Winter Interest

In a recent post, the venerable garden rant came out strongly against "winter interest". "My garden stops in winter, which is just fine with me. I’m pretty much ignoring whatever winter interest it may have." And so on.

This was a great way to get lots of comments - everyone in an area of mild winters had something to say about their winter garden. So, let me add to the flurry, but I'd rather includes some photos to show what's special about winter in my California garden.

First, this is the time where the bones of the garden really show. Yes, some of the trees and shrubs lose their leaves, but that makes everything stand out more. The hummingbird sage (Salvia spatacaea) is truly green this time of year, and other plants, freshly pruned, are more compact and stand out more. Grasses are green this time of year - a great opportunity to remove last year's dried of stems.

Second, the shoots of the bulbs and seedlings of California native annuals make the gardener feel uplifted and hopeful. Will all those tidy tip seedlings above make it? Even if I get 10% I'll be happy!

Moss on the fountain, the rocks in the shade, and even on the folded up umbrella says: Yes, we do have seasons! Our winter if mild - no snow in the valleys. But I go out and hack a hole in the ice on the birdbath not that infrequently, and we have the heat on in the house. Some tender plants don't survive in my garden, and I gave up on them not wanting to play the covering with bedsheets game.

This depends partly on the plant. Maurandia, a delicate Southern California vine, freezes badly some years but resprouts. This year, so far, it's hanging in there, to the delight of the hummers who need the extra food this time of year.

My jade plant (not a native) often has some frost damage but blooms happily this year.

My green wall succulents are in a protected spot and love the extra moisture - and I love looking at them from the kitchen window.

But the true delight in the California winter garden are the early bloomers. As early as December, we find manzanitas, some of the currents, and some non-natives such as Camelias starting to put out flowers.

I'm sure this Sentinel manzanita turns some heads as the neighbors walk by.

And I'm always enchanted by the fuchsia-flowered gooseberry. It goes almost completely dormant in summer, but it's worth waiting for the winter and the flowers (I'm sure the hummers agree).


Country Mouse said…
Winter gardens are wonderful in California! To me, sprouting bulbs and seedlings are the first signs of spring, my favorite season. Of course, some of the seedlings - too many - are weedlings, so it's also a busy time for me, but that gets me outdoors and close to the ground where I see so many wonderful things going on as life stirs and the sparrows forage.