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".


A Christmas wish 

I have a handful of December images for you:

Cows in a pasture

This photo was taken at my friend Janis's home, near Etowah, Tennessee.Berries in the trees

All of the dogwood leaves are gone now, leaving branches laden with berries. 

The berries provide sustenance for today's birds, and offer promise for tomorrow's forests.

Fire in my fireplace

Today was rainy and cold. Lou got up early and built our first fire of the season in the living room fireplace.

Flowers to please

Raindrops rest on a rose, not yet bitten by winter frost.Today I bought poinsettias for Christmas.




My Christmas wish is this:

May your lives to be blessed with love and the fellowship of good friends, sustenance for today and hope for tomorrow, the warmth of a comfortable home, and the real riches of this special season.