Plans for spring

Planning for spring has begun, though currently details are quite fuzzy and certainly there will be additional inspirations as the winter drags on. There is plenty of time to figure what goes where prior to the spring planting season (March or later), but getting an idea of areas to be added to helps to avoid impulsive purchases (helps, but does not avoid).

While there have been few days with ice or snow to limit outdoor projects, the winter months are mainly for planning for spring.

The garden is nearing its thirty-second anniversary, and with planting every year there are no wide open spaces. I am now planting beneath tall shrubs, and filling a few small spaces where large, declining evergreens were removed in recent years. Some day I hope to cover every inch of ground to limit weeds, but that’s not likely to happen.

The priority for spring is mostly the same as a year ago, but with some refinement since two dark leafed crapemyrtles (from the newly introduced Thunderstruck series of crapemyrtles) and several shrubs were added to the damp lower third of the rear garden. After a desperate search for moisture tolerant, ground covering perennials, I’ve settled on a few that seem well suited to the partial sun and damp soil. One that I was only vaguely familiar with, false bugbane (Trautvetteria caroliniensis) will be planted in hopes that it will vigorously spread to cover areas beneath a sweetbay magnolia (Magnolia virginiana) and assorted shrubs that are not yet to the point of growth that they shade the ground to limit weeds. False bugbane seems perfectly suited to this situation, but this is far from a guarantee.

A dozen or more ferns (East Indian Holly fern, above) will be planted in the shaded side yard, joining dozens of others that perform wonderfully in soil supplemented by leaves of maples, tulip poplars, and blackgum that are left in place to decay.

A second area, dry and shaded, was planted late in the year along the border of the side yard. It requires a bit more fill to cover lower branches of Oakleaf hydrangeas (Hydrangea quercifolia) and sweetshrubs (Calycanthus), in particular in the winter months when the shrubs are bare. I plan purchases of ferns (above) and barrenworts (Epimedium, below), both evergreen and deciduous, that should slowly spread, even with root competition from nearby bigleaf magnolia (Magnolia macrophylla) and blackgum (Nyssa sylvatica).

The growing collection of barrenworts tolerates the competition of a shallow rooted beech, so new plantings should flourish in this dry shade area.

As every year, there is much work to be done prior to spring planting, but I am in no rush. Soon, leaves must be cleared from low growing hellebores so flowers that are imminent can be seen, and then withered stems of perennials must be removed, but there’s no rush to get this done. I work better if mundane chores are delayed until the last minute, and if I decide to get a jump on planting the tan colored stems are useful place markers so one thing is not planted too close to another.

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