Our logo


Garden wisdom from deer country!

Gardening in the Sierra Foothills with Carolyn Singer

The seasoned gardener

published in The Union in Grass Valley CA

MANY more perennials are detailed and illustrated in Deer in My Garden, Vol.1: Perennials & Subshrubs!

Frosty nights and snowstorms do little to discourage flowering

by Carolyn Singer
January 31, 2009

ScillaTiny blue-violet Scilla and Galanthus are in full bloom by my garden entry walk. Nearby, Daphne and Lenten rose blossoms are opening in the weak January sun. A sign of spring? Not likely. These precious flowers are just a few of the bulbs,perennials, and shrubs that bloom in midwinter every year in the Sierra foothills.

Today it's too cold for my neighbor's honeybees to be foraging among my many offerings. But during the recent warm spell the alder tree was a hum of activity. Planning for winter bloom in your garden is important not only for you, but also to provide early nectar.

The hellebores are one of my favorite perennials year-round. Not only are they deer-resistant, their beautiful evergreen foliage is always attractive. In winter, when many perennials are dormant, these robust plants are a focal point.

The best exposure is partial shade, although the hellebores will thrive in full winter sun under a deciduous tree. They do well even with competition from tree roots. The Lenten rose tolerates the most shade of all the hellebores. Irrigating once a week is ideal, but hellebores will survive with less water. Mulch with decomposing leaves mixed with compost. Seeds will fall on the mulch, giving you volunteer seedlings the following spring.

First to bloom in my garden is the Lenten rose (Helleborus orientalis), in shades of green, rose, and even burgundy flowers. Stems are short, holding the flowers close to the foliage. The markings on each petal add to the color and beauty, and the flowers are long-lasting, holding their form even as they fade. Sometimes the leaves look a little ragged and may be removed at the crown of the plant, leaving no stem.

Helleborus corsicusCorsican hellebore (Helleborus argutifolius, H. corsicus) has a very distinct serrated edging to the leaf, adding to its textural interest in the garden. The flowers are pale green, clustered on stems held well above the foliage. This is a good cut flower and long-lasting in the garden.

Helleborus foetidus has an unfortunate and undeserved common name: stinky hellebore. The long, narrow leaflets are some of the most attractive foliage of any of the hellebores. The blooming habit and the flowers are very similar to the Corsican hellebore, with multiple pale-green nodding flowers.

Near my porch and the entry walk where I can appreciate its fragrance, a winter-blooming iris (Iris unguicularis) began blooming in December and shows no sign of slowing down. Each delicate blue-violet flower is nestled into the dark green foliage. When days or nights are cold, the blossoms last only a day. When days are warmer, and night temperatures above 40, each flower will last for as many as four to six days. The fragrance is delicate.

Helena's Blush The most colorful plant in my garden now is the Euphorbia 'Helena's Blush', aptly named for the pink and rose shades of the foliage for weeks in winter. This deer-resistant evergreen perennial thrives in partial shade, but I suspect that winter sun deepens the strikingly beautiful hues.

The first shrubs to bloom in my deer-resistant landscape include sweet vanilla plant (Sarcococca), followed by winter daphne (Daphne odora), and Mexican orange (Choisya ternata) . Each brings a strong fragrance into the garden, tempting me to cut sprays for bouquets. While it is still winter, days are getting longer and the fragrance in my living room has me believing that the season for spending more time outside is near.

©2009 by Carolyn Singer. All rights reserved.

Return to Articles

Return to Home Page

About us Consulting service Garden classes Published books Garden articles Garden gems