Monday, January 3, 2011

My garden…in the dead of winter

Last week I shared a few pictures of plants that look good no matter the season. Of course I focused in for a close up, photographing only the plant and not the surrounding garden. Things are not looking good out there right now; I am not a master at the art of “seasonal interest” and actually, I’m okay with that.

While it’s true that compared to many other parts of the United States our climate is mild, it still isn’t welcoming in the dead of winter. It’s rainy, it’s cold and windy…I do not spend time in the garden from Nov on until early spring starts to pull me outdoors again. That’s not to say I’m a hermit! I am actually out there daily checking on things and taking it all in, the good and the bad. Actually this ability to see the garden almost daily is one of the biggest benefits to being unemployed. It used to be that once daylight savings time ended I only got to visit the garden on the weekends.

So back to my point…in the comments on last week’s post bit of a challenge was issued: “Would you be willing to share some shots of the garden as a whole? It would be nice to see how you've fit all these plants into a wider design and how well the whole effect is working at this time of year” ….oh the horror! That would be like inviting you all over and not bothering to shower and change out of my pj’s first!

But I’m strong, I’m mature, I can take it…I think. Ok…here goes. No clean up…no raking of leaves or cutting back of dead foliage! Here is my garden exactly as it appeared on the afternoon of Wednesday December 29th warts and all… you are walking into the garden and looking roughly to the northwest.
And then due north. That's the Musa basjoo wrapped up, I like to start off spring with the tallest plant possible.And northeast. South toward the garage and the huge hydrangea.Southwest towards the shade pavilion acting as a temporary greenhouse. And now due west towards the (horribly empty) patio. I think you’ve got your bearings? Finish having a look around, please don’t look too close.The tank on the left had two large Echiums in it as well as the tallest of my Tetrapanax, that is it's stem you see to the left. The tank on the right is where the Gunnera lives, it's protected under leaves and burlap. Usually I leave the plug in this tank so it doesn't drain and creates a bog but with all the rain we've got this year I had to "pull the plug" early in the fall as it was full of water and I didn't want the plant to freeze solid. On the right below is the pond tank, plants removed and spending the winter inside...little fishies doing ok. On the left is the mess of Horsetail, Umbrella Palm and Water Canna, ugly! The Acanthus were feeling lazy the day this picture was taken. Peaking inside the shade pavilion.
And turning to head back into the upper garden.Okay, now please…before you go and thing that I am a complete garden slob I have to offer up a link to a garden tour that I did back in July when things were looking good, please click and take a look before you judge me too harshly.
Heading out of the back garden here is the driveway area which is usually used as a vegetable garden. Right now it’s home to outdoor Agaves getting extra winter protection, the Tree Fern (which gets pulled in the house when the temperatures drop), and a few other plants that will be put in the ground when spring comes around.Here is the extra ugly front garden! As I’ve mentioned previously this area underwent a major overhaul early last spring. So things are still rather tiny…and with the cool temperatures seem even smaller.
Aren't those the saddest looking Euphorbia? They are upset at the cold temperatures.A few close-ups…the Euphorbia rigida looks a bit unhappy, I think too much rain? It is still alive though, hopefully to pull through once things warm up.
More Yuccas shining brightly!
I have a few Glaucium flavum sprinkled around the garden; they are all small but still looking good in the winter.
Dasylirion wheeleri are as tough as nails, never have protected them in the winter.
This group is looking so sad. The Prickly Pears haven’t righted themselves in a while and the Canna leaves (protecting the Canna) aren’t helping the look of things. I’m not sure if the Puya coerulea are going to pull through or not but the Agave is a champ!
One of three Ceanothus planted last spring…this one is Ceonothus “Pt Reyes” and was supposed to be hardy to 5…as you can see it isn’t looking so good.
This Echium x wildprettii ‘Rocket’ is trying to hang on…
And the $1.99 Calistemon is a real trooper.
And the last picture, looking northwest. These Tetrapanax have taken a real beating with the cold wind, as has the Manzanita in the foreground. The dead looking thing on the left is a Purple Cordyline, it died to the ground last winter too but came back in the spring...hopefully it will again.
That's it! Hopefully you can still think of me as a gardener...and maybe I've managed to make you feel better about how your garden is looking?


  1. Euphorbias and ferns and bamboos - you've got most of my favourite plants in there - I enjoyed the pictures a lot

  2. who left such a crazy comment about wanting to see your whole garden? That was kind of cruel. Oh wait, that was me! I think I also said I would share mine, which I will, soon. Your yard looks far better than mine.

    I think your yard looks very nice for the season. There's a lot of pleasing plant combos and the hardscaping and river rock mulch looks really nice. Where did you get all the feed troughs? I've been planning on getting some of those.

