Tag Archives: winter garden

Six Years In A Blink And Waiting

Snowy View Of Meditation Circle

Snowy View Of Meditation Circle

Promising myself to work toward renovating the garden,  I launched pbmGarden with an initial post on January 7, 2011.

Undoubtedly, making a public commitment in an online journal helped me stick to a few of those early improvement goals.  The labyrinth and meditation circle is one achievement from that period.

Snowy View Of Meditation Circle

Snowy View Of Meditation Circle

In the intervening six years plants, plans and even enthusiasm for gardening have cycled through high points and low.

An unexpected benefit stemming from penning that first garden entry has been receiving the support of gardeners from many corners of the world. Entering the wonderful community of garden bloggers has been a joy. I thank you readers for your kind comments, helpful advice and generous spirit, all of which have led to genuine and cherished friendships.

Snowy View Of Meditation Circle

Snowy View Of Meditation Circle

Today the garden is decorated with a winter coat of white, just a couple of inches of fine powdery snow, though six to eight inches had been predicted. The smaller amount is cover for a treacherous icy layer beneath.

For those of us living in this area, temperatures are extreme, as this forecast illustrates:

SAT SNOW AND SLEET 27°F/ 8°F
SUN MOSTLY CLEAR 27°F/ 1°F
MON PARTLY CLOUDY 31°F/ 16°F

The exact numbers keep changing but frigid cold promises to make traveling the little winding curving roads leading out of my neighborhood dangerous to nearly impossible for the next few days. In the fifteen years of living here, snow plows have come through only once.

Normally I would not mind waiting it out but this has proved a particularly frustrating and disruptive weather event, affecting a planned all-weekend activity and threatening an important appointment for early Monday.  Deep sigh. Deep sigh. Deep sigh.

Lessons learned from walking this meditation path are more valuable than ever today.

Breathe in.  Breathe out.

Snowy Meditation Path

Snowy Meditation Path

A Hellebore Festival

Helleborus x hybridus (Lenten Rose)

Helleborus x hybridus (Lenten Rose)

A week ago my friend and I travelled 70 miles north into southern Virginia to attend a hellebore festival at Pine Knot Farms (PKF).

I learned of this event a few years ago when the hellebore nursery owners, Dick Tyler and Judith Knott Tyler, spoke at a local garden club meeting. The couple holds this open house annually for three weekends in late winter, obviously the time when hellebores are in season.

Two years ago I had attempted to visit Pine Knot Farms but my travel plans were thwarted by an ice storm. So when after a fundraiser event last spring my friend ended up with two gift certificates for PKF, I jumped at the chance to try again to visit this nursery.

Weather in February is particularly variable and unpredictable. This year our trip seemed threatened again.

A week before the festival started, another big snow and ice storm arrived.  Fortunately the ice cleared up quickly though and the day of our visit was picture-book lovely, deep blue sky, sunny and temperatures in mid-60s F. [Where I reside in piedmont North Carolina, people are used to this back and forth kind of weather, often remarking they like living in a place where they can experience four distinct seasons of the year, sometimes all in one day.]

We arrived at the hellebore festival in the late morning, about an hour after opening, surprised there were not larger crowds. We parked easily and were directed toward the greenhouses.

At the first greenhouse we were quickly ushered in and greeted by friendly smiles, shown coffee and cookies.

Hellebores-Pine Knot Farms

Hellebores-Pine Knot Farms

Next we were given guidelines about where to find each category of hellebore: seedlings on this table (some from their friends Ernie and Marietta O’Byrne at Northwest Garden Nursery), other vendors offering spring ephemerals here, all PKF singles in the back set of greenhouses on the left, PKF doubles in the greenhouse on the right (or vice-versa).

Already by this time, just hearing these directions, I was overwhelmed and I think my friend was as well.

