Posted on 36 Comments

Garden Bloggers’ Bloom Day – January 2009


Text and photos ©Nancy J. Ondra

Until yesterday, I wasn’t sure if I was going to participate in Bloom Day this month. I didn’t want to make the other northern bloggers look bad, because it takes a certain kind of horticultural skill to create combinations like these. But Bloom Day is all about sharing, so I decided I simply couldn’t resist passing along some of my best tips for enjoying dependable winter color.

First, consider cold tolerance. Hardy geraniums (Pelargonium semperrubrum), for instance, are invaluable for cheerful color no matter what the weather.


Hardy African violets (Saintpaulia pseudoflora) are useful too. Look how those silken petals make a pretty backdrop for the dainty blooms of ‘Golden Starlet’ heather (Erica carnea).


And don’t you just love it when the variegated boxwood (Buxus sempervirens ‘Fallax’) comes into bloom?


Some gardeners are so grateful for anything to look at in winter that they’ll settle for any old blooms. However, it doesn’t take much more effort to put together some creative color combinations. Notice how I’ve artfully chosen companions to echo the colors of the dogwood stems in these two beds in my side garden.



Oh, darn – how did that dandelion sneak in there? Bloody cool-season weeds.


One more hint: Don’t overlook the value of including eye-catching ornaments and structures for extra off-season color.



So, now you know the secrets to creating stunning winter scenes. They’re too pretty to be real, aren’t they?


Now, go visit the other Bloom Day posts through the links at May Dreams Gardens. I think it’s safe to say that you won’t see many images like these, though!

Posted on 36 Comments

36 thoughts on “Garden Bloggers’ Bloom Day – January 2009

  1. Hi Nancy. Brilliant work, it looks so pretty but very strange. It must have been great fun to do. This is what I call a Blooms Day!/ Tyra

    Thanks, Tyra! It’s been a difficult winter this year, so one does what one must.

  2. Tee hee! Are you limbering up for April 1st?

    Why VP, whatever do you mean?

  3. HA Nan, you had me going there for a minute, not! I absolutely love the text descriptions, with color echoes and stunning combinations that only a pro like you could imagine.

    I placed my Chiltern’s order, with some things I have never even heard of, like selinum, among others that start with the letter I. I cannot even read the whole catalog, so just choose a letter or two and go from there. :-)

    Good call on the selinum, Frances. I’ve tried S. carvifolia and thought it was nice (rather like Queen Anne’s lace). Now I want to try S. tenuifolium. I’ve seen photos of it, and it looks amazing!

  4. Even though I am the first to admit that my skills are lacking , I knew it simply had to be tongue-in-cheek as soon as the ‘hardy’ Saintpaulias made their entrance ;-)

    I hope no pelargoniums were hurt in the making of this film.

    Oh, no – they weren’t even slightly disturbed when I banged them against the fence to knock off the dust before planting.

  5. I knew something was fishy! There’s a house nearby that puts our fake blooms all year. It drives me nuts!

    Not the same ones all year, I hope! It’s much more fun to change them with the seasons, I think.

  6. That was a riot! I started out with the first photo, scrolled up to remember where you are(!), headed back down… That is so funny! Makes me want to apologize for being so serious!
    I may have to visit my local WM or $ store to see how they might help me with my “Sunny Bed.” My neighbors need a good chuckle! ;-)

    I’m sure they could help with your problem site, Shady. Proper plant selection is important all year ’round. Thumbs down to those “experts” who sniff at people who want showy, low-maintenance, and deer-resistant flowers and foliage for four-season color. It’s easy if you know how!

  7. I can’t stop chuckling Nan. Just what a gardener needs when the wind is whipping around single digit temps. The snow is a lovely backdrop for ‘silkyus plantus’.

    We’re having the same awful weather, Lisa. I was kind of tempted to leave the “plants” outdoors, but they’d have either blown away or been covered with snow by now.

  8. Just what we needed on these cold cold days;-) a little subtle color! Keep warm. gail

    Well, I’m all about subtle, you know. Glad you enjoyed the show!

  9. Your humor refreshed my January spirit. :) Thanks.

    Glad I made you smile, Donna!

  10. We cold climate people gotta do what we’ve gotta do! Your post made me smile.

    Oh, Cynthia, if I’d known that I’d one day have to resort to (mostly) fake flowers for garden color – AND that I’d post the evidence on the Web for all to see – well…I’m glad I *didn’t* know until yesterday!

  11. Hilarious! Thanks for a good laugh on the coldest day of the year.

    I’ll bet you’re now thinking how nice it would look to add some pseudo-blooms to your Bank of Springfield borders, aren’t you? They would certainly get attention!

