Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Winter Colour - Guest Post by Susan Wheeler

Susan Wheeler,  a garden designer in the White Rock/South Surrey area, is writing a guest blog today! The photos of her own gardens show many of the plants that are available here at West Coast Gardens.  She has a garden design business: www.greendesign-gardenstolivein.com, as well as her own blog at www.greengardeningtips.netWe thank Susan for sharing her expertise with us!

Colour... ON THE WEST COAST, even in Winter

I must admit it, I am passionate about anything to do with colour and design and plants! And I love to share what I have learned from my work in the field of Garden Design, using photos of my own gardens.

We have certainly had a very easy winter, this time around, here on the Coast, but still the days have been pretty gloomy, what with all the rain that we are so famous for! And so I think that it is especially nice to plant our gardens so that we have something colourful to enjoy, even in winter. There are so many different colours that we can use in our gardens, from the blues of some conifers to the reds of the Bergenia and Heucheras and Skimmias. And of course, no winter garden would be complete without the lovely Hellebores!
I have put in a photo of my ‘Blue Garden’ first of all, as this garden has quite a lot of colour throughout. It shows how it looks from the street, now in late February and early March. The evergreens provide structure all through the year.

View of the 'Blue Garden' from the street


This ‘Blue Garden’ gets its name from the many ‘blue’ evergreens that live there. It is a fairly large garden, about 32 feet x 25 feet wide and has quite a lot of winter colour which is very cheerful to see, even if the weather is rather dull and dreary. Some of the colour comes from these lovely Bergenias, below. I like this plant because it always looks good, and it turns all shades of burgundy in the winter. I have planted one right next to a rather unusually coloured Hellebore.
The way the two colours support and compliment one another, as well as the way the different leaves are providing such a contrast, .makes this an interesting focal point. The reddish tones in the Bergenia also look so good with the buds of my Skimmia japonica ‘Rubella’, growing just behind it.

                                                          Winter colours of the Bergenia

Close up of a hellebore companion

This garden had a complete over-haul about two years ago as I found that I needed some stepping stones throughout, in order to be able to prune and weed, when necessary.
You can see some of the newly installed basalt stepping stones in this photo, below.

New basalt stepping-stone pathway


A WIDE CHOICE OF EVERGREENS, both broadleaf and needled.

I am originally from Ontario and often in the winter I would look out and see my gardens with patches of simply ‘dirt’.... empty and stark!  And so, when I began designing these gardens, I decided that I wanted to have them looking lush, green and fairly full every season, not just in the summertime. Therefore, you will see a lot of evergreen plants throughout my gardens with something always either in bloom, or providing colour through the leaves, all through the year... even in winter! Please note that this deep pink Heuchera, to the right of the steps in the photo above, while not exactly blooming, has lots of colour and adds interest through its beautiful pink leaves. And because of our mild climate, luckily there are quite a number of evergreen plants to choose from that supply differing shades of green, as well as many different textures, and this also adds more interest. Even the simple moss and lichen on the large rocks add bright colour. Also, in the photo, above, you may be able to see the pink stems and buds of one of the best Hellebores, ever, Helleborus X ‘Rosemary’. Of all the lovely flowers that we are able to grow in this part of the country, I think that the Hellebores must be my favourites because who is not going to be absolutely thrilled to see these early flowers coming out in February?

Bright green lichen or moss can add interest and colour

Below, you can see some of my Hellebores which are now starting to bloom.
Double pink Hellebores are somewhat rare, but very eye-catching!

Near to the street sidewalk, I have planted Skimmia japonica ‘Rubella’. I think it never hurts to give passers-by something to cheer them, (especially when the weather is nasty), as they take their dear little canine friends for a walk. I prefer to grow the kinds that do not produce the red berries. I like to see just the reddish buds. (This photo is from last year as my Skimmia did not do quite  as well this year .I’m not sure why.... )

 Last year my Helleborus X ‘Rosemary’ bloomed from November right through until May! Of course, as they always do, the flowers slowly turned to a quiet shade of green. Here you can see how they looked in this same garden, last year. Soon they will be coming up even more vigorously this year!

One of the best - Hellebores, 'Rosemary'

They did very well in my large front planters also and they lasted from November until April when I removed them and planted them into the ‘Blue Garden’. This year I planted different Hellebores,‘Josef Lemper’, below.

Hellebore 'Josef Lemper' with its flowers slowly changing to green

 And, in the center of this garden there are also several types of those beautiful green–flowering Hellebores- argutifolius and foetidus, below.

They are such architectural plants and always make a statement as green flowers are so rare. This pink-edged one, below, is Helleborus foetidus ‘Wester Flisk’.

And, then finally, I would not want to forget about those stunningly beautiful ‘black’ Hellebores. They need to be sited carefully in order to really be seen, as sometimes they can almost disappear into the garden. But if you take a moment to look closely at their lovely faces, you will be amazed at their beauty....

One of my special 'black beauties'


One Garden Tip I would offer, is to add some medium-fine bark mulch just before the winter sets in, especially if you are growing Hellebores. Not only will it help protect the plants from too much change in temperature, but will prevent the soil from splashing up onto the new flowers and leaves. This way you can avoid that one nasty problem that seems to trouble Hellebores, certainly here, where we have so much rain, and that is mold. The other thing that I do is cut off all of the old leaves as soon as I can see that the plants are starting to put out their new flower buds. It is a good way to get the jump on your spring clean up, and it makes the garden and the flowers look great!

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NOTE: all photos and text in this website/blog are copyrighted and may not be used without the written permission of Susan Wheeler.