Northwest Native Plant Spotlight – Indian Plum

Indian Plum, or Oso Berry (Oemleria cerasiformis, aka Osmaronia cerasiformis), is a northwest harbinger of spring, being one of our first native plants to bloom, and fully leaf out, starting late in winter.  This plant is currently in bloom now, along with our native willow trees.  This wonderful woodland inhabitant provides an early nectar source for mason bees and hummingbirds, and also later provides fruit which a number of bird species will dine on (but which are questionably palatable to humans).  Its growth habit and size makes it more along the lines of a large shrub than a small tree, since its tendency is to sucker at the base growing multiple stems, though it can be pruned into a single stem tree with work each year.  I prefer its shrubby habit (and less pruning) and it complements our natural areas well.

Oso Berry in Spring - Oemleria cerasiformis

I must say that this plant is not always extremely photogenic.  It’s hard to capture the full appeal of Indian Plum this time of year, when its white, dangling blooms hang and sway below the bright green foliage which both work to light up the bare forest floors in which they are often located.  Though their preference is for part shade, they are quite adaptable, growing well in full shade to full sun.  With at least a little shade they can handle dry soil conditions so they are a good choice for those areas beneath mature conifers where not much will grow.  These vigorous growers can also handle somewhat wet conditions in the winter and will easily tolerate clay, though they love a good woodsy, organic soil.

Being dioecious, there are male and female plants, and as such the males have better flower power and only the females will fruit.  Because of their flowery show the male plants are more commonly sold.  Disappointing if you’re wanting some fruit, as that can really draw in a lot of birds in the summer time.  I plan on finding a female this year and taking a cutting so I can start a new plant right next to the male in my yard.  Poor guy’s lonely…

Oso Berry flowers

Osmaronia cerasiformis

Unripened fruit of the Indian Plum, or Oso Berry. These will develop into a dark plum color, with a similar look to commercially-sold plums, though much smaller in size.

I only wish this plant had some noteworthy fall color.  The leaves usually do yellow a little before they drop (which happens earlier in the year than a lot of plants, since it’s one of the first to leaf out) but it’s not spectacular.  But that aside, Indian Plum is a very garden-worthy plant and a great choice for wildlife.

The Moore Residence

I think the number of posts on my blog over the last year gives a good indication of how things have been for me lately.  Busy.  And that hasn’t changed much now so this one’s just going to be short and sweet.  Below is a landscape plan for a backyard I finished earlier this year for the Moore family.  This plan reflects their needs and desires (including relatively low maintenance and year-round appeal) and offers solutions for some of the existing site problems.  This landscape had to exude peace, grace and serenity, so summer foliage colors include dark greens, blues, and the occasional gold tones, with flower colors providing appropriate contrast and color boosts throughout the year.  Elegant specimens were chosen, such as the Weeping Cedar of Lebanon, the tiered June Snow Giant Dogwood, and a prostrate, trailing cultivar of Canadian Hemlock, sited on a gentle slope to help showcase this habit.  If you’re planning on doing landscaping this spring or summer and need design services now is the perfect time to get that ball rolling.  Time that is invested up front in a quality design plan can save a lot of sweat, heartache and money in the long run.

Moore Residence Final Plan

Rain Garden Interpretation

A stunning garden is much more than the sum of its parts.  What often separates an average garden from an awe-inspiring one is synergy; where one plant or feature is more beautifully contrasted or complemented by another increasing each other’s effect, and where there is cohesiveness and yet also enough distinction from one corner of the garden to another to entice you through it.  The fun and challenging part about attempting to create synergy is that there is no one equation to use that will deliver the same results with every garden.  Each landscape is unique and comes with its own character.

One way you can make any garden more dynamic and increase a plant’s effect though is to take into account how it will interact with nature.  Even a slight breeze will make the leaves of the Quaking Aspen perform their frantic dance, or sway the bottlebrush flowers of Fountain Grass.  A snow-laden landscape will draw out the bright red stems of the Red Osier Dogwood and accentuate the tiered branching of the Deodar Cedar.  A setting sun can bring many plants into splendor, even fading perennials such as Globe Thistle or Maiden Grass are revived when back-lit.   Rain drops can be caught in plants and hardscapes to add a shimmering quality through the garden even after the clouds have left.  Since rain is so abundant here in the Northwest I thought it would be great to have some plants in my yard that have the added quality of placing water on display.

