While most people have food on their mind, there is another cornucopia close at hand -- our gardens. Though there aren't as many plants in bloom in most people's garden as there is in spring, there is always seasonal interest. We have the vibrant reds and oranges of dogwood and maple trees, colorful berries on many shrubs, the year round pleasure of ornamental grasses, the enjoyment of conifers (which includes the wide variety of Chamaecyparis and Cryptomeria species), an astonishing spectrum of succulents, many of which are at their best in the cooler winter months, and of course 'winter' color from a host of cheerful annuals. Simply put, there is no end to the 'winter wonderland.'
Here are a few such treats from my late fall garden.
Here's a photo of my Camellia 'Silver Waves,' before the flower has completely opened to reveal its wealth of yellow stamens. At this stage it is an astonishing pure-as-the-driven-snow white, so much so that you can barely make out the layers of petals.
The latest and greatest in the Salvia world, this S. splendens 'Sao Borja' is actually a shade lover. It grows quickly, getting to its full 6 feet in a matter of months. Hailing from Brazil, this burgundy beauty is frost tender. Those of us in mild zones can mulch it; those in USDA zones 9 and lower will have to either bring it indoors, under the protection of a greenhouse or grow it as an annual.
Here's another shot of my Christmas cactus. I have yet to see another one of this color, sort of a translucent peach. I leave mine outdoors year round and it is fine. If pieces break off, put them in soil. They'll root pretty easily.
Here's my Camellia reticulata 'Frank Hauser.' Retics as they are known are often the showiest of all camellias, possessing some of the biggest flowers, with many like this FH sporting extravagantly wavy petals. Plus that color!
Another shot of my not-so-deadly Dyckia, this one a D. marnier-lapostle. It's still spiny but given that you could hold off an army of huns with your typical dyckia, this one's a real softie.
My newest addition, this Kalanchoe bryophyllum is a real softie, with thick fleshy leaves and rows of nubby teeth. It has the curious common name of Good Luck plant. Its other common names are even more colorful -- Mother of Thousands, which refers to it being prolific at producing babies, Alligator Plant (maybe the teeth?) and Mexican Hat plant (you got me on that one). It's lovely color and form are more than enough for me.
Pelargoniums are more often purchased for their flowers but they sport a wide variety of interesting leaves as well. Here, this P. Luis West has a simple but lovely variegated leaf. To me, it's a kind of Rorschach test. What do you see -- a butterfly, a blood stain or a ...?
Everybody's (okay my) favorite Bidens, B. Hawaiian Flare Drop Orange. If there were a charm meter set to ten, this variety would be (warning, Spinal Tap reference) an eleven.
Gaillardias may be almost ubiquitous but that doesn't mean they aren't beautiful, and especially cheery in the winter months.
Just simple violas but they're one of my favorite sources for winter color. Did you know that the Viola genus contains between 500 and 600 species!
Leucospermum 'Veldfire.' Possibly the showiest of all Pincushion shrubs. Here it is just forming the very beginning of its flowers but the glaucous leaves are also a delight. Note the red tips on on the tops of each leaf.
A reject brought home and thrown in the ground, this pansy has somehow managed to survive and is beginning to bloom. I love its royal colors -- and its name (Panola Sunburst).
Sometimes it's the foliage. This variegated Nicandra is pretty even when not in bloom. A vigorous self-seeder, it routinely sends up new plants in the most unlikely of places.
I bought this Senecio anteuphorbium for its form (its common name is Swizzle Sticks) but it does bloom and the flowers are quite curious. It almost looks more like a sea creature more than a landlocked plant's flower.
Asclepius 'Apollo Orange.' Impossible not to like (I would put all milkweeds in that category), this guy just keeps on flowering, ignorant of what the calendar says.
Another shot of my very, very determined (or is that happy?) Datura Blackcurrant Swirl. It's pretty much bloomed nonstop for the whole year.
One of my favorite Echeverias, this E. subrigida is looking particularly lovely these days.
Not the best shot but I wanted to share my lovely Salmon cyclamen. It hasn't found a permanent home yet but who knows, maybe it'll stay here.
Lots of color on my Japanese maple, now going on year eleven. It's a great anchor tree for the back yard.
Many people will recognize this ponytail palm, with this pot being distinctive for holding three plants. Would that make this a pot of 'triplets?'