Approaching are the deep gray days of late winter. Soon, February’s heavy-lidded darkness will greet the gardener who searches for young weeds in the saturated compost. Soon the mid-day sky will appear so low that we can almost reach up and touch its damp dullness. We seek out color – as much as our eyes can take in. Gardening catalogues, magazines, and books are strewn about the living room floor – opened and in clear view as if in self-defense against monochromatic days. Any little glimpse of bright, flamboyant color is welcome now.
A welcome day-dream arrives and I think of a clear spring day when I walk through the garden to celebrate signs of life. I think of Rhododendron linearifolium, Spider Azalea, and how I will be captivated by the contrast between its pink blooms and gray/green foliage, and how the flowers and leaves intertwine. I will forget to look at the entire plant, forget to search for signs of problems because I will be so busy enjoying its display.
Leucothoë fontanesiana, ‘Rainbow’, will be one of the most colorful plants in my garden with its pink, green, and tan-to-purple foliage. It will be – is always – a vibrant surprise on a gray day.
Cornus alba, ‘Elegantissima’, a favorite plant of mine, will stop me in my tracks when it begins to leaf out in spring. Its delicate, white-edged leaves will show distinct and luminous against red limbs; the shrub is under-panted with Ophiopogon planiscapus, Black Mondo grass, and Carex elata, ‘Bowles Golden’. I look forward to a morning surprise when all the plants are up and answering spring with a vibrant demonstration of life. A woolly gray foliage Rhododendron pendulum, nestled in a blue-rust colored container, will make an agreeable contrast to the entire scene.
I look forward to the green, blue, golden, and busy variegation that will fill my garden. I will think back to winter and be grateful for full rain barrels, grateful for luxurious free time to plan a new direction for the garden, grateful that all plants survived the season. And I will look back and think, “Winter wasn’t as bad as it could have been.”