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Choosing Plants for Year Round Appeal

"Another dreary day. And I have got to drive in this."

I was about to leave for Atlanta to visit my son Mark when I poked my head out the door yesterday morning and sighed. Predictions were for fog and rain all day. Then a yellow color against the gray mist caught my eye.

The yellowing foliage belongs to a sweet bay magnolia in the front garden.I blinked, the world shifted, and in that moment I was transported to a dreamland. I stepped outside with my camera, and for the next thirty minutes I wandered around in the drizzle. They say mist is good for a lady's complexion. I'm sure I was absolutely dewy when I came inside.An overview of the front garden. Our zoysia grass is still green! Not sure why - my neighbors' lawns are brown.Everything here will lose its leaves, except for the evergreen white pine.

I thought about why my garden looks like this, in the middle of December. I choose plants for several reasons:

1. The plant will grow well in my yard. Native plants, such as yaupon holly, are great because I know they are adapted to my climate. While I also choose many plants that aren't natives, all permanent plantings must survive our sweltering summers, as well as occasional hard frost. They have to be able to endure torrential rain, as well as draught. They have to be tough. 

Nandina domestic 'Fire Power' grows in front of dwarf yaupon hollies.

2. The plant will provide interest through more than one season. I always consider the plant's form and color.  The plant should complement what is already there. I repeat groupings of plants throughout the garden to provide cohesion, but I'm likely to throw something different in to add punch. I like quirky, odd plants. As for color, I look at foliage. There are many shades of green, there are yellow leaves, purple leaves, variegated leaves, gray and blue leaves. If a shrub or tree has flowers, that's a great bonus. As for flowers, these are my garden's accessories to the trees and shrubs, which provide the main interest throughout the year. And smell. Viburnum, roses, gardenia -and so many more. Fragrance makes me pause and inhale the beauty of it all.

Azalea, rosemary, and blue juniper (front row) are colorful year round. Behind is Spirea 'Anthony Waterer.' Its deciduous leaves have beautiful fall color.

Spreading cotoneaster grows below a weeping blue cedar.

The beautiful branch structure of japanese maple and other trees are highlighted during the winter.

Camellia japonica will soon be blooming. Hydrangea 'limelight' seed heads provide interest.
Raindrops on a branch shine against the gray sky.Seed heads of a crepe myrtle treeA few leaves still cling to this japanese maple.3. I also consider what the plant offers to wildlife. I get great joy watching the many different birds, the squirrels, the rabbits, and even the occasional fox who visit my garden. I love lizards, butterflies, dragonflies, ladybugs, and bees. I feel good that so many creatures choose to live in my garden.Dwarf burford holly provides shelter and food for wildlife. Camellia japonica is behind, on the other side of a path.

4. I plant some things because of emotional reasons. 'Annabelle' hydrangeas are planted in honor of my mother, whose name was that. A weeping Japanese maple is planted over the grave of my beloved black lab, Jasmine. Some plants were given to me by dear friends. I have a ginger lily passed through the generations from my great grandmother. I love my garden because it is full of memories.

The yellow foliage belongs to a mock orange, given to me long ago by my friend Nancy.

5. Sometimes I choose a plant just because I love it. It may not meet some other criteria, but I just gotta have it. I love lavender. It never lives long, but I keep hoping. I have one, lavendula 'provence', in a small southeast facing raised bed. It is one year old and still living. I am optimistic. If it makes it through the winter, I will plant more in that area.

After I put away my camera yesterday, I drove to Atlanta, and the dreamy atmosphere of my garden stayed with me. The fog continued all the way. I listened to Christmas music on the stereo. It was beautiful, and I was content.

Peace - Deborah

You might also like "With the voice of Thanksgiving" or "A magic morning in Helena".

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Reader Comments (14)

There is a lot of color in your gardens for December. Your photos look lovely. Lavender 'Provence' is doing well here - we amended the soil with sand and gravel to keep its feet drained.

December 15, 2009 | Unregistered Commentervillager

Hi there, debsgarden,

Oakleaf hydrangea, hollies, and japanese maples...you're killin' me, lady! I can't grow any of those beauties: each and every one croaked over the winter for me in years past. Thanks for the photo tour and enjoy Atlanta.

Green with envy in Alaska,


December 15, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterChristine B.

Your garden is still looking lovely. I am looking forward to seeing your camellias flower.

December 15, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterDeborah at Kilbourne Grove

Hi Villager, thanks for your comment, especially the tip on the lavender.

Christine, if only you knew how I love northern trees and flowers. Somehow I am drawn to plants with names beginning with "Icelandic", " "Colorado", and "Himalayan". Sigh - do we always wish for what we can't have?

Deborah, thanks for stopping by - those camellias should be amazing, if all the buds do well.

December 15, 2009 | Registered CommenterDeborah Elliott

The Blue Cedar is neat. I find it quite appealing.

December 15, 2009 | Unregistered Commentersanddune

Thanks, Sanddune. That blue cedar was a tiny thing when I planted it. Now it has grown into one of my favorites. I love its color and the way it complements other plants in its area.

December 16, 2009 | Registered CommenterDeborah Elliott

Hi Deborah, thanks so much for letting us share in what lifted your mood. It was magical and the mist provided even more atmosphere for your beautiful garden. I loved the tour. You have a well balanced planting there. Nicely done. :-)

December 16, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterFrances

Loved the trees in your garden - the myrtle is huge! I have a small one in my garden. The photos of trees in the mist are great! I like the holly too - I'll be growing one soon. You'll soon have a lot of camelias -- they are in full bloom at my house too, and have turned the ground around them pink! If you do have time, see the photos in my previous post: http://japanesegarden.wordpress.com/2009/11/28/my-winter-garden/ . I'm glad I visited your blog too.

December 16, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterGururaj

Deborah, what a wonderful pictorial! And great text - pulling the weather, the landscape and the mood together. Like Christine from AK, I'm green with envy. A great post, thanks for sharing your misty garden. Hank

December 16, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterHank Moorlag

Thanks for visiting my blog. It is nice to find yours. I'm adding you to my blogroll.

December 16, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterPhillip

What a wonderful garden and such a positive attitude your patients must be lucky to me looked after by someone so uplifting.

December 18, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterJoanne

Gorgeous & colorful mist photos. Made me want a cup of cocoa and a warm snuggly sofa!

December 18, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterLinda

Hello Deb,

I love misty weather. Probably because we do not get it too often and it makes the garden look magical. Your photos are proof of that....your garden looks so beautiful.

December 18, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterNoelle (azplantlady)

Oh Deb I fail to see the "yuk" ... only beauty in your textures, forms and colors... the mist adds a touch of mystery to your beautiful garden! Such variety. Lovely! Carol

December 19, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterCarol

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