Thursday, February 2, 2012

Of January Delights and Disappointments

January can be a very grey, dismal month.  
The best things in the garden during wintertime bring color..

The house came with these Nandina domestica 'Gulf Stream' bushes, and I must say I love them. 

Some nandinas can be invasive, but the 'Gulf Stream' cultivar does not set fruit.  It is supposed to grow about three feet high and two feet wide.  So far mine have stayed pretty little between the deer and the heavy clay. 

Another delightful winter plant is the Coral Bark Japanese Maple.

When the sun comes up over the horizon in the morning, the fiery red bark almost glows.

And let's not forget the delightful flowers that came up this oddly warm January!

Between the Nandinas and the early blooming Crocus 'Ard Schenk', my front yard is looking pretty good..

Now on to the other side of the house and one of the most disappointing parts of the garden in January:

The big long perennial border in the back is so blah, that this is the only January photo I could find of it.  I obviously didn't want to look at it long enough to take a picture, even though I'm usually in garden paparazzi mode.  

It is surprisingly partially green thanks to the mild winter, however it desperately needs some structure. Several birches are located to the left of the picture, however I feel that there needs to be a small tree or giant installation art or tacky pink flamingo or something to break it up.  It's such an odd site that it's always been a problem child for me (long and narrow, sloping both ways, on a thick vein of clay, grumble, grumble).  Any suggestions are appreciated and welcome!

Let's go back to the front yard!

Say cheese!

For other gardeners' January highs and lows, you can visit the Bumble Lush Kitchen Garden.


  1. Oh I'm def' with you with the Pink Flamingo. Or what about a proper Squirrel assualt course?
    No...Flamingos...a flock of them!!! Go for it x

  2. I love Nandinas, and your coral bark Maple is beautiful. Plant one of them in your long sloping bed ;) but what ever you will do with it, I am sure it will end up being stunning :)

  3. To get more color in your yard this time of year I'd plant some camellia japonicas, the flowers can be delightful. I did like the coral bark maple it adds interest for sure. Not a fan of nandinas at all.

  4. Jane - A FLOCK of pink flamingos! That's what it needs! Thank you Jane for solving my garden problem! ;)

    Gone Tropical - I actually used to have that maple over sort of near that area! Sadly, the sun was way to strong for it in that location and burnt all the leaves..

    Randy - I'm thinking of planting some camellias along another partially shady section of my fence. I've been weighing my options. Camellias sure are pretty! I know a lot of people aren't fans of nandinas (and with good reason with overuse, invasiveness, suckering and whatnot) but I do think they're pretty, and this cultivar is thankfully a well behaved one!

  5. What wonderful red foliage's to liven up January. Makes me wish I had more textures in my own garden for winter interest. And crocuses already. Just wonderful!

  6. I just purchased some nandinas yesterday. Those red leaves were irresistible. Your coral bark Maple just glows! Beautiful. Love your crocuses - I am waiting patiently (well, maybe not so patiently) for mine to emerge.

  7. I know how you feel about trouble spots. I have several corners at the bottom of our slope that need some attention. I think some shrubs in your corner that are suitable for whatever light you have would work nicely. I love nandinas and yours look so nice...

  8. aloha,

    i do love nandina for winter color and the one you have chosen is so well behaved, although a nice grouping on that slope would probably bring some color and texture to the area as a background plant....sounds like we both have some big projects to work on in the near future....good luck!

  9. I like your garden trellis on the slope. I love maples. The red bark really stands out.

  10. That looks like a pretty good slope in your backyard. Is there any chance you could do some sort of retaining wall to form a more level bed? Even if you have access to some large boulders to hold some soil. Just a thought; I know sometimes it's just not in the budget. If you go to East Side Patch's blog, he recently did a design for a sloping backyard. Granted it was an Austin, TX, garden and he used mostly xeriscape plants, but you could use the design and adapt the plants. It wasn't his most recent post, but it was just a few posts back. You might could email him and ask him about it. I read this somewhere recently...if you design your garden for the winter, it will look good all year. If you design your garden for the summer, it will only look good in the summer. So make it look good now by adding some evergreen shrubs to the background, and then move your perennials to the forefront and stairstep everything. Nandinas are some of my favorites, too. Just remember to prune at the bottom to keep them full and compact so they don't get leggy. And love the Coral Bark maple, as well. Lovely winter interest :-)

  11. I just finished reading a book called "Wicked Plants" by Amy Stewart, a fun as well as instructive reading all in all. As for Nandina, which I also have in my garden, the article in the book reads : "this ornamental shrub produces cyanide, causing seizure, coma, respiratory failure..."
    Interesting, isn't it ?

  12. Lona - Thank you! I love the red foliage. The white crocuses are a very early blooming variety. I would really like to get some early blooming crocuses in purple or yellow next year - after the winter blahs we need some COLOR!

    Holley - Enjoy your new nandinas! They are so beautiful!

    Sage - I'm going to see what comes up this summer and where I have room to plant things. I actually have several butterfly bushes along that border, but they just don't cut it in the winter..

    Noel - Aloha! Thanks for the good luck wishes - I'm going to need them, as this is only one of the many projects I have going on :) Too much that I want to do around the garden!

  13. GirlSprout - Thank you! My husband makes fun of me for painting all my trellises purple, but at least it adds some color!

    Toni - Thanks for the idea! I would love some boulders in my yard. Sadly, they are ridiculously expensive here. We've thought about a retaining wall before, but I actually like the hill somewhat, and I think the kids would have a harder time playing on it if we did a wall. I definitely need some evergreen shrubs or something though!

    Celine - That is interesting! When I was first designing my garden here I would look up to see if the plant was poisonous first because our kids were so little. Sadly, just about everything was poisonous! Thankfully my kids never chewed on plants. Dirt, on the other hand...

  14. Thanks so much for linking with my meme and for sharing these beautiful pictures! I love the red color in your January garden, especially the Japanese maple. Hmmm...maybe you could find some interesting shrubs for the perennial border in the back? Is it fairly shady or does it get decent sun?I'd love to see what you decide to do back there!

  15. Gorgeous shrubs! Great burst of colors. I love the camellia suggestion for that backyard bed (or elsewhere.) I recently ran across a really lovely shrub called Heavenly Bamboo - gorgeous deep purple/maroon foliage AND beautiful red berries - both in winter! Check it out. Could be a really nice contrast with that fence, interplanted with some perennials that have some winter interest seed-pods, perhaps?

  16. Bumble Lush - It gets full, hot sun. We'll see what I come up with!

    Aimee - Ha, guess what - Nandina is the same as Heavenly Bamboo! The cultivar I have doesn't get the berries. The ones that have the berries are beautiful, but can be invasive here in North Carolina, sadly. They would look awesome there, though!


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