For the most part I’ve wanted to stay away from planting anything shorter-lived than a perennial (3 years) in my garden but I couldn’t pass up planting a few Candy Mountain Foxglove (Digitalis ‘Candy Mountain’).  This is the first Foxglove to have flowers that point skyward.  I’ve been amazed at the huge amount of flowers I have on one this year and the strength of the stem; even when the flowers are full of water the plant shows no sign of flopping.

Candy Mountain Foxglove in rain

Foxglove Candy Mountain

Hostas can also be great plants for holding water.  Below is Hosta ‘Deep Blue Sea’ which is a slow-growing, but rewarding, selection.  The large, cupped leaves of ‘Abiqua Drinking Gourd’ make it another great Hosta variety for holding water, as you might infer from its name.

Deep Blue Sea Hosta and rain

And then there’s the dependable upright Sedums.  They are adaptable, easy-growing plants and their season of interest lasts almost all year.  I especially enjoy the look of ‘Autumn Joy’ and ‘Autumn Fire’ right before they bloom, when their flower buds are most prominent.  They too have some foliage that will hold the rain.

Autumn Fire Sedum and rain

The emerging foliage of Fern-Leaf Bleeding Heart (Dicentra ‘King of Hearts’) will often wear the rain in perfectly rounded beads, though a little harder to see from a distance.

Fern-leaf bleeding heart foliage

Another plant that displays water in a similar fashion is Columbine (Aquilegia sp.).  Water will often bead up right where the leaf meets the petiole or get caught in the emerging foliage.  Variegated Solomon’s Seal (Polygonatum falcatum ‘Variegatum’) is another undeniably likeable plant that keeps the rain around for show.

Polygonatum odoratum 'Variegatum' and rain

The Lenten Roses (Helleborus hybrids shown here) are also more beautiful and jewel-like after a rain.

Peppermint Ice Hellebore flower in rain

Golden Lotus Hellebore flower in rain

Peppermint Ice Hellebore flower

Lady’s Mantle (Alchemilla mollis) is an obvious choice for showcasing rain.

Alchemilla with rain

Water will also pool up in the throats of our native Monkey Flower (Mimulus guttatas).

Monkey flower

Here’s a wider shot of my front yard’s “rain garden” where a few of these above-mentioned plants reside.

Front shade border

My front border in spring, on the north side of our house. From here you can see Helleborus ‘Golden Lotus’, Dicentra ‘King of Hearts’, Brunnera ‘Jack Frost’, Hosta ‘Abiqua Drinking Gourd’, Hosta ‘June’, Polygonatum falcatum ‘Variegatum’, Hakonechloa ‘All Gold’, Tsuga heterophylla ‘Thorsen’s Weeping’, and more.

What are some of your favorite plant-nature interactions?

Mulch Matters

Brunnera 'Jack Frost'

The organic mulch around this moisture-loving Jack Frost Brunnera will keep me from having to water it as often in the summer time and will cut down on my weed pulling duties.

First, the basics: a mulch is anything that is placed over soil generally for the purposes of inhibiting weed growth, insulating the soil, conserving moisture, and contributing to the aesthetic value of a garden.  The most common mulches are organic ones, that come from dead, or dying, plant materials, but there are also inorganic mulches, such as rock and plastic, that also can be useful in certain situations.  A mulch can also provide the added benefits of reducing the spread of pathogens, preventing erosion, and reducing heaving – when freezing and thawing of the soil pushes up unestablished plants.

With that said, there’s a whole lot more to mulching than meets the eye.  There’s much to mulch, if you will.  Different gardening conditions may call for different types of mulches, or possibly no mulch at all, and deciding how to mulch will also depend on your gardening goals and possibly the availability of the mulch, budget and more.  Don’t worry, this is not meant to be an exhaustive writing on mulch, but I thought I would share some things that I think are the most important and relevant rules of (green) thumb for mulching.

Anytime is an acceptable time to apply mulch, but it may make most sense to do so in the spring or fall when most weeds are sprouting.  You may also want to bear in mind the effect the addition of mulch will have on the soil temperature as well.  When added in spring, the soil will take longer to warm up.  When added in the fall, the soil will remain warm for longer.  When applying mulch, generally a thickness of 2 to 3 inches of the mulch is desirable.  The needed thickness can vary depending on the density and weight of the particular mulch used, but generally this is thick enough to keep weeds down, insulate the soil, and conserve moisture, but not so thick that it will stress plant roots, or prevent the lighter rain showers from reaching the soil below.  You should only need to reapply mulch when the mulch has decomposed a bit into the soil and is no longer fulfilling its mulch duties.  Depending on what material is used, people that add mulch every year may end up adding too much mulch and stress surrounding plants.  Another benefit of mulching around trees or woody plants is that it will keep grass and weeds away from the trunk, keeping you and your mower/weed wacker also away, which are common causes of injury to trees.  However, it’s very important that you keep the mulch about 6 inches or so away from the trunk.  You do not want to pile any organic mulch right up around a plant’s trunk, as it is an invitation to disease and rodents, among other potential problems.

