Check Out These Pages, Too!

"Possibility and promise greet me each day as I walk out into my garden. My vigor is renewed when I breathe in the earthiness and feel the dirt between my fingers. My garden is a peaceful spot to refresh my soul." Meems

Welcome to my Central Florida Garden Blog where we garden combining Florida natives, Florida-Friendly plants, and tropicals.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Peaceful Hues of Green in the Winter Garden Part 3

Part 3 of Plants that Thrive in the Winter Garden (Part 1) and Preparing the Garden for All Seasons (Part 2)

In keeping with my recent trend of thinking there has to be a better way for my winter garden to thrive~~ minus the stress provoked by unpredictable weather patterns ~~ I'm taking good notes of hardy winter performers.

Louisiana Irises 'Sinfonietta' are always a standout in winter. Not flowering but tall, deeply green, erect foliage makes this perennial a favorite. Easily divided by rhizomes means its presence is expanding in my garden.

These last three winters peaceful hues of greenery have stood out more than ever. Likely they are more in the spotlight due to so many surrounding shades of brown from all the frost damage. It becomes clearer and clearer which plants out-perform others following abnormally cold weather plummeting southward.

It helps when reading this to keep in mind every garden has its very own microclimate. Or several.

Neomarica caerulea 'Regina' Irises and walking irises have remained green and upright. The few 'Reginas' planted out from under the tree cover have shown slight signs of stress. But otherwise the majority of them are fine under their natural protection of the tree canopy.

No question many of the more tropical or tender plants that have retreated to the ground will return quickly when it warms again in a few weeks. But my goal is to create spaces with mainly stalwart and sturdy foundational plants that can take our summer humidity as well as our fickle winters. Now that's a lot to ask.

This is not to say, however, there isn't room in each planting bed for pockets and larger swaths of more sensitive ornamentals that may continue to perish temporarily in these harsher winters.

Agapanthus, A. africanus Lily of the Nile are a highly favored summer bloomer. There are dozens of them grouped together throughout my gardens. In almost every instance they receive some ample sunlight but also dappled shade. Their green leathery leaves are much admired in winter.

Granted my resolve to look out at my garden and still enjoy the view in winter is not newly adopted this year. It is one I've been working on for several seasons and it definitely takes time and patience to accomplish.

Admittedly, I find my determination inclines to yield to a weaker side as soon as the soil warms up. My steadfast winter-plan tends to easily fade as spring rolls around.

Bromeliads utilized as ground cover is not typically thought of as a winter performer. But here (again, think: micro climate) the texture and lushness they supply is welcomed. Most of them are steadfastly resilient even in the coldest weather.

Or worse, as soon as a garden center is visited with cheerful and enticing flowers on display, memories of lifeless and scraggly plants from old man winter's visit are all together forgotten. And really that's okay, too.

Believe me, I am not immune to making emotional decisions once spring is upon us and garden dreams are made up of profusions of happy colors and blooms so tempting.

Alpinia zerumbet, variegated shell ginger tucked around mature oak trees in mass is one of those established shrubs that does surprisingly well even through the coldest weather.

For the most part, however, flowering perennials, seasonal bloomers, and even tropicals are being chosen with stricter criteria ~~ following gardening principles that follow along with mother nature rather than fight against her.

So when deducing the micro climate within our gardens, out of necessity, we observe which 'pockets' within our own space stay warmer or which ones experience the cold with more intensity.

As an example of siting a usually-tender plant often you will see (above) Schefflera arboricola, dwarf schefflera planted in open areas receiving full sunlight. I prefer to plant mine tucked under the trees where they receive only soft pruning, dappled sunlight, and almost zero attention. They are unexpectedly cold hardy sited under the tree canopy. Although they can sustain damage on the edges and outer limbs from prolonged frost .
Raphis palms or lady palms are lovers of dappled light. Their cold hardy leaves flourish in every season. Slow growing is a characteristic you may love or not ~~ but these plants are care free and love to be green all year long. Just watch for runners as they will clump over time and become quite thick.

One of the most hardy plants in my garden is Dianella tasmanica 'Variegata' Flax Lily. This is one I don't mind over-planting. It is sited in containers, in ribbons of texture for dividing spaces, and mostly as a border plant as edging for entire planting beds.

I'll go into more detail in my next post about this fabulously utilitarian grass as well as other grasses around Hoe and Shovel.

Numerous more plants have kept their form through out winter. Too many to list here. Hopefully I'll get around to chronicling them in some useful way before we move on to spring.


  1. Hi Meems....For the last few years I have been thinking of adding Agapanthus to my garden. After reading this post, it is definitely on the "To Buy"list. My walking iris were totally toasted. If I cut the brown off, they will come back, won't they?

    Like your, my variegated shell ginger are a bright spot. I had bought a pot on sale a few years back. Last year it had gotten so thick that I divided it. Along one side of the house where my Ti plants are mostly brown leaves, I have bright spots of the ginger.

    With each day that passes Spring is one day closer....and it looks like it is warming up again....

  2. I feel like I have just had a tour of a garden in the tropics. To this snow-covered garden owner it looks fab.

  3. Well most of my plants have retreated for the winter. The Flax lily is new to me as I planted it late Summer. Do you cut yours back in late winter? Would love to learn more about it from you.

  4. Meems, I am very intrigued by your winter hardy plants for Florida and cant wait for the next blog. Thank you for all this great information. Oh, I did add three camellias to my garden and am on the lookout for more colors. Janis

  5. Tranquil and lovely, Meems...and warming for us cold people up here in the frozen north!

  6. You are so right about micro-climates within one's own garden. My variegated shefflera were bitten pretty hard even under the tree canopy, but they look like they should recover. Amazingly, right next to the cold damaged shefflera my variegated shell ginger is still fine. Definitely going to get some more of that. Love seeing what is doing well with this crazy winter weather AND that will still do well this summer.


Have a blessed day,

September 2010

Back Garden: October 2010

Louise Philippe: Antique Rose

Tropical Pathway