  12. Hee hee. You’re a dedicated jokester to go around poking flowers in a snowy, cold landscape. I hope you wore your snow boots.

    It was one time I was grateful for ice-crusted snow; without it, there’d have been nothing to hold up the faux flowers. But kneeling to take some of the closeups wasn’t much fun. Knee pads would have been useful!

  13. I especially like the way the bunny can warm itself up by snuggling down into the lovely purple flower bed.
    I see now that I simply have not been trying hard enough for 4 season colour. You did a nice job coordinating the warm and cool colour beds. I might have to specialize in cool colours.

    Good point! I should have added the point that when creating plant pairings for winter interest, cold- (er…I mean cool-) color combinations are definitely appropriate!

  14. Wow! I’m not sure what those other northern gardeners are whining about. You sure know how to give a green thumbs up to the nastiest, snowiest GBBD on record.

    Very clever of you to turn a bleak January GBBD into a brilliantly funny post. I especially love the one with the bunny sculpture.

    Yes, well, I try. (Which is usually followed around here by “Yes, dear, you’re very trying.” Thanks, Mom.) I’m glad you liked the bunny; that’s my favorite one too!

  15. Aren’t you clever? And why didn’t I think of that! Oh…even if I had, there is no way I would have gone out today in this horrid cold to make my garden look as pretty as yours. I’m glad you did and that you shared. :-)

    It was my pleasure to be able to brighten your day, Kylee. And compared to today, it was warmish then.

  16. AWESOME. At least until I realized that this is exactly what all of those “I want a no-maintenance garden!” people would probably buy if they thought they could get away with it!

    Er…right…I might have set a dangerous precedent!

  17. I’m anxiously awaiting your next book with all your secrets for these wonderful winter combinations. You are definitely a trend-setter, one who knows how to combine those colors “just right”. Some people think when it comes to the genus Plasticus and the genus Silkius that you can just put the plants anywhere and they will look good. You’ve shown how with a little care and a good eye, you can really give your garden that “Huh?” look that we all strive for. Thank you for posting so faithfully for bloom day! I learn something every time I visit.

    Oh yes, that would be the Winterscaping book. It was a pleasure to use my skill in honor of Bloom Day. Desperate times call for desperate measures.

  18. Nan, you’re a riot! Your sense of humor is so refreshing on the -6ºF (-21C) morning :)
    And I got even more chuckles reading the comments.
    I’m picturing you trudging around in the snow and frigid temps, setting up these very clever vignettes….what a scream :) And then I’m wondering…what’s she doing with fake flowers in her possession???
    The rabbit scene is especially lovely, but I love them all.
    You win the prize for originality this GBBD…hands down! :)

    Er…um…they’re not mine! I, uh…I borrowed them. Yeah, that’s it. I borrowed them from Mom. Uh huh. I’ll tell her you enjoyed them!

  19. I’m with Kylee. Even if I had thought to garden as extravagantly as you, I wouldn’t have been willing to spend that much time outdoors to achieve the effect.

    I’m willing to go to any lengths to uphold the Bloom Day tradition!

  20. LOL! Now that’s true desperation. I’m not suprised that you’ve been able to make attractive color schemes with fake flowers. At least you could get outside to the garden. I’ve been hibernating in the house for the past couple of days. (It’s -18 here now. How long til spring?)

    Too long, I’m afraid, MMD. And trust me, I’m back inside too, except for occasional forays to take warm water out to the boys. It looks bright and sunny, but it’s brutal out there!

  21. Ok, now I know for sure that all you northern gardeners have a serious case of cabin fever! ;-) I was LOL by the end. Hang in there!

    It’s that obvious, huh?

  22. Why does this post not surprise me???? It’s abfab! fran

    Thanks, buddy. You know I always aspire to be fabulous.

  23. Hi Nancy, I thought the blooms were a li’l too bright…then I realized! But what a lovely combination of colours…still chuckling as I write this.
    Thank you for stopping by my blog.

    Welcome to the madness that is a January Bloom Day for those of us in northern North America. Enjoy your mums in your gloriously warm Indian garden.

  24. Oh, Nancy – you are a stitch!
    But you’re also so young! Over the years I’ve met many a once-active gardener who resorted to Artificial Flowers in desperation. Those old ladies fully realized they’re tacky but would rather have any bits of color than face the endlessly bleak winter landscape.

    I also noticed fake flowers tucked tucked into the landscape at a stop on a big garden walk. They were an emergency fix after deer had sneaked in before the tour date.

