Cars and buses hunk horns, light wisps of smoke come out of street grilles, it’s cold. Busy people walk back and forth in the rush before the holidays, noises come from construction sites and little orange cones delineate work areas.
In the middle of all this hustle and bustle stands an old little place of peace and quiet, with torches burning around a tiered neoclassical fountain covered in pigeons. Read more…
I always felt that amaryllis was too formal a flower, almost artificial in its perfection, until my daughter decided that we should grow one on the window sill and picked this bulb. Its name is “Picotee” and it graced our home for over five years. Read more…
We arrived in Fairhope the day after Christmas, when a forty five degree chill accompanied a spectacular orange, purple and crimson sunset on the bay. The camellias were in bloom, contradicting the holiday decorations and the season altogether. Read more…
What a wonderful surprise! When I got home, I found my hot peppers in bloom and covered in fruit. I’m so excited about my winter harvest, I can’t hardly wait for the peppers to turn red, at which time I will post more pictures. Read more…
Happy New Year everybody! Courtesy of the gloriously lush Florida landscapes, a beautiful pink hibiscus. We left there right before the freeze and I took this picture when the temperature was a balmy 78 degrees. Read more…
A little bit of color right before the monochromatic winter garden. This year the ornamental grass is spoiling me with beautiful oranges and deep reds, in addition to the fluffy panaches that will last all winter. Read more…
I brought this little beauty indoors at the end of the season last year and it blooms gracefully, as you can see. Fuchsias are warm climate plants and will make very nice houseplants over the cold season.
Keep it in a hanging basket or a window sill in a well lit location, make sure the soil is moist at all times and feed an all purpose water soluble fertilizer every other week.
When designing a perennial garden, planning for winter color is essential. Fortunately there is a reasonably wide selection of plants to brighten up a snowy landscape. Most of those will also provide food for the birds.
Here are a few favorites:
“Autumn Joy” Sedum (shown in the picture) – a beautiful succulent with a rounded growth habit that starts early in spring, blooms at the end of summer and keeps its brown seed heads in great shape through the winter.
Japanese Barberry – a healthy thorny bush that keeps its leaves through the winter. I can’t call it evergreen because the leaves are greenish brown through spring and summer, they turn bright red in the fall and fade slowly to a deep purple through the winter. It makes berries, birds love them, deer do not.
Decorative grasses – anything with seeds and plumes, like fountain grass and maiden hair will keep beautifully through winter and provide interesting contrast against the snow. (see photo)
Holly – not only are they evergreen, but they produce an abundance of bright red berries that are beautiful to look at and great food for the birds.
Tea Crabapples – they grow low and wide like the plants in Japanese paintings, are covered with fragrant rose-white flowers in spring, have good foliage through summer and produce an abundance of red crab apples in the fall that keep well through the winter. The birds love them.
Rugosa Roses – bloom abundantly in the spring, with some repeat through the summer and produce bright red and orange hips that last through winter. In the fall the foliage of some of these roses turns vibrant orange-brown.
Evergreen trees and bushes – anything from pine to the gorgeous southern magnolia, which is evergreen (see picture below), to ground covers like ivy, candytuft and vinca.
Cranesbill – somewhat unassuming ground cover with pretty flowers, turns a kaleidoscope of reds, yellows, oranges and violets in the fall and keeps its foliage through part of winter
Dogwood and Keria Japonica – their barren stems turn vibrant red and chartreuse green respectively in winter, great contrast against the snow.
Paper Birch – the unmistakable peeling bark reveals a bright white tree trunk, they are tall and imposing, very striking in the landscape, especially in winter.
African violets are some of the few flowers that bloom constantly indoors, without direct sunlight. They are also very easy to propagate: any healthy firm leaf stuck in the dirt will turn into a new plant. One has to be vigilant with oneself, because it is so easy to turn one’s living room into an African violet habitat. I already have quite a few more than I started with and the window sill is full. The purple beauty in the picture is called “Mellow Magic” and has been blooming without stopping since I got it last spring.
African violets like the same environment we do: temperatures in the seventies, a little cooler at night, not too much humidity and bright light, but not direct sunlight. They can be easily drowned, so let the dirt dry between waterings and make sure it drains well. The typical African violet food will help them thrive and bloom constantly.
They come in any shape of pink, white and violet, and any combination thereof. The flowers may be single, double, fully double, ruffled, or cupped.
These little houseplants are so commonplace and modest that people tend to overlook how beautiful they really are, so I took this close-up picture as a reminder. For the chef of the household, they are the plants that will keep you great company (they seem to find their way into the kitchen, for some reason) and cheer you up while chopping, washing and stirring with sweet and abundant displays of rose and purple.