One of the most common organic mulches available is shredded bark or the larger bark chips.  WSU has a great article on wood chip mulch here.  Avoid using mulches with dyed bark or that are exclusively the large bark chips (chunky style).  The large chips will take a very long time to decompose and also don’t suppress weeds as well as a finer-textured mulch would.  The best mulch is one that is able to improve your soil over time.  A fine-textured organic mulch will help improve your soil texture as earthworms and helpful microorganisms and fungi break it down and incorporate it into your soil.  This protective layer of mulch will also help prevent the pounding rains from compacting the soil, and keep the soil from developing a hard, outer “crust”, which can lessen water absorption and create more runoff.  Bear in mind though that as an organic mulch breaks down it will deplete some of the nitrogen from the top part of the soil, so this could have an effect on shallow-rooted plants, such as groundcovers, annuals or vegetables.  Amending or fertilizing your soil properly beforehand will help, or simply keep the mulch further away from plants that are shallow-rooted or not yet established. Grass clippings can also be used as a mulch, although many people may not like the look of grass clippings as such, and it would require continual replenishment.  You would not want to use this as a mulch if there are grass or weed seeds in the clippings.  I’ve heard from some gardeners that grass clippings are great for their vegetable gardens.  A leafy vegetable, such as lettuce or kale, would benefit the most from a nitrogen-rich topdressing in which your main goal is to get the plants to produce lots of foliage and quickly.  However, when the weather is dry and you’re not cutting off more than a third of the grass blades at a time, I’d recommend just leaving the clippings on the lawn to keep that fed organically.

One of the best mulches you can use is compost.  A good compost will add macro and micro nutrients to your soil, as well as beneficial organisms, and will incorporate rather quickly into the soil.  Regular topdressings of compost is one of the best things you could do for your soil.  A happy soil makes for happy plants.  And, as Bob Ross has attested, our landscapes will all benefit from having happy trees.  The downside to using compost, however, is that it is not the best mulch option for preventing weed growth for a long period of time, so it may need to be applied somewhat regularly to keep them down.

Groundcovers can also be used as a mulch and may be one of the better options at improving the aesthetic value of a garden.  The ones referred to as cover crops or green manures can do wonders to help improve soil quality.  Legume cover crops, such as vetch or crimson clover, have the ability to fix nitrogen into the soil, feeding nearby plants.  Cover crops are usually tilled into the soil to create a fertile tilth, which should be done a couple weeks prior to planting your vegetable or fruit garden, wildflower meadow, laying of sod, etc.  Cover crops can work great as a temporary mulch.

Hosta 'June'

This beautiful Hosta was completely eaten this last winter from the bottom up.

One of the only downsides to using an organic mulch is that it can attract slugs, snails, rodents and other pests, depending on the material used.  Since we’ve moved into our home in 2009, I’ve been busy adding beds/borders to our yard and amending them with organic matter.  Of course the moles love to dig in this earthworm-rich, friable soil, as opposed to the hard clay we have elsewhere, and we now have a pretty large network of mole tunnels throughout our yard.  In hindsight, I really should have been much more diligent about chasing them off the property.  At the time they were starting to become more noticeable, I had just read an article on moles from a local gardening source about how they often got a bad rap.  Yes, they loved to eat worms, but for the most part they would leave your plants alone and help with soil aeration, so it said.  Well, apparently I also needed a lesson from the school of life, as I later discovered that voles and mice will take advantage of a mole’s hard work and travel through these underground “highways,” and they may not be as kind to your plants, as they stop for nearby snacks along their route.  Unfortunately, an organic mulch layer also provides opportunity for the voles and mice to more easily dig their shallow holes to get closer to plants to eat them.  This last winter I lost seven Hostas and an ornamental grass, ‘All Gold’ Japanese forest grass, to voles or mice.  These plants were mostly eaten from the bottom up and were in areas that were well-mulched and that had nearby mole tunnels.  Some gardeners have had more luck when they’ve removed the mulch layer, which I plant to do in the winter time around the Hostas.  It may also be helpful to enclose the root ball with hardware cloth when planting Hostas, or any other plants that you are concerned may be eaten by these critters.  With that said, certain mulch materials will actually help repel some pests.  For instance, cockroaches, ants and termites, among others, do not like cedar chips because of the chemical Thujone that they contain.

