A March walk in the Garden
This time of year is one of the most dynamic in the Garden – late winter and early spring arrive with a wealth of rapidly changing colors and textures, with fleeting blooms that often last no longer than a week. A visit not only presents a chance to see these changes in action, but an opportunity to inspire home gardeners to create four seasons of interest in their own backyard.
Scotch heather, Calluna vulgaris, and winter heath, Erica carnea, light up the late winter landscape.
Heaths and heathers, pictured above, are a group of evergreen perennials that are great for adding all-year interest to any garden. Low-growing, low-maintenance and compact, heaths are covered in small, white to bright fuchsia blooms from January through March. Heather, which can bloom throughout the summer, adds something in the off-season with its neon-colored foliage in shades of orange, red and yellow.
These shrubs can be used together to make a showy display like the one near our Visitor Center, above, or in companion plantings in mixed beds. They play especially nice with conifers, in rock gardens or alpine-themed beds.
Contrast in the Conifer Garden, featuring the multicolored needles of Pinus densiflora.
Speaking of conifers, you will find few more useful plants in the year-round garden. An incredibly versatile group of plants, they come in all shapes and sizes, from short and squat to towering spires. They can have short, dense needles or long needles arranged in open sprays, and range in color from steel blue to yellow. From season to season they may sport differently colored foliage, bright new growth and interesting cones. For extra interest, pair with companion plants like the heaths and heathers mentioned above, ferns, Japanese maples and cyclamen.
Looking into the Garland Nursery Home Demonstration Garden.
The shot above is of a striking winter vignette captured in the Garland Nursery Home Demonstration Garden. Evergreens in various shades and textures, including English yew (Taxus baccata), Mahonia japonica and variegated false holly (Osmanthus heterophyllus ‘Variegata’), add depth and a sense of lushness to the space. Even the dried seedpods of long gone wisteria hanging from the pergola invite your attention – a topic mentioned in January’s blog post.
Various varieties of witchhazel, Hamamelis virginiana, provide both winter color and fragrance.
In addition to pleasing the eyes, the late winter garden can be a source of wonderfully fragrant flowers. Certain hybrids of the medicinal witchhazel, pictured above, are especially strong-smelling. The practically tropical-looking Viburnum tinus, delicate Lonicera fragrantissima and classic flowers of Japanese apricot, Prunus mume, all give off their own delightful scent. Other plants to consider are the aptly-named Daphne odora and Sarcococca ruscifolia, or ‘sweetbox’.
Abundant pink buds mature to fragrant white flowers on Viburnum tinus.
The appropriately titled Lonicera fragrantissima, or winter honeysuckle.
Prunus mume arrives in late winter with a profusion of cherry blossom-like flowers.
Planning for a four-season garden often requires thinking outside of the box. Instead of selecting varieties for their flowers, consider colorful cold-weather foliage. Mix shapes and textures. Look for plants with interesting seeds or structures, like the twisting branches of trifoliate orange and corkscrew hazel. And keep in mind that nothing is off limits. Even traditionally “warm weather” succulents have something to offer the winter garden, like the striking shape and striped leaves of Yucca ‘Color Guard’ pictured below.
Yucca ‘Color Guard’ is no native to Oregon, but makes itself right at home in the Garden nonetheless.
And of course, if you don’t have the space, time or resources for a garden of your own, or no more room for new plants, we remind you that The Oregon Garden is your garden! A place for new ideas, inspiration, reflection, hands-on experimentation and education. Our mission is to share the wonderful wealth of plant life that can be grown here in the Pacific Northwest with each and every one of our visitors. We hope to see you soon!