Press-Republican

Columns

January 7, 2013

Gardens pretty with some snow

My perennial garden looks great right now. Yes, I do mean right now, the first week of January. 

It’s not as colorful as it is in mid-July when the plants are in flower, but it’s still pleasing to the eye. I can see this garden from the window over our kitchen sink, a place I seem to spend a lot of time, so I like to make sure I’ve got something interesting to look out at.

My garden’s good looks are thanks to that beautiful layer of snow that fell last week.

I leave many perennials standing through the winter, and I also have some shrubs and ornamental grasses in my garden. They look OK with no snow, but a several-inch layer of the white stuff really sets off the plants that stand above it. The snow is fresh and clean and seems to glow long after the sun has set, especially if the moon is out.

Regular readers have heard me extol the virtues of sedum “Autumn Joy” (every perennial garden should have a clump or two). This variety of sedum flowers late in the summer, and its tall, flat-topped flower heads persist throughout the winter. Because the heads are flat, they hold the fresh snow very nicely. The stems are quite stiff and can stay vertical through most, if not all, of the winter.

Sometimes a particularly heavy, wet snowstorm will topple their stems, but it’s amazing just how much they can take before that happens. I love seeing the snow pile up on those flower heads.

I have three different types of ornamental grasses in my garden, and they usually stand up beautifully all winter. The miscanthus, or fountain grass, is almost 5 feet tall with large, fluffy seed heads that are especially showy as the sun sets behind them. I also have a clump of  panicum switchgrass that stands about 4 feet tall and has a finer texture.

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