beds last fall, and a topsoil/compost mix in the amended grass bed..
Looking at the top right frame of the collage above, you can see sprouts of the weed later identified as upland cress in the mulch (and it sprouted in that newest grass patch), below the pansies and right at the edge of the grass. I dug out three grocery bags FULL of that stuff on January 25-26, and posted it on a community Facebook page, asking for help identifying it. I suppose it will be this year's lily-of-the-valley. {sigh}
The state of other plants through last year's growing season are doing well. I did some winter pruning that last week of January and this past week. The most significant was with my St. John's Wort.
I also pruned my Jackmanii clematis I planted last year, and added a new trellis (purchased late last fall) for it to grow on this year. New buds were already swelling on it.
Several perennials are ideally cut back in late winter, and timing varies by your zone. In my zone 7a, I have several plants already showing new growth (lavender, skip laurels, purple gem rhododendron, and butterfly bushes), and bulbs pushing up dirt -  irises, wood hyacinths, daffodils, and snowdrops. It's exciting to see any and all of them, as many are newly planted or newly transplanted. It's also a good time for me to prune the St John's Wort, clematis, lavender, butterfly and serviceberry, before new growth takes off. I've also cleaned up my hydrangeas and spirea of their fall flower heads. I'm waiting another month or so before pruning my roses. 
January-February 2024 winter growth (clockwise, from top L): iris, clematis, lavender, daffodils, rhododendron, skip laurel.
I'm going with the old adage insofar as gardens go: the first year they sleep, the second year they creep, and the third year they leap.  I have plants in all stages of this, and also a few mature plantings which I kept from the prior owner's original installation.  

Right after Christmas, Proven Winners ran a 20% off all plants sale, and I placed an order for a several perennials as well as annuals that I want to install this year. The perennials include mostly compact selections for my cottage-sized garden.

Cardinal flower is a native plant here in West Virginia. It attracts bees and hummingbirds, and I'm hoping the area I've chosen to plant it will let it thrive.
Pride and Joy sedum will be a new variety for me. I chose it for its color and growth habit (shorter, mounded). I had Autumn Joy in my previous landscape, and it was a bit large for my cottage landscape.

I have one Bobo hydrangea already, and after three different transplants, it's a survivor! I bought one more plant to either add some heft to the one I already have, or to plant elsewhere. 

I also bought two Wedding Party Confettis Cake hellebores. I wish I had these already, so I could enjoy their blooms now! 

All of these plants won't ship until mid-April. Proven Winners had not updated their zone maps for shipping to the newest 2023 USDA Zone Plant Hardiness Map, and my plants were originally scheduled to ship the third week of April. I called and they changed it to mid-April for me.

I also ordered several annuals, which are typically hit or miss for me locally, because I want to plant sooner than nurseries are stocking them. I ordered the following, anticipating various ideas for containers and even front annual beds where my pansies are currently.

Two purple fountain grasses are in my order, one for each container I'm planning. The supertunia bermuda beach and diamond frost are one combo idea. Diamond frost does well in both containers and landscape beds.
I had superbena sparkling amethyst in containers last year and loved them, so I ordered those. I bought heliotrope also for containers, and made the combo pictured below as another idea. Heliotrope smells SO good, a bit like almond!

Again, I mixed diamond frost in another combination idea, this time with purple queen, which I've ordered, and also used before in my landscape beds. I would likely put geraniums with this combination, which are readily available by April in local nurseries.  

As you can tell, I am anxious to get outside and get in the dirt! In the meantime, I've been nurturing an amaryllis kit my sweet neighbor across the street gifted me for Christmas, and it's doing well!
I also bought grocery flowers and enjoyed a few bouquets blooming in January.
Turning the calendar page from January to February prompted my changing the front door wreath and garden flag, too, from winter snowballs and chickadees to pansies and hearts. 
What's new in your garden zone? Leave me a comment, let me know what you've been doing or plan to do this year, even if it's just admiring your neighbor's garden!

Thanks for your visit. I enjoy each and all of them, and your comments too.


  1. Wow, Rita! Three cheers and I bow down to you, pulling out all those weeds! I'm also in awe of how quickly you have pansies after all that snow. The plants you shared are going to be just beautiful in the garden and how lucky you can start on it early and be able to enjoy it for so long. I'll eagerly look forward to the next update!

  2. I admire your gardening skills Rita, and your hard work is paying off! I love your early spring look with all the pansies and cute wreath and door mat, so pretty! I'm sure. your new plants and flowers are going to be beautiful, hurry Spring!

  3. Rita, I love your pansies--planted, wreath, and doormat! It's supposed to hit 72 degrees here today and I am hoping to do a little gardening myself!

  4. Good morning, Rita. You have been busy…pruning and planning! Butch prunes and I plan and it seems to work really well. I can’t wait to see how your garden will thrive with all you have ordered and what you have already planted. The hydrangea ‘Boom’ is new to me, I will be reading about it. I love all of your pansies, they give so much color in the winter. Happy Gardening, my friend!

  5. Rita, You’re making me envious of your weather! I adore your cheerful doormat and wreath! And to see your pansies planted along your walkway is almost too much for me to take in, LOL! We still have a few piles of snow here and there in our neighborhood; plus it’s supposed to cool off next week with lows in the 20’s and upper teens. We could break the high record set for today, but it’s not even the middle of February yet. Enjoy your early spring!