    Glad to see your Echium is hanging on, it's nice to know there's some hope for those in Zone 8.

    I'm going to offer some constructive criticism, in the hope that people will do the same for me when I post pics of my yard. Overall your yard looks good so I'm having to think a bit to find something to comment on. All these comments could easily apply to myself as well, so this doubles as my "2011 Goals" list too :-)

    How much do you like that huge Hydrangea? Mine looks pretty bad right now, and during the growing season it's just OK. I don't know what kind you have but mine is not anything special. My shrub space is limited so I'm going to tear it out in favor of something more unusual and with more winter interest. Your is against a white wall, so something with bright winter berries would really stand out.

    There's a couple of spots where a lot of blank wall shows, I don't know if you have plants that fill that space in during the growing season, but if not you might think about adding some trellises or garden art. Speaking of garden art, I don't see any. Not a fan or just haven't found what you want yet?

  3. Hi Loree,

    I have added a link for "Danger Garden" on my blog. Hoping that my friends will visit it. So interesting !
    Go on like that...

  4. Damn sure puts my yard and gardens to shame. You still have so much green.

  5. Your mad! yours looks great -mine looks like a barren waste land compared to yours. And your, is it "Sammy" really is stand out. umm...I can't show mine

  6. My gosh. I'm sooooo impressed. I looked at the summer pics and your garden is absolutely gorgeous!!!!!!!
    Very brave of you to show pics during the winter, I couldn't do it, but your garden looks sooo much better than ours does during the winter. I barely bother to walk out there nowadays.
    Nice job!

  7. A Year, hello! Thanks for commenting so I could find your blog, where are you located? You mention snow so maybe not Portland? (we haven't had much).

    Ryan, oh you raise some darn good questions! The stock tanks (feed troughs) are from Burns Feed Store out in Gresham, but I hear there is a Coastal Farm out your way in Hillsboro, they should have them too. I've covered that Echium during both cold spells, it was frozen solid Friday but it looks ok now...I hope it will live to see summer, who knows what winter has left in store for us. I have a love/hate relationship with the Hydrangea. It was here when we bought the place, one of the few plants we left. Since I grew up in a place where they don't grow they are a bit "exotic" (I know, crazy huh). Plus I had huge ones growing outside my windows of one of my apartments in Seattle, I loved it, thus this one has stayed. As I'm sure you realize this is it's biggest and worst time of the year. Another month or so and I will whack it way back. It really adds an anchor to the upper garden in summer and looks good with the hosta and ferns that grow around it. Still as you say I could put in something (many things!) a lot more exciting there. I have thought about it and someday it will probably go. Someday. You mention the white wall, THAT is one of the things I hate the most. We are painting the house this spring (we are, we really are) and it will be white no more, something dark...a brown. That will make a huge improvement. The impending painting project (which was going to happen last spring, then last fall) is why there are no trellis/vine support. It kills me as I can't wait to cover up that huge ugly expanse of wall on the back of the house. That will be done just as soon as I can motivate the husband after the paint dries, we've talked about something like you did with your grape arbor. And yes, there are plants that "fill in the gaps" the rest of the year, mainly canna's as well as ginger, a hibiscus and other misc, but nothing as tall as the trellis will be. Lastly the garden art, I am not a fan. I've seen a few rusty metal leaves / flowers that I like. In fact there was a metal dandelion sculpture outside a dentists office in Spokane that I would die for! But unless something really cool along those lines jumps out at me I would rather go without.

    JP P, thank you! If they do I hope they'll comment!

    Darla, you know this is the time of year when lawns look really good in Portland...I love how much green I see around town!

    Linda, I want 3 more just like Sammy...if only I could afford them! He does certainly have winter interest doesn't he? I was reading something just last night that said Yucca rostrata really shine in the winter, I'd never really stopped to think about that but it's so true. Now as for your garden I do not believe that anyone could describe it as a "barren wasteland" not even close.

  8. Your photos put my garden to shame. I am the garden slob for which you would stop and take photos of, I am sure of it. I am of the same mind of fall clean up: don't do it. But I still can't believe how pristine yours still looks. And yes, I used the word pristine. I am not worthy, I am not worthy....

  9. Having seen your garden in summer, I would say it looks amazingly good in winter. It certainly puts mine to shame. The effect is wonderful in Sammy's bed where you have a couple other narrowly spiky plants nearer the steps to the patio: are they another dasylirion and/or hesperaloe parviflora or what? And which agave is that that's such a champ? In any case they look very good and you've given me a few ideas for winter interest in my garden.

