Winter Interest, My Ass
Current events are not doing much to put me in a holiday mood, and the garden isn’t really helping. That’s because this year the whole “winter interest” thing has been a big dud.
In theory, there should be lots of plants in my garden providing winter interest, especially some of the tall grasses and perennials. But winter interest is only achieved under certain conditions. In particular, snow should be light and powdery – the kind of snow my kids used to refer to as “angel dandruff”.
Instead, the snow this year has been wet and heavy. It looks like someone dumped a truckload of half-melted Italian ice all over the garden. The result: almost everything has flopped over.
The photo above is just about all you can see of one of my big clumps of Switchgrass (Panicum virgatum). Looks like a cave that could be used by some little critter, which may or may not be a good thing.
Here’s some New England Aster (Symphyotrichum novae-angliae) also flopping over under the weight of the Italian ice.
This is the only little bit of Switchgrass seedhead not covered up by the snow.
The Bee Balm (Monarda didyma) is at least making an effort.
For the Siberian Elm (Ulmus pumila), this seemed like a good time to drop a gigantic branch onto the back garden. I haven’t had time to cut it up just yet. The branch almost knocked over one of my bird feeding poles, making it a sort of Leaning Tower of Bird Food. I’ll have to wait for a thaw before straightening it. Luckily nothing was seriously damaged.
I’ve made this complaint before, but the Cranberrybush Viburnum (V. trilobum) was supposed to have lots of persistent red fruit to brighten winter days. That’s one reason why I planted five of these large shrubs.
Unfortunately, no one told the squirrels that the fruit was supposed to be unpalatable until late winter. The last Viburnum berry was eaten weeks ago.
The only ornamental winter fruit right now is on the ‘Golden Raindrops’ Crabapple (above) and the hips on the shrub rose ‘Cassie’. I do feel good about planting ‘Golden Raindrops’ a couple years back, and I expect its performance to improve as it gets bigger.
So what, if anything, is providing winter interest in your garden right now?