    Happy GBBD! Hope I never get this desperate ;-]

    Annie at the Transplantable Rose

    Hey, I’m not *that* young, Annie! And anyway, I don’t believe that there are any age restrictions on tackiness; you either have it or you don’t. Or wait…isn’t there a saying about some people being born tacky, some achieving tackiness, and others having tackiness thrust upon them? Yeah, I’ll go with the last one. Or maybe the second one.

  25. Creepy. Makes me appreciate why I choose to live in a place where we have real seasons — where the color creeps in with slow bursts in spring and gradually fades in fall. Seeing the colors of summer superimposed on winter — well, it sent shivers up my spine. Lord knows I’ve go enough of those as it is. (-12F this morning.)

    Now Craig, it’s not like I *leave* them out there. Less than 30 minutes of faux color total, I swear. It won’t happen again. Probably.

  26. Priceless! Just the sort of flowers this gardener with minus 15 (F) temperatures outside can admit to having. It reminds me of an incident at my friend’s place a couple of years ago. We were admiring her holding beds out at the back of her garden, when across the beds I saw a clump of yellow flowers among peony leaves. Did she have P. mlokosveitchii? (I may have the spelling not quite right, but Molly the Witch has yellow flowers and is just amazing.) An Itoh peony? I scrambled across in great excitement to find…yup. Silk flowers. Very well made ones, I must say. She still teases me about them.

    What a great story, Jodi. Gardening is so much more enjoyable when we can add in a little silliness now and then.

  27. I wonder how many people walked by and took a second look! That’s exactly what I did, when last summer, I was walking past a neighbors house and I saw a wonderful purple plant. It looked like an iris. So I walked over to it in amazement only to discover it was silk. It really floored me.

    Ah, another good story! I don’t think I was observed during my photo shoot, but even if I were, I doubt anyone going by here would be surprised to see me planting fake flowers. They already think I’m loony.

  28. You are the ‘Queen of Combinations’! There is quite a bit of extra time on one’s hands when they are not immersed in soil.

    Well, you appreciate how tough it is to keep up with the Bloom Day tradition in our region, Layanee – especially for those of us without indoor plants. And you know, I don’t think anyone gave me credit for having *real* flowers on my heather.

  29. Reminds me of my grandma’s side “garden” of plastic tulips. I think they might still be there–for the next 5,000 years.

    Point taken, Benjamin. I plead temporary insanity, ok? I’ll try to go legit next month.

  30. Ha! Brilliant. Thanks for the fun post.

    Thanks for visiting, Elizabeth. Glad you enjoyed it.

  31. Hi Nan: After the horrible below-zero weather of last week, using plants that don’t care about temperature, or deer or water or soil either, is tempting indeed. Thank you for leading the way. Why haven’t we thought about wintering over our african violets outdoors before? “Wintering over”: Of course! It means “right out there, in the winter.” What ever were we thinking?

    I see the winter madness has stuck you too, Louis. Let’s hope we get a little milder weather soon. I hear it may actually go above freezing by the end of the week. Woo hoo!

  32. Ah, you got me with my ignorance of winter. Until I read your comments I thought it was real!

    Hah! See all that white stuff on the ground? That’s ice-covered snow. But you wouldn’t know anything about that, you in your toasty warm Caribbean garden with bougainvillea and poinciana trees. Don’t you feel sorry for us?

  33. I don’t like to admit it but I was writing down the names of the plants until I got to the boxwood! I, for a moment, thought there ‘might’ be some type of geranium and african violet (I can’t believe it now:((
    I am ALWAYS, always, the last one to get a joke. It’s embarrasing, really. I’m intelligent (I think) but not so good on the uptake sometimes. Thanks for a good laugh and a reminder to me that I need to remember not to take things at face value;)

    Oh, poor Jan. Well, be glad you didn’t start asking your local nursery where you could find hardy African violets. Now that you’re armed with some skepticism, you may want to check out the offerings from Shady Deals Nursery.

  34. Too funny. Horticultural skills, I’ll say.

    We have a house nearby that has tulips in the bed 365 days a year too.

    Robin Wedewer, Examiner
    also at

    Ever-blooming tulips, huh? Nice!

  35. When you referenced this post in February’s GBBD I had to come look. I am glad you have a good sense of humor. There was a house in Richmond decades ago whose owner covered the windows from the inside and stuffed the cavities full of plastic flowers. When you looked at the house from the outside the windows looked like the floor of a florist shop after an unusually busy day.

    Glad you liked it, Les. I’m amused by your description of the house. That would have been photo-worthy!

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