Posted on 24 Comments

Garden Bloggers’ Bloom Day – December 2008


Text and photos ©Nancy J. Ondra

Note to self: Next time you want to try something a little different, do not wait until the day before Bloom Day to do it! See, I assumed that I wouldn’t have any actual blooms to share, and I was getting a little bored with my all-brown or brown-and-white December photos, so I decided to see if I could do comparison shots of the same combinations in two different seasons. That turned out to be a lot tricker than I expected! But to start, my one flower (bud) shot above, of Erica ‘Golden Starlet’. This poor thing gets smothered by a nearby amsonia through most of the growing season, yet manages to survive and even flower. Bless its little heart for coming through for Bloom Day this month.

And now, some comparisons. This one is from the side garden, featuring yellow-stemmed ‘Silver and Gold’ dogwood (Cornus sericea), pony tail grass (Stipa tenuissima), and silverleaf hydrangea (Hydrangea arborescens subsp. radiata). The top is from yesterday; the bottom is from July.


Here’s another vignette in the side garden that’s held up well, taken from the other side of the bed shown above. You can see the yellow stem tips of the ‘Silver and Gold’ dogwood, along with the red stems of a variegated sport of ‘Cardinal’ dogwood, and the blond locks of the pony tail grass. In the photo I took yesterday, the summer stars are barely visible.


But it’s easy to see the silver willow (Salix alba var. sericea) and the giant fleeceflower (Persicaria polymorpha) in the June shot below.


The silver willow is also the anchor for the border just outside the fence. Here’s the view from a week ago, with the grasses and the rudbeckia, echinacea, and liatris seedheads dusted by snow…


…and the same view in October.


Here’s a quiet shot of a corner of the front garden taken a week ago, of Knock Out rose (Rosa ‘Radrazz’) with ‘Dallas Blues’ switch grass (Panicum virgatum) and Japanese emperor oak (Quercus dentata):


And a rather louder version of the same from June, with the plumes of giant fleeceflower.


And one more set, from the Arc Borders. The first image is from a week ago, starring a variety of grasses and seedheads.


And from July, featuring the foliage of golden elderberry (Sambucus nigra ‘Aurea’). Aaah, look at that green!


Well, that was fun. I’ll have to try that again – making sure I give myself plenty of time! For more Bloom Day pics from all around the world, be sure to visit May Dreams Gardens.

Posted on 24 Comments

24 thoughts on “Garden Bloggers’ Bloom Day – December 2008

  1. Thank you Nan, you have made this GBBD post really interesting. Though your garden is brown, think how boring it would be if all the plants had been cut down and it was just the bare soil. A lesson to us all – in the nicest, Nan, way of course!

    Best wishes Sylvia

    Thanks, Sylvia. I have a friend who, at each visit, asks “So…you just leave all this this up until spring?” Sometimes I wonder why I do. But exercises like this make me glad I do!

  2. I know what you mean Nan, my husband keep saying “shouldn’t you cut it all down?” or “the garden is looking a bit untidy!”, I just tell him I don’t have time! At least blogs help me appreciate the ‘finer things in the garden’.


    “A bit untidy” is a generous description of how most gardens tend to look this time of year. At least you can now show your husband that you’re not alone in delaying the cleanup.

  3. I love this post.
    The now and then shots are great
    Something I always mean to do.
    I was thinking of putting little marker points in the garden so that I remember to stand at the same place each season :)

    That’s a good idea, Karen. The other challenges were trying to keep the same type of focus and the same composition. During the growing season, for instance, I tended to make the silver willow the focal point of combinations, but when I took the recent shots, I kept wanting to feature the dogwoods more prominently.

  4. Those were great photos, I love the different season views. What is that wonderful grass with the purple cast on the top?

    Thanks, LaDonna. If you’re referring to the side-border shot, the pinkish grass is ‘Dallas Blues’ switch grass (Panicum virgatum). If you mean the very last shot from the Arc Borders, the pinkish plumes to the left side are on frost grass (Spodiopogon sibiricus).

  5. Beautiful and educational too. Well done, Nan. I would love to see you do this with your favorite vignettes through four seasons–or more!

    I definitely plan to try that, Pam. It’s going to take a lot more practice, though. I know the combinations I like to shoot; it’s just getting the right angle that was hard. I’m thinking the easiest route will be to print out the images I have to use as reference points for future shots.

