I'm not sure which one this is. It hitched a ride to my garden as a random pad in the pot of Lapageria rosea I brought home almost two years ago. The lapageria has a pampered life, getting moved around to just the right spot throughout the year so it doesn't get too hot or too cold. It spends winter in the greenhouse with the other tender plants that don't need as much warmth as houseplants. But the random opuntia pad? I tossed it into the Stump St. Helens bed, next to the Viburnum davidii. It was spineless, without even glochids, as far as I could see (or feel). Why not? I left it alone, glancing at it whenever I happened to be looking at the other plants in the bed. One day, I notice a new pad forming. It got chewed up by a slug, but the plant just produced another pad. They weren't very big, but I was surprised it seemed to be doing so well in this bed in half shade, slightly raised above the surrounding ground level, but with no special amendments to my clay loam.
The next summer, it grew larger pads, and they mostly escaped being eaten by slugs. Still not a very big plant, overall, but it was starting to look like something. I still didn't pay a whole lot of attention to it, though. Fast forward to this winter. Multiple snow events where the snow stayed for several days to over a week, multiple days in a row where the temperature never rose above freezing, and an ultimate low between 11 and 12 degrees Fahrenheit. I thought for sure the little opuntia would be mush. On the 18th, after the snow finally melted and the temperature had soared to a balmy 53F, I went out to check on this nameless hitchhiker. Wouldn't you know? It looks perfect! The original pad has shriveled, true, but that's to be expected after a few years. The rest of it looks fine.
|This is the plucky little opuntia now. It's the first photo I've ever taken of it, and I think you can see why. It's not much to look at, is it?|
While I've been craving green more than anything else, two of my favorite plants this month have very little green to show. The brilliant stems of Cornus sericea 'Midwinter Fire' and spidery blooms of Hamamelis 'Jelena' glow, whether the day is dark and rainy or everything is covered in bleak, white snow.
Back to craving green. This Juncus, which was relocated from where it seeded itself in on a dry mound in almost full sun, has become one of my favorites. It's grown a bit more lush since I relocated it to the edge of the dry creek bed but, though it has spread out a bit after all that snow, it's still mostly upright. I love the spiky green punctuations it provides in this line of mostly Carex comans. Because this plant is so tough and evergreen (and available), I'm going to divided these clumps in spring and spread them further along the dry creek bed and into other beds, if I have enough. I also collected and scattered seed last fall, so hopefully I'll have more volunteers showing up.
Polystichum munitum, the western sword fern, is remarkably upright when grown in sun. It did get a little toasted in summer, but this plant is still getting established and did better than the previous year. The ferns out in the woods, under the trees and thus protected from some of the snow, are also still pretty resiliently upright. I'll be harvesting more from our woods to fill in the shadier parts of the garden.
I've become a fan of Phygelius. I had already fallen for them last summer when they were blooming, but I appreciate them even more now. While the fuchsias have all had their leaves fried off by cold, and their stems have probably died to the ground, the Phygelius are barely damaged. Remember, it got down to 11-12F in my garden one night, and 13F the next, with multiple days below freezing. For some reason I just didn't have much faith that these would be so hardy. Unfortunately, I'm not sure which cultivar this is.
I know I've shown this image, or one like it, a dozen times already, but I'm still not sick of it. (Hopefully no one else is, either.) Podocarpus 'Blue Gem' and the bronze form of Carex comans look good all year. While the carex really is sort of a brown color, it's in warm shades that help to combat the gloom of winter. The rich blue-green of the podocarpus is always a favorite of mine, and the contrasting cool tone enhances the warmth of the sedge.
Those are my favorites for January. Please visit Loree at The Danger Garden to see more plants that are helping to keep their gardener's spirits up through the winter doldrums.
Last Saturday I went for a walk in the woods. I'd been wanting to get out for a long walk for weeks, but the snow and extreme cold kept me indoors. It was wonderful to enjoy the natural scenery. I didn't even mind that it started raining as I headed back. Really, any one of these could be my contribution to Wednesday Vignette, hosted by Anna at Flutter&Hum, but I think I'm favorite the mossy maple trunks in the second photo. It's more important than ever that we take time to recharge, however each of us may do that. For me, it's going out into nature and soaking up all that natural beauty.
|I love this old stump sticking up out of a beaver pond, covered in Polypodium glycyrrhiza (licorice fern).|
|So bright! So mossy! This is why I love living in the Pacific Northwest. Even the deciduous trees are often evergreen.|
|An impressive swath of Mahonia (or Berberis) nervosa. I'm planning to incorporate a fair amount of this tough, beautiful native evergreen into my garden this year.|
|I love mosses. We have so many in the PNW, and some of them are very lush, like this Plagiomnium species. (Thank goodness for field guides, so I can impress people with my "knowledge".)|
|More beautiful moss draping these young Douglas firs.|