  6. You look like you are all set for season. All of your choices are going to look beautiful in the months to come. In our garden, we still have the pansies that Katie planted in November (?). We have had daffodils coming up for a good two weeks. Katie brought some inside, and they smell heavenly - like Spring! We had to take our Red Bud tree down. During a hurricane about 4 years ago, it was whipped around like a helicopter. I don't know if that's what killed it, but it has been slowly dying. When Katie went to chop it down, it came out of the ground with minimal effort. In its place, she moved the Fringe Tree from the backyard. Soon, Katie will remove the detritus, and the show will continue with lots of new growth. Best wishes on making your garden grow!

  7. I love your early spring garden. You have been so much happier since you can have your gardens again. We are actually hitting 60 today here in Illinois. In heard of for February. Feels more like Spring tha winter. I’ll take every minute of this. Have a great rest of the week. Hugs. Kris

  8. I love seeing what’s going on in your garden, Rita! That cardinal flower is a new one to me. The sedums you selected are so pretty. I like all your choices that you ordered and how you’re going to combine them. I already told you about my new front yard landscape and I hope it does well. I’ve been cleaning up here and there in the back and I need to take the cover off the waterfall, with my son’s help. Thank you for sharing your progress. Happy February ❤️

  9. Rita, I admire your master gardening skills. I'm such a novice! My winter garden is very sad looking. Our extended severe freeze did much damage, even with plant cover on much of it. Very little survived in my containers, but that is easy to replenish. All of my foxtail ferns are badly burned, will need to be cut back, and the recovery is always slow. Unless your rule of three holds true. Fingers crossed they leap this year!
    before we see real signs of spring. My hyacinths and grape hyacinths are already blooming.

  10. Wow, Rita! You have been busy. I would be upset about all those weeds in the mulch. With all you have ordered you will be busy. I have enjoyed my Lenton Roses so much. The varieties I have are very cold hardy and say they can take minus 20 temps. We had a few days of 17 and 23 at night and mine did fine but below zero would scare me.
    Your pansies look very healthy and pretty. I am very fond of pansies. I look forward to seeing your spring and summer garden.

  11. I love how you are documenting both your garden and the weather! I'll bet your garden will look amazing this spring and summer!

  12. The way your house is situated on the corner gives you the perfect spot to show off all your fab gardening skills and gorgeous plantings. I love pansies but dare not plant them here because of our crazy rollercoaster weather and freezes. I'm just praying the buds on the tulip magnolia don't freeze again this year. You give me great inspiration on all your knowledge and design ideas. I still have the Christmas door basket up. Hopefully our weather will start to even out by the end of the month; I'm way behind!

  13. oh Rita you make me tired as you have such energy for yard work in the middle of winter. LOL But the results are well worth it as your pansies are beautiful. You are so knowledgable about plants. I have the Purple Queen Spiderwort but we call it wandering jew down here and it is prolific. Thank you for all your gardening notes and tips. Happy Spring to be.

  14. Rita, my eyes went right to your pansies. Mine don't typically return in the spring so I have to plant new ones each year. That is the first plant that goes in the garden since it can tolerate the cold snaps we have in the spring. Last summer, I admired the purple queen spiderwort on my daily walks at the college and added them to my list for this year. I started a list as I do each year, and today I did my winter sowing. It works well for me, and it's the only gardening I can do in the winter. Your gardens will look amazing this spring and summer!

  15. Oh my gosh Rita. That snow picture could have been taken outside our house! Those poor boxwoods. I hope they come through unscathed. I have one in the back yard - they really can't take the frigid temps we have here and if you want to keep them you have to wrap them in burlap over the winter - something that I have not done yet. How lovely to see pansies in January - they have such happy little faces. The heliotrope that you ordered looks so pretty and I love anything verbena. I can't wait to see how all the new plants fare in your garden this year. I am so yearning for spring and can't wait to get outside too. Happy gardening!!

  16. Your garden has been coming along beautifully and the love that you are putting into it certainly shows. The pansies are so welcoming as you come up the front walkway and the foundation planting with the boxwoods looks great! I have several Boxwood and spray them with an anti-desiccant every fall to prevent winter burn and it really helps to protect them. Thank you for sharing the winter views. I am so excited for you with your project and am looking forward to all your new plants this season!

  17. Yes...I forgot to log in! Your garden has been coming along beautifully and the love that you are putting into it certainly shows. The pansies are so welcoming as you come up the front walkway and the foundation planting with the boxwoods looks great! I have several Boxwood and spray them with an anti-desiccant every fall to prevent winter burn and it really helps to protect them. Thank you for sharing the winter views. I am so excited for you with your project and am looking forward to all your new plants this season!

  18. Hi Rita, I’m sorry I missed this post, I subscribed by email again. You’ve been a busy bee in the garden and I love your garden flag. 🐝 What a gorgeous variety of Lenten Rose. I have a common white variety that came from my MIL’s garden 10+ years ago. They thrived and multiplied in her garden but haven’t done much in ours. I love the size of your Bobo hydrangea, a much better size spread wise than our Limelights. We spent an afternoon cutting back the canes of a couple of other Limelights that were showing signs of cane borers and then I spent a day painting over all the cuts with pruning sealer…a messy job but hopefully it will be a deterrent. I bet the hummers will be thrilled with your Cardinal flower. I planted some red salvia in a couple of pots last year that they visited regularly. Happy Wednesday ♥