In anticipation of this trip I had tried to prepare myself by looking on PKF’s website at the categories of hellebores they sell: Hellebores species, Interspecies Hybrids, Helleborus x hybrids, and Northwest Garden Nursery Hellebores. But despite this minor research and later during the trip, despite several engaging conversations with willing and knowledgeable staff, I was hesitant about how to sort out the differences among the hellebores being offered.

Many of the hellebores were not yet in bloom and later we wondered if our choices would have been made easier by visiting the third weekend of the festival rather than the first. Perhaps more flowers would have been open and that would have made it easier for an hellebore novices like us to decide.

Hellebores Near Entry Table at Pine Knot Farms

Hellebores Near Entry Table at Pine Knot Farms

I wish I had just pointed to some of the flowers floating in dishes and asked for them, but in the end it all went fine. Even though we never found hellebore enlightenment we had a good time exploring the offerings.

Before I could get started shopping for hellebores, I became distracted by other vendor tables, including one with a beautiful array of Cyclamen coum. There was also a nice display of primroses in bloom and affordably priced, but I decided to concentrate first on the hellebores. I do regret not picking up a few of these cyclamen.

Cyclamen coum

Cyclamen coum

We made our way into the back greenhouses. Along the route there were a few other temptations, in particular daphnes and a really nice edgeworthia.

Doubles - Helleborus x hybridus (Lenten Rose)

Helleborus x hybridus (Lenten Rose)

Soon we were carrying around pots of hellebores. A white double with greenish overtones was the first plant I chose. I also found a single with a greenish cast.

Helleborus x hybridus (Lenten Rose) -double

Helleborus x hybridus (Lenten Rose) -double

Helleborus x hybridus (Lenten Rose)

Helleborus x hybridus (Lenten Rose)

Below is another single that was especially charming. The green coloring with tinges of red/pink reminds me of apple.

Helleborus x hybridus (Lenten Rose)

Helleborus x hybridus (Lenten Rose)

I selected other hellebores in Golden Sunrise and Apricot Blush color ranges. The apricot blush is not yet blooming but the golden sunrise has two flowers.

Helleborus Winter Jewels 'Golden Sunrise' -Hellebore Orientalis

Helleborus Winter Jewels ‘Golden Sunrise’ -Hellebore Orientalis

One color I was especially interested in acquiring was dark purple. I had already picked up one of these Black Diamonds without a bloom. When I asked about finding others the man I spoke to said he and others had been commenting that this year the darks are scarce.  He accompanied me back to the seedlings table to help me search.

Helleborus Winter Jewels Black Diamond (Hellebore Orientalis)

Helleborus Winter Jewels Black Diamond (Hellebore Orientalis)

While we were talking he stopped suddenly having spotted this little plant, also a seedling. He suggested it was unusual and I might want to buy it because of it unusual marking. I did.

Helleborus x hybridus (Lenten Rose)

Helleborus x hybridus (Lenten Rose)

One useful tip he offered was that it can be more successful to gather ripened seeds and toss them where you want new plants, instead of transplanting the the little seedlings that spring up on their own.

Eventually my friend and I settled on our purchases.  She generously shared a gift certificate with me, making check-out time a lot less painful. Back in Chapel Hill we discussed hellebores over a late lunch.

Unfortunately I did not get a picture of her plants before we parted; however, within a few minutes after returning home I was photographing my new plants on the front porch.

Hellebore Purchases From Pine Knot Farms

Hellebore Purchases From Pine Knot Farms

Serendipitously, a neighbor stopped by my house, opened her car trunk and lifted out two Bearclaw hellebores she had dug from her yard that morning for me. A nice gesture.

Helleborus Foetidus (Bearclaw Hellebore) from my neighbor

Helleborus Foetidus (Bearclaw Hellebore) from my neighbor

Visiting the hellebore nursery made for a fun expedition and I was happy at the chance to expand my collection. Hellebores are winter-flowering wonders.

 

Early Sunday Morning

Sleet and frozen rain on Friday was followed by snow on Saturday and snow is an Event around these parts.

