Archive | January, 2013


31 Jan

This is winter in southern Illinois.  Two days ago the temperature was near 70 degrees (F); yesterday it rained all day; today it’s well below freezing with a light dusting of snow but expected to move above freezing in a couple of days.   We haven’t had much snow this winter, so while it’s here I’m going to enjoy the way it makes even a brown-dead garden look pretty.

(Click on any picture to enlarge it or view the pictures as a slide show.)

promise of spring

29 Jan

One of the nice things about this area of the country (southern Illinois) is that, although we can have fierce winters, really cold periods usually are broken up by a day here and there of really nice weather. Today, for example, the temperature got near 70, making it absolutely necessary to get outside (although winter is forecast to return tomorrow).  I found myself wandering around the garden to see if anything other than Lenten Rose has started to emerge.    Below is what I found.  All of these easily could be covered with snow a time or two before Spring actually arrives, but it helps to get through the winter knowing what is in store in just a couple of months.  (The last picture of the yellow grass that lives in the shallow end of the pond really doesn’t belong in this group.  It pretty much keeps its color all year round, although the yellow color will brighten with the coming of Spring.)

You might want to click on the individual pictures to get a better view.


28 Jan

begonia 001

This begonia (I believe it belongs in the begonia category rhyzomatous), normally the first thing to come into bloom in the sunroom, is beginning to put out blossoms.  It would be a pretty plant even without flowers because of the nice round leaves, which are bright red on the back and almost glow when the sun comes directly through the windows.

begonia 008The flowers are small, less than 1/4″ across, so nobody would grow it for the flowers.   Because it regularly blooms so early, I think of it as a promise that Spring eventually will arrive.

I also have a standard rex begonia, grown strictly for the color patterns on the leaves.  Mine is a fairly unspectacular variety; many have brighter and more complex color variations.

begonia 013Begonias can be propagated by putting stem ends in soil and keeping moist, although the rooting process is slow compared with some other plants.

shamrock plant – oxalis

20 Jan

oxalisMore plants are beginning to bloom in the sunroom, in this case the shamrock plant.  It’s looked pretty sad all winter but recently began adding new leaves and is now flowering.  oxalis 005 It will droop and drop leaves when it goes outside in the Spring but will perk up and flower again around mid-Spring, after which it will be a pot of mostly leaves and the occasional flower.  There’s also a red geranium trying to bloom.oxalis 004

golden globe arborvitae

13 Jan

arborvitae 004This is a great foundation shrub, particularly for low-maintenance gardens, for two reasons:

1.  It keeps its round shape with absolutely no pruning.

2.  It provides year-round color, from golden yellow in spring to bright green in summer and bronze/yellow in winter.

It likes warm, humid weather — perfect for this region — and prefers a full-sun location.  It will grow in part sun but can get a little thin if it doesn’t get enough light.  These started out as 1′ balls and, after about six years, are nearly 4′ around.  Ultimately, they will grow to 5′-6′, so be sure to leave enough room for plants to mature.   (Shown below is the same shrub in late summer.)



lenten rose – helleborus

11 Jan

lenten rose - helleborus

After about a week of below-freezing weather, we’re having one of those nice breaks where daytime temperatures near 60 degrees. A walk round the garden revealed 1″ buds on the Lenten rose. These flowers often are the first to bloom, even before crocus. They’ll spend the next several weeks growing stems, to a height of 6″-10″, before the flowers open. There also are tiny buds on pachysandra (a shade-loving ground cover) and witch hazel. Witch hazel seems to need a period of hard freeze followed by a warm period, so the weather is perfect. I’ve seen it bloom as early as January and as late as March, so I’ll have to keep an eye on that bush.


7 Jan

geranium I went out to the sun room today for the first time in a couple of weeks.  I normally only water plants every two weeks during the winter because they’re mostly dormant and, frankly, the sun room is about 5 to 10 degrees cooler than the rest of the house so in this weather it’s not the most pleasant place to be.  This pink geranium was blooming and has several more buds that could open within the next couple of weeks.  What a welcome sight compared with the browns and grays outdoors.