I generally would not recommend using an inorganic mulch, but there are some circumstances when they might be appropriate.  Black sheets of plastic work very well to warm the ground up, and I’ve seen this method used in lavender farming.  Rocks or boulders seem to be essential to a landscape.  Rocks may be useful as a mulch as they too can help warm the soil, and small rocks could provide for better drainage around a plant’s root crown, an area susceptible to rot.  I would never recommend using the rubber mulches that are shredded/ground up and meant to look like organic ones.  Think of your mulch as a soil enhancer and as potential worm food and this will steer you clear of the ones that are not so garden worthy.

You may also need to take into consideration the effect a particular mulch may have on your soil’s pH, however, it seems the importance of this caution may be exaggerated by many.  New studies are showing that even though a mulch substance can have an extreme pH level, such as oak leaves and pine needles/straw, which have a very acidic or low pH level, they do not have a substantial effect on the soil’s pH, at least not at the root level of most established plants. I hope this information is helpful to you.  I’d love to hear any tips that you might have on mulching.

A Garden Named Su – Plants from the Lan Su Chinese Garden

After coming home and looking through all the photos I had taken from my visit to Portland’s Lan Su Chinese Garden, I felt like I went at the perfect time of year.  Although many of the deciduous plants and perennials were just starting to leaf out, there seemed to be an emphasis on early spring bloomers (with fragrance!) and an abundance of evergreen plants as well, which kept me from feeling as though I was missing out on the full garden experience.  I’ll be honest, I actually visited the garden last year, but in late March all the same.  After not getting around to sharing my journey within the first month or two following I thought it would be best to wait to post anything until it was the same time of year again.  Besides, now I can lure people to my blog with the pitch that this post is a year in the making; did it work on you?

Outside the garden I was led in by an intoxicating fragrance.  At first I could not determine what it was but later found out it was a Korean Spice Viburnum (didn’t get a pic).  What a great fragrance.  I’ve considered adding one to my yard for that feature alone.  Walking closer to the entrance I found this bright mix of evergreen plants: Fragrant Sweet Box (Sarcococca ruscifolia, the green shrub, normally planted in some shade but here in full sun if I recall correctly), Golden Variegated Sweet Flag (Acorus gramineus ‘Ogon‘), Black Mondo Grass (Ophiopogon planiscapus ‘Nigrescens’) and Persian Chocolate Moneywort (Lysimachia congestiflora ‘Persian Chocolate‘).

Sarcococca ruscifolia, Acorus gramineus 'Ogon', Ophiopogon planiscapus 'Nigrescens', & Lysimachia congestiflora 'Persian Chocolate'

Coming inside the main entrance there was an architecturally-appealing and inviting opening, with Apple Blossom Evergreen Clematis (Clematis armandii ‘Apple Blossom’) hanging above and in full bloom.

Clematis armandii 'Apple Blossom' on a wall

Clematis armandii 'Apple Blossom' flowers

Inside the main garden there is a huge pond.

Lan Su Chinese Garden

I was pleasantly surprised to see a Great Blue Heron in downtown Portland, looking to snatch a meal.

There were lots of Rhododendrons…

I’m not a huge fan of rhodies (maybe too commonplace here), but this specimen really caught my eye with it’s irregularly long elliptical leaves.  When backlit, these had a dramatic look.

Rhododendron leaves in light

I love Stewartias.  I’m guessing this slow-growing tree has been anchored here for some time.

I love this scene of Liriope with the lilac-blooming Corydalis and the somewhat rare, white-blooming Bergenia emeiensis.  This species of Bergenia does not appear to develop any winter color, which may be preferable for many gardeners.  You definitely can’t complain about large foliage that dark green and glossy, and on a plant that will spread nicely.  I love the stonework on these pathways as well, such an attention to detail.

Lan Su Chinese Garden

I was drawn by fragrance once again (can you tell that’s a theme here?) to this Paper Bush (Edgeworthia chrysantha).  It is a beautiful shrub in bloom and the bark and structure is also appealing.  If I was to get one in my yard I would go for the red-flowering variety, ‘Red Dragon’.