Now Sunday, the first rays of sun touched the meditation circle at 8:30 a.m. this morning. 28°F (-2°C).

Sun Returning To Garden

Sun Returning To Garden

A half-hour later sunlight found the garden’s back corner and began waking up the landscape.

Early Sun On Icy Garden

Early Sun On Icy Garden

Though it looks deserted it actually is filled with avian friends just waiting for me to close the upstairs window and let them get on with eating.

Morning Garden

Morning Garden

Morning Garden

Morning Garden

Morning Garden

Morning Garden

Eastern Bluebird, Dark-eyed Junco, Northern Cardinal and many other species are visiting the feeders this winter.

Yesterday they were desperately focused on food and were less worried about me taking their picture.

Winter Birds

Winter Birds

Notice the Eastern towhee under the left edge of the feeder with its black head and back, rufous sides and white breast. It is normal to have one or two Eastern towhee in the garden, scratching and foraging along the ground, and occasionally checking out the feeder.

This weekend I was surprised to see a much larger group of them, maybe 8-10. At every chance they abandoned their traditional rummaging and went for the easy food.

And what is a collection of towhee called, I wondered? A “tangle” or a “teapot.”

Garden Bloggers Foliage Day – January 2016

Daphne odora (Winter daphne)

Daphne odora (Winter daphne)

It is time again for Garden Bloggers Foliage Day (GBFD), but everything along the East Coast except for bird feeders is shut down for the weekend, courtesy of Winter Storm Jonas.

Predictions for here in Chapel Hill were for 4-6 inches of snow, but in early afternoon we are getting freezing rain and sleet, 29°F (-1.6°C). Conditions were not bad when I went out to get the newspaper this morning and snapped several photos, but now most of the grass is white and roads are icy and dangerous.

Foliage Day Panorama 2016-01-22

Foliage Day Panorama 2016-01-22

I am using panoramas to help me study and evaluate the structural elements in the garden. So many trees and shrubs have died and I am making plans to tackle a plan for improvements. Thanks to Christina at Garden of the Hesperides for hosting. Read her foliage update and see more links to foliage perspectives from many parts of the world.

Mid-January Garden

Today, Saturday, was a beauty of a day here in Chapel Hill with sunny skies and pleasant temperature of 61°F (16°C). In contrast, forecasts call for rain and maybe even a snow flurry Sunday morning and unseasonably cold on Monday with highs only in mid 30s and low 18°F.

Just after the grass was cut yesterday another heavy rain started falling. The ground was completely saturated again this morning.

Freshly Mown Grass Beside Meditation CIrcle

Freshly Mown Grass Beside Meditation CIrcle

I stitched together a panorama capturing most of the garden as it appeared around 8:45 a.m. looking westward from the top of the screen porch stairs. Sunlight was just reaching into the tops of the trees; the garden was still shaded.

Garden Panorama 2016-01-16

Garden Panorama 2016-01-16

About an hour later I had a chance to inspect the borders more closely. With leaves caked in mud this poor hyacinth, alternately enticed by days of warm sunlight and bashed by rain and cold, is the only one of its group to open. Others are up, but remain in tight bud.

Hyacinth orientalis ‘Woodstock’

Hyacinth orientalis ‘Woodstock’

By this time of year it is not unusual to have Hellebores in bloom; however, despite the many warm days this winter they do not seem to be opening very quickly. There are lots of buds.

Helleborus x hybridus (Lenten rose)

Helleborus x hybridus (Lenten rose)

Stachys byzantina (Lamb’s Ear) is spreading far and wide. Fortunately it is easy to pull out when it oversteps its welcome.

Stachys byzantina (Lamb's Ear)

Stachys byzantina (Lamb’s Ear)

I planted Euphorbia ‘Shorty’ (Shorty Spurge) last spring and am happy with its color and form. Still covered in raindrops it seemed to be dancing in the morning light.

