Tuesday, January 26, 2010
THE WINTER GARDEN
As I put the finishing touches on this month's newsletter it is midday and the temperature is 70 degrees. Was it really in the lower 10’s just two weeks ago? Gee Whiz!
I enjoyed a walk around the garden yesterday and took some photographs. Too often we think of our winter gardens as absent of color but that’s simply not true. It is truly a great time to come visit the gardens. We have many different types of evergreen trees and shrubbery which provide a beautiful backdrop of greenery.
One of the smaller evergreen shrubs is the Mahonia bealei, commonly called the leather leaf mahonia. It is a member of the barberry family. It grows to be about 4-6 feet tall and 3-4 feet wide. It has large, pinnately compound leaves with erect, unbranched, stiff stems. It is a native of China and is hardy in USDA Zones 6-9. It grows well in shade to partial shade and flowers in late winter and early spring and produces berries in late summer. Bees and people love the fragrant flowers and birds equally love the berries.
The oakleaf hydrangea (Hydrangea quescifolia) is a species of hydrangea native to the southeastern United States. Shoots sprout from underground stolons and are often seen growing in colonies and can be as tall as 8 feet. Flowers are borne in erect panicles 6-12 inches tall and 3-5 inches wide at branch tips.
Flowers age in color from creamy white, to pink and by autumn and winter are a dry, papery rusty-brown. It has oak leaf shaped foliage which turns beautiful autumn colors, including purple to orange to bronze or red.
The two plants together, the leather leaf mahonia and the oakleaf hydrangea, are growing well under a canopy of shade. You can find these along Shady Alley behind the Chapel.
Another great shrub providing beautiful color in the winter garden is the nandina. Commonly known as heavenly bamboo it is not a bamboo at all but a shrub in the Barberry family. It is native to eastern Asia. The leaves are evergreen. The young leaves in spring are brightly colored pink to red before turning green; old leaves turn red or purple again before falling. The flowers are white and appear in early summer. The fruit is a bright red berry, ripening in late autumn and often persisting through the winter.
According to Wikipedia, "it is also considered a troublesome invasive species in many parts of the Southeastern U.S.” Nandina can be grown in USDA hardiness zones 4-10. and can take heat and cold, from 110 degrees Fahrenheit/43 degrees Celsius to 10 degrees Fahrenheit/-12 degrees Celsius. It grows well in full sun to partial shade and requires moderate to low water. Due to the naturally occurring phytochemicals this plant is commonly used in rabbit, deer, and javalina resistant landscape plantings.”
However birds are not affected by these toxins and will disperse the seeds through their droppings. Clark Gardens has several different varieties of nandina including a dwarf type.
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