Edgeworthia flowers

Paper Bush flowers

I loved this evergreen plant with the twisted foliage.  Not sure what it is though, let me know if you do!  Certain features remind me of a rhodie, but I’ve never seen one so exotic looking, if it is.

Twisted evergreen foliage

Lan Su Chinese Garden

Podophyllum, ophiopogon, liriope

If the sun’s coming out, I will too…

Mini Podophyllum

Quicksilver Wild Chinese Ginger (Asarum splendens ‘Quicksilver’) around the base of a tree.

I loved the view from underneath this pine, with the light penetrating through the cover of needles and then dancing along the edges of these contorted branches.

Path at Lan Su Chinese Garden

Vibrant red flower

Radiant white flower

The cheery bloom of a Japanese Rose (Kerria japonica).

Japanese Rose

Kerria japonica‘s arching stems reaching for a drink.

Kerria arching over water

Intriguing red bloom

Fringe flowers (Lorepetalum chinense) doing their thing.  These large shrubs add great color year-round.

Chinese Fringe Flower & Peony

Fringe flower leaves in light

Bridge at Lan Su Chinese Garden

Chinese architecture

Dog?  Lion?  Or beast?  Poor guy has quite the short, front right leg.

Chinese dog statue

I loved the glossy green leaves of the Chinese Mayapple (Podophyllum pleianthum), just starting to emerge from its slumber.

These upright stony figures decorated the garden adding a lot of character.  I couldn’t tell if they were natural or man-made, obviously the holes are unnatural.

Rock feature with rhododendron

This was a pleasant plant grouping, with the pine and magnolia trees behind the mature Chinese Mahonia (Mahonia fortunei) in the foreground, then flanked by the cast-iron plant (Aspidistra genus) and then by the Variegated Winter Daphne (Daphne odora ‘Aureomarginata’), which was in bloom and offering up its wonderful fragrance.

Magnolia, Pine, Mahonia fortunei, Daphne odora 'Aureomarginata' and Aspidistra

This shot also shows the nearby Paper Bush better.  My nose was on sensory overload.

Daphne, Edgeworthia, Mahonia, Aspidistra

Daphne & Rock at Portland's Lan Su Chinese Garden

The Magnolia blooms were getting ready to open.

Pink Magnolia flowers

Aspidistra

These Camellia blooms were stunning because each one was about the size of my hand.  Not as easy to tell just by looking at the photos here.

Red Camellia flower

Camellia through lattice

Camellia over wall

This twisted fellow was sentenced to a life in a pot, and was on display towards the end of our journey, a Flying Dragon Trifoliate Orange (Poncirus trifoliata ‘Flying Dragon’).

Twisted, thorny fellow

If you’ve been wanting to visit the Lan Su Chinese Garden, now would be a great time to go.  When I went last year they were also having a plant sale, which was on an adjacent block, and I believe it’s an annual event they have there.

Northwest Native Plant Spotlight – Red Twig Dogwood

Some like it wet.  Particularly if you live in the Pacific Northwest.  Here, you wear your raindrops proudly.  Having a soaked shirt is like sporting honorable stripes.  And those rain deflection devices (umbrellas, right?), those are for the tourists and foreigners.  However, put us in a situation with more than a few inches of snow and it’s a winter apocalypse, at least according to the local news stations.  But I digress…

One of the locals perfectly content in the wetness is our native red twig, or red osier, dogwood (Cornus sericea syn. Cornus stolonifera).  This is a relatively common shrub, or small tree, in low to mid elevation moist to wet sites.  However, “common” really only describes its distribution and availability.  Red twig dogwood is an exceptional plant offering year-round appeal, particularly showy in winter when the color of its branches are intensified to a glowing red to maroon.  This coloration is strongest when the plants are in full sun and on the newer growth.

Dogwood bark

In springtime, attractive mid to dark green, veined leaves (similar to other dogwoods) are born and white flower clusters appear shortly thereafter (May in my yard – and technically they are an inflorescence, and more specifically a cyme) which the bees find irresistible.  Sometimes these plants will rebloom sporadically throughout the year.

flowers

Cornus sericea foliage and flowers (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The flowers ripen into white berries, which can persist on the plant for quite some time depending on how often the birds come to dine.  Many bird species eat the berries but the regulars in my yard are the robins and cedar waxwings.  I especially appreciate any plant that will draw in the cedar waxwings.