  6. Hi Nan. Lovely photos! Is Stipa tenuissima hardy in PA? I have to treat it as an annual here in IL.

    Shhh…don’t tell it that it’s not supposed to be hardy here either. It doesn’t seem to know that!

  7. Nan .. I’m in awe of your gardens ! They are beautiful no matter what stage .. but a huge wow with the comparison shots ! I really want to do that too !
    What I am a sucker for are the grasses .. the Stipa is gorgeous .. something about them that I absolutely love : )
    A wonderful presentation Nan !!
    Thanks : )

    I always appreciate your comments, Joy. I too love the Stipa. I’m thinking I need a lot more next year!

  8. Great post! It really shows the extremes, both beautiful!

    Welcome, Sheila, and thanks for your kind comment.

  9. I really enjoyed this post. What a beautiful way to show your garden’s personality through the year. I like it that you leave it up also, I mean, what if someone tried to chop me down every time I had a bad hair day?

    Now, that’s a scary thought, Robin!

  10. Hiya Nan,


    Sometimes I actually prefer the Winter version.
    You are an artist, with those [bigger ;-)] photographs.

    And some cry out to be painted in palette knife oil.I bet you do that as well.

    I’m so happy you came back this month, Joco. You have no idea what I went through to wrestle the photos into submission so you could see the larger versions. But it was worth the effort, and the whole process should go more smoothly in future. I’m glad you enjoyed them! And no, I have no artistic ability as far as painting on canvas, only on soil.

  11. When all around us people mow everything down and neaten up the garden (not a leaf to be found) seedheads left for winter interest, reseeding, health of the plant or feeding the critters seems messy! But we know better! I love your grasses and seed headed plants~~ they are gorgeous! Gail

    Thanks, Gail. At work, we cut everything to the ground in late October and November, and it was very sad to see. We didn’t have much choice, though, because the voles were tunneling everywhere there was any sort of leaf cover. I have some problems with mice and voles here, but I usually don’t mind too much if they eat a few things, because it makes room for new plants!

  12. Go Erica! How thoughtful of it to open in time.
    You haven’t lost any interest from the before to the after shots. Your examples make it painfully clear to me that I am not showing off my Dogwoods to their best advantage. Guess who’s going to be propagating Dogwoods next season?

    If you can find it, do try the ‘Silver and Gold’ dogwood! It’s by far the best for me: dense, compact growth; great-looking variegated foliage for the growing season; bright yellow twigs for winter; and – so far, at least – none of the dieback that discolors the stems of my ‘Bud’s Yellow’, ‘Sunshine’, Ivory Halo, and ‘Gouchaultii’.

  13. Hi Nan!
    Fun to see several part of your garden in bouth sumer and winter shapes.


    Thanks for stopping by, Ken. I owe you and Carina a visit!

  14. I love seeing photos of an area over time. The garden always has that fourth dimension of time to think about when planning and to appreciate in every season. It’s great to see how plant combinations change in real life. I’m glad you had the idea, although I know how sometimes they take a lot longer to put together.

    Welcome, NS. Come to think of it, seasonal progressions like these are some of my favorite pictures in books, too. It’s one thing to get a little vignette that looks perfect at one moment; it’s quite another to get an area looking good in two or more seasons, especially when one of those seasons is winter. This post has already given me some ideas about how I might fix up some other areas of my garden.

  15. That really is fun Nan! No matter what time of year, your garden always looks great.
    It’s always interesting to me to hear different common plant names from what I’m used to. For instance, this is the first time I’ve heard Stipa tenuissima referred to as Ponytail grass. Down here I’ve always heard it called Mexican feather grass. But I’ve always thought that it looks more like blond hair than anything, so your common name is much more apt!

    Ah, the joy and curse of common names. I suspect that Mexican feather grass is the more common common name, but I learned it first as pony tail grass, and so it will always remain in my mind. As you say, it’s certainly appropriate!

  16. Nan, I just love those comparison photos. Great idea for GBBD. We all want to copy you. BTW, your garden is lovely any time of the year…

    Oh, I’m not the first to have done that, I’m sure. And I can tell you that my garden really doesn’t look lovely right at this moment, all weighed down with wet snow and ice. I appreciate your kind comments, though!

  17. I just love this post. It is funny that I was thinking about doing the same thing but I didn’t get it done. Maybe after the holidays and all the Christmas Bird Counts we are doing. I really like the shot of your path. It looks inviting even when covered with snow.

