Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day and Foliage Follow-Up

Due to time and energy constraints, I recently decided to reduce my blogging to once per week. I forgot about both that and the fact that yesterday was the 15th when I wrote my garden tour post on Wednesday. Luckily, I got special dispensation (from myself) to do one more post this week, as I simply couldn't bring myself to miss either GBBD or Foliage Follow-up.

Unfortunately (or maybe fortunately) I didn't remember to take photos of everything I might want to share for either meme this month, and now it's all more or less covered in snow for the second time in as many weeks. I did take a few photos on Tuesday before the snow arrived, but I was mostly interested in recording how some plants had handled their first hard frost than in documenting my flowers for the month or looking for beautiful foliage. I'm probably missing more than I realize in this post, but I'll make do. For more December blooms, visit Carol at May Dreams Gardens, and for more fabulous foliage, Pam at Digging can help you out.

I'm cheating a bit with photos starting from December 7th, but things changed so dramatically last week after the hard frost, I didn't want to leave these out. I did leave out the fuchsias and a few other plants that were still blooming into the second week of December, right up to the first frost. Most years, they would have been nipped by frost around the end of October, or at least some time in November.

Everything had taken on a lovely golden quality. The golds in these first few photos have all turned to brown now. The grasses and asters are still mostly upright, though, despite the snow.

I'm pretty happy with the ratio and distribution of evergreen to deciduous plants in the driveway island after giving it a complete overhaul last year. And the deciduous things are dying gracefully and will last most of the winter, so bare spots have been minimized.

I kind of love how the old flowers on this Erica cinerea echo the bronze Carex comans in this bed. They looked nice when they were fresh, dark magenta, too.

This is by far my favorite section of the dry creek bed border. It's also the first section I did and so things have filled in more here than elsewhere. Hmm, that might have something to do with it. But I also love the silver Carex comans and the spiky, dark green rushes. In spring and summer irises add another shade of green (echoing the carex a bit in the case of the variegated Japanese iris) and in fall they brighten to yellow and age to brown. I even like the darker brown, more Burton-esque dried stems of the Mimulus cardinalis that adds a flash of bright orange in spring and summer. If only all my plant combinations worked so well.

This is before the frost, but Epimedium wushanense looks about the same today, or it would if I brushed off the snow.

The Erica x darleyensis that started blooming in September or October are still going, though their a bit brown after the frost last week, and probably a bit more so after this week. Winter-blooming Erica carnea are just starting, and will continue blooming through winter.

Penny's Pink hellebore started sending up buds at the beginning of the month. They haven't changed much since this photo was taken at the end of the first week.

Now we're moving up to last week. The Erysimum have started budding up, with this one getting a head start on the others. It still had good flowers on Wednesday, despite the 22F freeze the week before.

Comptonia peregrina is one of my favorite plants in any season. The cinnamon-scented foliage ages to a beautiful chestnut brown in autumn. Most of it does fall off, but enough hangs onto the branch tips to keep it interesting through most of winter. The frost only served to give the dried leaves a little more flair.

Now we've come to the current week, on Tuesday. I need more Disporum cantoniense in my garden. The rich green, bamboo like foliage and blue berries are just stunning. It pairs awfully well with the Carex comans I've come to love, too, visible in the background.

As I said, my primary focus on Tuesday was observing certain plants after their first hard freeze. Mitraria coccinea [David Mason's Robust] looks completely unfazed by 22F, even the tender new growth.

It's a little hard to tell with Coprosma 'Karo Red', especially with the shiny leaves. They do change color a bit in winter, but these look watery and frost-bitten to me.

On the other hand, Coprosma 'Roy's Red' looks perfectly fine. Now if I can just keep the rabbits away from them!

Rudbeckia fulgida 'Goldsturm' is a very hardy plant, so I wasn't at all worried about it, but the mild fall did produce an unusual late bloom stalk. I assumed the flowers would be toast after they thawed, but they're only a little darkened and bedraggled.

I already covered the amazing Abutilon megapotamicum that didn't even have damage to the open flowers or buds in my last post, so I won't show it again in this one (though I'm still amazed that it looked perfect on Tuesday). I know it's supposed to be hardy, but I was still expecting it to lose its flowers, if not its leaves, after a 22F frost. However, I was much more anxious about my Edgeworthia chrysantha 'Akebono', which had started to open a few days before the frost. Well, here it is on Tuesday of this week, none the worse for wear. It even opened a couple more flowers, as if to say, "Winter? Ha!"

It will be interesting to see how everything fares after the 20F freeze predicted tonight. It will probably dip down to 18 or 19 in my garden. On the other hand, where the snow fell after the freeze last week, this time snow fell before it got very cold. Not much, only about 3 inches, but it still provides a bit of insulation.

(Edit: Oops, I realized after posting that I meant to include a few more photos. The next 4 are additions to the original post.)

Cornus sanguinea 'Midwinter Fire' hung on to most of its leaves right up until the snow fell last week. It was a beautiful blend of peachy tones and was the last of my fall color.

After the snow and frost, the leaves have all fallen and turned brown, but this just reveals the vibrant stems, shading from yellow at the bottom to red at the tips. The stems will provide color for the rest of the winter. It will look much better once the blue Juncus, Acaena, and other plants fill in around the dogwood.

With the dropping of the leaves, I also noticed that they look about ready to bloom! That seems WAY to early!

Just one photo from the greenhouse. This is an Erica oatesii that I grew from seed sown about 3 years ago, blooming for the very first time. This South African heath, from the winter rainfall region of that area, supposedly has the potential to be hardy to USDA zone 8. I'm keeping it in the greenhouse, though, because I only have one. The buds start out very pale and gradually deepen to a translucent pinkish red as they age. While these are nice, they aren't a substitute for Erica 'Winter Fire', a hybrid of Erica oatesii and another South African heather, or the Erica mammosa I saw in Brookings. Now that I've at least seen it bloom, I'm a little more prepared to experiment with it.

