Monday, December 7, 2015

Winter Gardens

Gardens in winter - conjures up all sorts of images, generally of a rather sad, brown, dripping landscape. Originally the term winter garden was used for large glass conservatories, which were heated to create a garden-like atmosphere in winter. Many were of course attached to big private residences. The first public one was built in Regents Park, London in 1842 and probably one of the most famous was Paxton's Crystal Palace, built in 1851.

More recently the term winter garden refers to a carefully chosen blend of very tough evergreen shrubs, winter flowering plants and colored stems such as the winter garden at Cambridge Botanics in the UK. However today I am going to chat about my own little winter garden here in drought-ridden California.

It's looking a little windswept and not as colorful as in summer but it's still a great outdoor space with lots of interest even in December. Just today I have replanted a low bowl with all my small special cacti, moved an agave into a pot on its own and planted a Euphorbia millii. Euphorbias are a wonderful group of plants and I'm amazed how many of them manage to produce red colorings  like this Euphorbia trigona 'Royal Red'. 

I usually plant a few new annuals in pots for a bit of winter color but to my astonishment both the celosia and zinnia I planted earlier in the summer self-seeded before they shriveled up in the August heat and I now have a new crop.

The Canna 'Durban', which I was thrilled to find earlier in the year has continued to provide us with lush foliage. I think we are now on the third flush of growth and having cut out some dull tatty leaves and a couple of old stems this morning, it still looks quite presentable.

I love the tropical looking Hibiscus and whilst they are usually great the first year after purchase, they seem to struggle once planted  and are sparse in flowering. Mine have currently got an attack of a rather obnoxious mealy grey aphid which seems resistant to the common pesticides. The local ants seem to like them though and are busy - maybe it's the honeydew the aphis secrete.

Finally I thought I'd show you my nursery corner where I cosset any new or young plants. Agaves are very generous providing 'pups' which I grow on and there's also a few new plants and my plumerias, sheltering for the winter. All told a very small and simple garden, but one that gives us much pleasure.

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