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January in the Garden

Temperatures for the past few weeks have been mild here in my Zone 7 garden.  We have had a good bit of rain and I still need to groom and cut back lots of plants  before spring gets here.  So far, it appears that many plants are making an early appearance starting with snowdrops that bloomed back in December.  Hellebores are stars at the moment and I am beginning to see a few daffodils.  This is also a great year for Daphne odora and its various selections.  I am growing two right now, Daphne odora ‘Alba’ planted on a slight slope and Daphne odora ‘Aureo-marginata,’ a selection with white flowers in a container.  You can’t beat it for its fragrant flowers which are  sweet and lemony, all at once.  If you’ve ever grown daphne then you have probably grown it before.  What I mean is for some reason daphne can do what I call (I heard this term somewhere) the daphne death dance.  Young and even mature plants up and die for no apparent reason.  The solution for this problem is to buy another daphne (remember, evergreen and fragrant winter flowers) and try again.  With this in mind, I am happy to report that a daphne I gave to my friend Julie (she thinks it was in 1992) continues to thrive in her garden today.  Daphne’s are known to prefer a well-drained soil but this is no guarantee that they will prosper.

Daphne odora 'Aureo-marginata' in garden designer David Ellis garden

Daphne odora 'Aureo-marginata' in my friend Julie's garden, she took the photo and her son shows just how large the plant has grown

Daphne odora 'Alba' in my garden, small but fragrant

If you seek winter fragrance and are not a plant snob, Mahonia bealei is reliable and hardy from Zone 7 to 9.  I know this because it was a dominant plant in my landscape when we purchased our current home over 6 years ago.  A stalwart shrub, it thrives in the shade and has tough spiny evergreen leaves.    I still have more than I want of it and as time and my budget allow, I plan to replace the majority of them with other shrubs.  Still, in December through February I  appreciate its yellow sweetly scented blooms especially  in other people’s gardens when I’m out walking our black lab.     If I were going to plant a mahonia it would be Mahonia ‘Soft Caress.’    This smaller and more diminutive mahonia is great in the garden or in containers and as the name suggests, the shiny evergreen foliage is soft to the touch.

Other plants of note this month include the buds of  Edgeworthia papyifera, the Chinese rice paper plant, colorful bark of many different trees, fuzzy  buds of deciduous magnolias, winterberry with brilliant red fruits (deciduous hollies)  and foliage of Angelica keiskei which I see offered by Plant Delights www.plantdelights.com , a mail order nursery in Raliegh, NC.   One note here about this Angelica, Plant Delights describes it as an evergreen rosette of foliage.  Mine is evergreen until summer heat sets in and then the foliage disappears for a few months, only to return when the weather cools off.  Because of this you may want to underplant with a low creeping evergreen groundcover. 

Edgeworthia papyifera buds in January 2012

Helleborus x hybridus in my garden, Jan 2012

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8 Responses to “January in the Garden”

  1. paula says:

    I enjoy you articles so much. Thank you for all your good work. I really miss your TV shows.

  2. Chris says:

    I really miss “A Gardeners Diary”. Please come back!!!

  3. Julie says:

    My little guy got a kick out of seeing his picture on your site! :)

  4. Erica says:

    thanks Cathy. In case you didn’t know, you can watch old episdoes on Hulu.

  5. Erica says:

    Thanks, I too enjoyed visiting with both of you. Hope to see you in your garden again soon.

  6. Erica says:

    Rachel,
    I think you could plant your daphne in the same pot with small herbaceous plants or on its own. Happy Gardening!

  7. aixa serpas says:

    Please bring back Erica Glasener and her garden shows. Even if they are the same old ones. I have learned a lot from them. so did my daughter We both have big gardens in Louisiana. It’s hard in here because of the temperatures in summer sometimes over 100 degrees and drought. Other times we have so much rain, that it takes two weeks for yards to dry out Thank you Aixa Serpas

  8. Edeolinda says:

    your website is the most informative. i loved your website a lot. thank you.http://www.pragasurbanas.net

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