As always seems to happen, I was overly optimistic in my plans for what to get done over the winter. Here we are at the end of February, and I've barely scratched the surface!
One thing I wanted to try was winter sowing, but maybe I chose a bad year to start. This winter has been a very strange one, weather-wise. I was already uncertain of when best to sow seeds this far south, what with our mild winters and warm periods that might trick plants into growing too early. Then it turned out that this winter never seemed to know when to start, and I couldn't decide when/if it was cold enough. We'd get a cold spell, but then it would be unseasonably warm again just a few days later.
In the end, what I've done this year isn't so much winter sowing as it is early-spring sowing. Ah well, maybe next time! Besides, we have such a long growing season down here that it's not as crucial to get most things started that early, anyway.
Here are some of the things I've "kinda-sorta" wintersown. It's mostly plants that I think will self-sow, but I'm giving them a helping hand (and maybe making it easier to place them where I want them in the yard). Purple coneflower. Alabama ox-eye daisy. Swamp daisy. Northern sea oats. Blanket flower.
As you can see, when I ran out of milk jugs, I started planting in old nursery pots. At this point, I don't think the "miniature greenhouse" aspect of the jugs is likely to be necessary.
Our winter has been so mild that a few summer annuals are still hanging in there, such as this begonia. To be fair, it has had some help. For one thing, it's under the shelter of the covered patio. For another, it was among some pots that were protected by sheets on a few of the very coldest nights.
One of our Carex 'Evergold' grasses is blooming. I divided this plant after we got it last spring, and strangely, only one of the halves is blooming (as far as I saw, at least). The blooms aren't much to look at, of course, but I've been very pleased with this grass. The foliage has stayed attractive all year-- including the winter, as it is evergreen.
One of the prettier flowers blooming at this time of year in our garden is summer snowflake (leucojum):
Actually, I'm still not sure if this is "summer snowflake" or "spring snowflake". Spring snowflake blooms earlier, so maybe that's what this is... But of course, bloom-time varies from place to place, so I've never felt convinced one way or the other.
In any case, they are pretty little flowers. I can't recall exactly who gave me my start of snowflakes, but it was probably Mom-- if not her, then Granny L. (Like so many of the plants in my garden! Which reminds me that a recent book review I wrote on my reading blog would be perfectly at home over here, too...)
The Southern shield fern that I moved a few months ago (or whenever that was!) seems to have survived the relocation. It's even put out some new fronds, including some of greater height than any it had last year. I hope this means it's doing well and will slowly achieve a greater size.
I love ferns, and it would be great to see this one multiply in the shady part of the garden.
A newly opening frond:
With such a mild winter, it's been hard to judge the usual performance of some new plants. Maybe they won't always been quite so persistent, but this year, I've been surprised at how green a few have stayed.
For instance, the achillea has been pretty much evergreen. I transplanted some of the white yarrow, because it was getting a little too comfortable where it was. Other patches, I've left so far, though they too are making themselves right at home. This pink achillea is already blooming (sporadically)!
I was worried that the Mexican purple sage (Salvia purpurea) might not survive our winter. (Particularly when I was afraid that El Niño would mean a colder-than-normal season.) I took many cuttings (some of which are still good, I believe), in the hopes of saving the plant for the up-coming summer.
However, it appears that I worried for nothing (almost always the case, as it turns out). Some of it is already showing new leaves. This plant is so easy to root from cuttings that it has multiplied into many plants in one year. If only it weren't on the delicate side (as far as cold-hardiness goes)! If it survives another winter so easily, I may stop worrying about it, though.
As you can see, the purple heart I rooted last year has pulled through beautifully, too, in at least some of the spots I planted it. Still waiting to see how it fared in a few other places, but I'm hopeful.
The tiny little clump of 'May Queen' daisies has stayed green all winter and has even grown during the winter-- not in height so much as in width. Part of me is delighted; another part is a little scared. (g) I'll probably divide it, soon, and move it to locations where it might not be as likely to bully other valued plants-- but I might leave a little of it here, just to see what it does...
Another surprise is these shoots of butterfly ginger. What's surprising is the earliness of their appearance. Maybe I'm remembering wrongly, but I don't believe this plant emerged nearly so early, last year. This is probably a result of the mild winter.
This little camellia (from Mom a couple of years ago, I think) has been blooming for quite some time. The leaves look dreadful at the moment (maybe some special amendment would help), but the flowers are as pretty as can be.
The Japanese magnolias are beginning to bloom. Neither of ours are covered in bloom, at the moment, but I'm happy to get any flowers at all. They were flowering out of season, last year, and I wondered if the weird weather would prevent any spring show.
We have two. The older one is this lighter orchid-pink:
...while the newer one is a darker reddish-purple:
They're on opposite sides of the house, so you never see both at the same time (which would probably make a bolder impression). Still, even diluted like this, the little touches of early color are welcome.
Here's another plant that never seemed to completely believe the calendar-- yellow flag iris. I don't think the foliage ever disappeared. If it did, it must've been a very brief dormancy. New leaves are very much in evidence.
The swamp sunflower (or swamp daisy, as I believe it's sometimes called) has put out new leaves, too-- and it's very clearly stretching into new territory. I'm not sure if these new plantlets are from seeds that fell last year or if they've spread from the roots of the original clump. (I'm leaning toward roots, but I'm far from certain. I did purposely scatter seeds, so either one is a possibility...)
Tiny little buds (leaf buds?) are showing up on the mountain laurel (a birthday gift from Dad, last year). So far, so good, as far as that plant goes. I believe they're slow growers, so I'm trying to keep my expectations reasonable with this one.
I noticed that the white loropetalum had many little flower buds, which reminded me to take a closer look at the big, pink loropetalum by the covered patio...
And it was well worth a look, too.
The loropetalum is such a showy plant, when in bloom.
I like the colors of the leaves even when it's not blooming, but those flowers are something else.
From a distance, the garden doesn't look like much, for the most part, but these first signs of spring are well underway, and with the occasional day getting into the 70s, it won't be long before gardening is in full swing, again!