Euphorbia 'Shorty' (Shorty Spurge)

Euphorbia ‘Shorty’ (Shorty Spurge)

Last winter was unusually cold and long and a late February 2°F cold snap ruined the leaves and buds of Daphne odora (Winter daphne) before it could flower. It eventually recovered its foliage. This winter it has already been blooming for several weeks. There are 3 bushes clustered together. This one in front is Daphne odora ‘Aureomarginata.’

Daphne odora ‘Aureomarginata’ (Winter daphne)

Daphne odora (Winter daphne)

Daphne odora (Winter daphne)

Pansies are blooming throughout the meditation circle, but the plants themselves have not grown much. In spring they should fill out more.

A female Northern Cardinal was one of many birds happy to find the feeder has been restocked.

Female Northern Cardinal

Female Northern Cardinal

Late February Garden Report

This Eastern Bluebird is perched on the folded tip of the juniper next door.

Eastern Bluebird Atop Juniper

Eastern Bluebird Atop Juniper

A heavy wet snow overnight transformed the winter garden.

Snow Dressed Garden

Snow Dressed Garden

Once again the birds are scurrying back and forth between feeders and favorite perches.

Female Cardinal Perched Above Feeder

Female Cardinal Perched Above Feeder

Surrounded by draping branches of ‘Carolina Sapphire’ Arizona Cypress, a Northern Cardinal waits patiently on a redbud branch while the Eastern Bluebirds take a turn at the feeder.

Northern Cardinal and Eastern Bluebirds

Northern Cardinal and Eastern Bluebirds

Looking below and to the right of the cardinal, the green clumps on the ground are Hellebores. Here are the same ones seen looking more colorful yesterday. This collection of Hellebores in the garden’s southwest corner were among the last to bloom.

Helleborus x hybridus (Lenten rose)

Helleborus x hybridus (Lenten rose)

Speaking of hellebores, I highly recommend this new video from a well-known, North Carolina-based nursery: Hellebore (Lenten Rose) Production at Plant Delights Nursery. Owner Tony Avent explains how he grows and selects Hellebores to sell at his nursery.

Fortunately with a high forecast of 37 °F today the snow is already beginning to melt, but winter refuses to leave. Low temperatures for the next 3 nights: 26 °F; 18 °F; and 12 °F.  There are broken branches in the neighbors’ yards and lots of bent branches and shrubs in the back garden. Out front the Crape Myrtle pair have once again been damaged. The crushed one on the left had make such a nice recovery too, after having been flattened by a freakish summer wind shear several years ago. The tree on the right lost a lower branch this time.

Crape Myrtles At Front Walkway

Crape Myrtles At Front Walkway

This bird flew up into the bottom of the feeder two or three times before finally landing on the feeding perch. I wonder if it was trying to shake down the seeds toward the front or was just beating itself up over this weather. Spring is coming, spring is coming, spring is coming…

Avian Antics

Avian Antics

February Snow and Birds

Northern Cardinal (Male), maybe Dark-eyed Junco (Slate-colored)

Northern Cardinal (Male), maybe Dark-eyed Junco (Slate-colored)

This is my 500th post!

Snow today was a big surprise this morning when my husband brought me a cup of coffee and opened the window blind. Some parts of the US are measuring snow in feet this year, but we had about 3 inches—maybe 3-5 inches more tomorrow night.

Most schools in the area cancelled classes due to unsafe road conditions. The local garden club follows the school schedule for inclement weather, so our monthly meeting was also cancelled today. That left my morning free to enjoy the snow falling and watching the birds vying for position at and around the feeders.

Brown Thrasher

Brown Thrasher

I had to run out first thing to fill both feeders, which have been quite the popular hangouts lately.

Eastern Towhee

Eastern Towhee

It is frustrating to try to get good images of the birds with my camera but there was such a gathering of species I could not resist trying. This video gets off to a slow start, but eventually shows a few of today’s visitors, starting with an Eastern Bluebird.