    Thanks, Lisa. I hope you do try doing some comparisons for your own garden. I’m learning so much from mine!

  18. I really like the comparison pictures. It just shows how important it is to consider form, as well as flower, when planting a garden. You do it so well! Thanks for a terrific bloom day post!

    I appreciate you taking the time to visit, Carol. Winter Bloom Days provide continuing challenges for those of us in the dreary north!

  19. Hi Nan, sorry so late in getting here! I was just reading your book Grasses that came in the mail yesterday! I knew you would understand. :-) This is such a great idea, and does show the winter interest so well. When do you cut everything back? All at once or certain things sooner than others? It still looks quite neat, your plants are well chosen. The red twig dogwoods here are dying the slow death, drought probably. Do you think the silver and gold is a better selection that the variegated C. elegantissima? I think that is the name of it. It is wonderful to see all views of your garden at any time of year, so much to learn from. Thanks.

    Hi Frances! Mostly I wait until March to cut stuff back, unless something keels over into a path. And yes, I like ‘Silver and Gold’ the best of all the dogwoods I’ve tried. ‘Elegantissima’ is ok, but it got that stem canker; it looks ok from a distance but yucky close up. ‘Silver and Gold’ has been a dependable beauty here and in my old garden.

  20. I’m a little late getting over here Nan but I like see the contrasts between the seasons in your garden. You really can see what plants are good for year round interest with your photographs. I especially like the arc border area with the ornamental grasses!

    Thanks, Dave! You’re doing a good job with before-and-after pictures of your garden projects, too.

  21. it is winter isn’t it. we are a few degrees above freezing which means we miss the 10 inches of snow not that far north of us here in PA.

    Lucky you, Wayne. I’m somewhat north of you; we’re getting ice here instead of rain or snow. It sure *is* winter in PA!

  22. Hi!*waving* from the (now muddy) midwest. Have you ever tried the two-toned dogwoods? ‘Winter Flame’ is one. I’m curious because I’m considering these for my own garden, and also for use as cut branches in arrangements. I’ve made note of ‘Silver and Gold’ for the yellow stems. I have ‘Elegantissima’ and a dappled willow that has okay color. Another shrub with really nice red stems is ‘Henry’s Garnet’ sweetspire, a sweet surprise!

    Hi back from equally muddy Pennsylvania! I planted what I thought was ‘Winter Flame’, but the silly things are 7 years old now and barely 18 inches tall, so I’m guessing they were mislabeled. (Gee, Nan, ya think?) I’ll have to try again to get the correct cultivar this year. You’re right that the red stems of itea are great. An even brighter red is Salix alba ‘Chermesina’.

  23. Nancy: Looking at the shot of the heather, can I ask what you have planted with it? It looks like a sedum, but I may be mistaken. The reason I ask, is that I planted my own little heather last fall, and intermingled it with Angelina sedum. The foliage of the heather contrasted so “neatly” with the texture of the sedum and the orange tones both had taken on were gorgeous together — I thought I was being so original and clever. Looking at your photo, maybe not . . .

    With regards to the commentator enquiring about Cornus “Midwinter Flame.” I added three to my crowd of plants this year, having been inspired by a lovely photo spread of a Winter Walk that appeared in an issue of the British magazine Gardens Illustrated last year. The shrubs are relatively non-descript in both foliage and stem during the summer months but as soon as the weather starts getting cool, the stems begin to glow orange-coral, and stay like that until it starts getting warm again in May. Absolutely gorgeous colour and a welcome sight right now with all the grey weather, the rain and snow and ice!!

    The sedum in that shot was one of the first self-sown seedlings from my ‘Angelina’, and it looked so good there that I let it stay. But you get bonus points for seeing the possibilities and creating the combination on purpose.

    I *definitely* need to get some ‘Midwinter Flame’. The dogwoods sure are good at withstanding this awful ice.

  24. Wonderful comparison shots, Nan. Great idea, and thanks for taking the tedious time to find and fit them together. I can just imagine what a lovely time the birds have with all those seeds and berries. Bird heaven!
    Your garden looks glorious in both sets of pics….always full of interesting shapes, texures and colors.
    Inspiring!! You always give me lots of ideas.
    I hope you had a wonderful Christmas. Wishing you joy and many blessings in the new year. Happy seed ordering!

    Thanks, Kerri; I’m glad you enjoyed the comparisons. And you’re right: The birds are always busy picking up the seeds and berries that are left. Happy New Year to you and your family, too!

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