    A thought about garden tidyness: I always want to neaten up my garden after most of fall has "fallen", so to speak, but I also think it's important to leave good habitat to encourage the birds. As a result, if you saw my garden now, the mess might make you shudder. It really isn't a reflection of my garden slovenliness (mostly!), but rather my strong feeling about the overall health of my little ecosystem. I will clean up leaves, etc. later on, so as not to encourage slugs, mold or rot, but I need to leave it for now. I think it's worth it!

  10. Is that incredibly sexy blueish yucca rostrata? If not, what is it? Because I don't think I can live without one.

  11. Hells bells, even your wrapped up banana looks better than my wrapped up lime tree ! And I still have leaves on my lawn (such as it is) since it does not seem to have stopped raining since they dropped-well except for days when I am at the office.

  12. Your garden still looks 10x better than mine right's such a muddy mess! I really need to get better at the whole "winter interest" thing :-)

  13. Oh geez... it's looking really good for Winter. People in the frozen tundra lands would kill for your garden right now. I'd just like to be able to look at my plants on a non-weekend day.

  14. Garden slob? Are you freaking kidding, Loree? Your garden looks wonderful both in and out of season. Notice I haven't been posting any full-garden shots lately. You've got great bones and structure to put it all in perspective. Please feel no shame, dear friend.

  15. i love your square pavers. i think the dead foliage is part of the interest, but i know what you mean about wanting to tidy up first. i am not so eager to share my yard in winter, myself! i really think your yard looks great for the storms and freezing weather we've had!

  16. Actually, it is looking pretty good. A lot of plants hold down the fort to start the bones for next seasons garden. Hey, some of our Echeveria have been taking a beating with all the rain we received this winter... BTW, love the cold box/house storage area. Matti

  17. Loree, first off, your garden looks fabulous. Second, I think it's so wise that you've zeroed in on when and how you appreciate being in the garden most -- so why take up valuable summer garden space to fill it with space-stealing winter interest stuff when that's not where your interests truly lie? You've just saved yourself a lot of time and discarded plants by figuring that out so soon!

  18. Kim & Victoria, hello! Surely your garden has a picturesque dusting (dumping?) of snow about now? That must make everything look pretty.

    LeLo...I don't believe you! You're garden looks to have such structure. A slob? Nope, I ain't buying it.

    MulchMaid, Sammy certainly is pulling his weight and then some. There is a Dasylirion in that area but not near the steps. Perhaps you are seeing another Yucca rostrata (much much smaller) and the Agave striata. Agave "champ" (sorry, forgive me) is from the in-laws in New Mexico. It is most likely a plain old Agave americana. If it keeps on doing as well as it's done (and the other two in the stock tanks) then the next time we visit I will be harvesting pups from all over the neighborhood! As for your garden being put to shame I say HA! just posted several pictures of it and it is looking absolutely FABULOUS! Perhaps we are all our own worst critics?

    Greensparrow, yes...Yucca rostrata, from Cistus. You need one, now.

    ks, I guess that's one advantage to the wind, it's gotten rid of a lot of leaves.

    scott, I guess the gravel does come in handy to prevent muddiness. Well that and the 23 degree temps! I actually have some plants heaving out of the ground right now!

    Megan, I don't know how those in the frozen tundra lands make it through the winter. I couldn't.

    Grace, thank you. I however think you are all being way too nice, I appreciate your kind words.

    Gina, thank you...and those square pavers are worth every cent...I love them as much as the day we got them.

    Thanks Matti!

    Denise, thank you...and I like your spin on it! Funny we thought the shade pavilion would give us an excuse to be outside when it's wet but warm...instead the plants have taken over the territory.

  19. Wow! The garden looks great and so does your blog! Keep it coming.

  20. Loree, you're crazy. First off, I don't expect a garden to look all neat and tidy at this time of year. Second of all, your garden actually DOES look all neat and tidy. How do you do it?! I think it's your fab hardscaping. That's what my eye is drawn to first at this time of year, when our plants aren't necessarily taking center stage, and you have done a fantastic job with that. The pavers, the gravel lining the interior of the sunken patio, the wonderful orange pavilion -- it all adds winter interest to your garden.

    But because you use so many structural plants, you still have wonderful texture and shimmery blue color to enjoy as well. I like the way you left the browned grasses in your border to contrast with the blue-green foliage. Yummy!

    Yes, it's more fabulous in summer, but it looks darn good right now.

    Someday though, when you visit my garden, you're going to gag at all the yard art I have.

  21. cagney, thanks for visiting!

    Pam, I love that you say "someday when I visit your garden" like there is no doubt it's going to happen. I hope so! And I've already seen quite a bit of our garden art in your photos, I doubt there will be any gagging! The hard surfaces definitely add structure to the back garden, you're right there. But you know oddly one of the things that I feel is making the front garden look so bad right now is the gravel. Everyone else in town has a luxurious green carpet in front of their house!


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