While I was gardening

The art of gardening and the science of life.

Beyond the Gray

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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.”


Author: dphare2014

Horticulturist, Lead Steward Carkeek Park Demonstration Gardens, Author

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