Brr, enough of the chilly outdoors. Time to move inside. Schlumbergera x bridgesii, the Christmas cactus, started blooming last week. I'm still nursing it back from ill health due to last winter in the greenhouse, which I kept too cold for it, and bad potting soil, so it's not loaded with flowers. The few it produced, however, are highly appreciated.

I finally got my stubborn Hoya multiflora to branch this summer, after cutting it back hard. Now I'm letting it grow out, but it's more interested in blooming.

 After killing my last Dracaena goldieana while I was living in Wisconsin, I finally got a new one. It's much smaller, but it looks healthier. This time, I'm making sure it has excellent drainage and good light, and it won't have to compete with the drafty, dry winters of a dark Midwest apartment.

I've always loved Cryptanthus, and have been building a small collection for years. They make such wonderful houseplants, as do most bromeliads. Lately, I've been looking around and realizing I'm pretty happy with the ones I have. It's a good representative sampling of this variable genus, despite being only around 10 plants. One of my favorites is 'Black Mystic', shown below. I've never quite achieved that really black leaf color you find in photographs on the internet. It takes just the right amount of light, the right temperature, etc. to achieve and maintain that color. Mine vacillates between a dark brown in summer and this greener color in the lower light of winter, but those white bands are always fantastic. It's been growing a lot since I potted it up in a larger container, stretching gratefully (as opposed to stretching desperately in too little light).

One of my more recent acquisitions, which I got last year, is this large hybrid called 'Hawaiian Starshine'. I love the mottled patterns of light and dark green on its leaves, with pale scaly reverses and deep purple bases. One of the parents, Cryptanthus beukeri, is one of the few members of the genus I still want to add to my collection. This Google image search should give you an idea why.

Neostylis Lou Sneary 'Bluebird' continues to bloom. The first spike is finished, while this second spike keeps the show going, and a third is quickly developing. Almost all of my orchids are developing flower spikes at the moment. I should have quite the show in late winter/early spring.

I'll end with this shot of Vriesea ospinae-gruberi. It's not the greatest photo, but I'm so excited I had to share. See way down in the center? That's the beginnings of a bloom spike! Aside from Billbergia nutans and a couple Tillandsia, this will be the first bromeliad to bloom in my collection that I didn't purchase in bloom. It's still months away from actually blooming. Did I mention I was excited? Actually, I'm a little embarrassed to admit that I'm equally excited for the blooms themselves as I am for the pups that will follow. This plant is huge! Ever since I got it, I've been waiting for it to bloom so I could start over with a more manageable pup.


  1. Your garden seems to be making a smooth transition into winter despite the snow and ice. I looked up the Erica and I was surprised to find that so many species are suited to our climate (at least according to my Sunset guide), which is odd given that I seldom see Erica in local garden centers. Sunset says it needs regular water - is that accurate in your experience?

    I'm off to check my Vrieseas for signs of flowering now...

    1. You should really try to track down some of the Mediterranean and South African Erica species. The ones I have are fairly drought-tolerant here. I only water them in July and August, every other week or less, unless it's really hot and then I'll give them a deep soak every week. The Mediterranean species are more drought-tolerant. I think most of the South African species are from the summer rainfall regions, but there are a few from the winter rainfall regions that should be quite drought-tolerant.

    2. the ericas are from the South-Western Cape which shares a mediterranean winter rainfall climate.

    3. This comment has been removed by the author.

    4. Thanks for the correction, though there are some species from the summer rainfall regions, around the Drakensberg. I got my distributions reversed. Most are from the mediterranean region of the cape, though some of those occur in habitats with more moisture than Kris could supply.

  2. Hi Evan, I am in awe of your houseplant collection. While, I manage success outdoors, I have not mastered the art of interior plants. It sounds like it's going to get very chilly over the weekend..night time temps in the teens always feel so extreme. I'm admiring your edgeworthia blooms, I haven't gotten one yet, but hope too in the future. Cheers~

    1. Thanks, Jennifer! I'm a houseplant nut. There was a time when I gardened more indoors than out. It was a safe haven from the deer. The teens always feel extreme to me, too. I'm not looking forward to those temperatures!

  3. Comptonia peregrina with cinnamon scent and color to match...YUM! Disporum photo...DREAMY!
    I was under the impression that 'Akebono' was less hardy than other Edgeworthias but it has always been my favorite. Now I know to go for it.

    1. Ha! And the frost makes it cinnamon and sugar! I like it! 'Akebono' might still be a bit less hardy, but it's still rated to zone 7. Go for it!

  4. One of the first things I plan to do when I have garden time is to get my ' Akebono' upright and staked. Poor thing. Yours is proving to be amazing! I'm kind of surprised your temperatures aren't predicted to be lower tonight. The numbers you mentioned are right in line with, and maybe a little warmer than, what we're predicted to have here in urban Portland.

    1. The forecasts I checked went back and forth between teens and twenties. National Weather Service and Accuweather. I kept checking the Portland forecast through them, too, and it was always 1-3 degrees warmer than mine, which is typical. I hope my 'Akebono' develops a strong root system so it doesn't flop when it gets bigger.

  5. Akebono was a very successful (and huge) sumo wrestler some years ago. I doubt the Edgeworthia was named after him, but it's a good omen for endurance. I love the south african heaths and I'm looking forward to read about your experiments with Erica mammosa.

    1. I like good omens. I don't have Erica mammosa, just the E. oatesii.

  6. I misunderstood which Erica you'll be experimenting with :-)


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