Red Osier Dogwood fall color and white berries

The “googly eye” berries, and stunning fall color, of red twig dogwood

As you can see by the pic above, another outstanding feature of this plant is its red to purple fall color.  In the natural area behind our home there is a grove of mature specimens, which are a little more like small trees than shrubs, and each year I look forward to their fall show, which works wonderfully with the yellow fall color of the nearby pacific ninebark (Physocarpus capitatus) and the evergreen slough sedges (Carex obnupta) at their feet.

I attribute the poor drainage, high water table and light, open shade conditions behind our home to the beautiful mass that’s back there, but red twig dogwood really is an irregularly adaptable plant, able to withstand summer drought for quite some time when established in the right soil, and also content in full sun to shade conditions.  Just keep in mind that, like most other plants, when placed in more sun red twig dogwood will need more moisture and in full shade the flowering and fruiting will diminish and the leaves will grow larger and thinner to capture more light.

Red twig dogwood is also a great plant for the economical gardener, being inexpensive to incorporate into the garden as it grows easily, and quickly, from cuttings.  Also, the epithet stolonifera from the scientific name refers to the stolons with which it can spread and multiply.  New roots/plants can form when these low, horizontal branches come into contact with the soil, allowing them to form thickets.

You also can’t go too wrong on pruning these dogwoods.  They can withstand severe pruning, and since the most vivid winter branch coloring is on new growth, most people prefer to prune them this way.  It’s recommended that you only cut them down to the ground (technically about 4-6 inches from the ground) every 2 to 3 years, but this could depend on how vigorous the plant is.  Now, late winter, is the time to do this, right before the new spring growth comes.  I think the plants look best when pruned this way, as opposed to doing light cutback pruning.  Or you could just remove a few of the oldest main stems down to the base each year, so you aren’t left with a hole in your garden for a season.  I’m okay with waiting for a season, but this is an indispensable plant, filling a niche in the garden.

Red osier dogwood leaf in snow (Cornus sericea syn. Cornus stolonifera)

Frozen Foliage

Mt. Hood sunrise

Here in the greater Portland area we’ve had quite the cold and dry spells recently.  After dealing with the cold for weeks I’ve been hoping we would at least be rewarded with some snow, but, as it normally happens here, once the clouds roll in the temperatures quickly rise above freezing and we are instead dowsed in its crystal-challenged counterpart.  Oh well.  The recent rains at least keep me from having to go out to water the plants that were needing it.

Even without the snow, there is a beauty found on those cold days when a light dusting of frost covers the landscape.  Interesting patterns in nature are accentuated, with frost accumulating on ridges and edges.  Click on any of the pics below to open the image carousel.

I especially enjoy the patterns and texture of the Oakleaf Hydrangea, which is quite the semi-evergreen shrub here.  Its maroon leaf coloring and peeling bark add great winter interest, and it pairs especially well with winter-blooming Ivory Prince Hellebores around its base.  Another great semi-evergreen shrub here is the Virginia Sweetspire.  I bought a dwarf form earlier this year, Itea virginica Little Henry.  These plants have wonderful red fall (and winter) coloring.  The one pictured here is just in part sun, so the red coloring isn’t incredibly strong, but I have been impressed by how well-clothed this plant has stayed through the winter.  So modest.

One of the fully evergreen, dwarf shrubs in my yard also with great winter appeal is the Japanese Lily of the Valley shrub cultivar ‘Cavatine’ (Pieris japonica ‘Cavatine’).  Aside from its clean, dark green foliage, it keeps a very compact form and is loaded with colorful flower buds this time of year.  When frosted over it almost appears to be a variegated form, with each edge highlighted in white.  I bought Helleborus HGC Jacob, an evergreen perennial, mostly for its foliage, but it’s been very nice to have some blooms this time of year.  When you start off with such pristine white flowers it can be hard to enjoy them for long since you can quickly see any blemishes or fading, but for the most part I like the way these long-lasting flowers age, developing a pink cast to them and growing large seed pods.  Helleborus lividus ‘Pink Marble’ (not yet in bloom) is also a nice foliage plant, with its lightly veined foliage and pinkish-red petioles, but they are so diminutive, they’re probably best just used in a container planting.

Well, along with the birds, that’s what I’ve been enjoying in my yard this last week or so.  I’d love to hear what you’ve been enjoying from yours recently.