Text and photos ©Nancy J. Ondra
My ability to appreciate forms and stems and seedheads fizzled out way too soon this winter. Usually, I’m good until late January, at least, and then there’s seed-sowing to distract me from the boring outdoors for a few weeks until spring starts making an appearance. But then, we usually slide into winter a bit more gradually, unlike the seemingly endless cycle of ice events every few days from December through much of January. It’s almost a relief to get snow now as a change.
Many of the plants I left for winter structure were ruined weeks ago by the ice, but yesterday’s snow reminded me that there are still some perennials and woodies looking good in their skeletal form. So, in anticipation of this weekend’s promised warming trend, I took one last stroll to appreciate these sturdy beauties.
The outside-the-fence borders are pretty battered-looking up close, but they’re still respectable from a distance.
Closer to the house, individual perennials are more obvious. There’s Arkansas bluestar (Amsonia hubrichtii):
Aromatic aster (Symphyotrichum oblongifolium):
Chrysanthemum ‘Sheffield Pink’:
Cardoon (Cynara cardunculus):
False hemp (Datisca cannabina):
Purple coneflower (Echinacea purpurea) with aromatic aster (Symphyotrichum oblongifolium) and fountain grass (Pennisetum alopecuroides):
More purple coneflower (Echinacea purpurea) seedheads:
Still more purple coneflower (front half was cut back in early June; back half was left unpruned):
Rattlesnake master (Eryngium yuccifolium):
Leavenworth’s eryngo (Eryngium leavenworthii):
Joe-Pye weed (Eupatoriadelphus maculatus):
Queen-of-the-prairie (Filipendula rubra):
‘Lemon Queen’ perennial sunflower (Helianthus):
Giant fleeceflower (Persicaria polymorpha):
Summer phlox (Phlox hybrid):
Black-eyed Susan (Rudbeckia hirta) in foreground and orange coneflower (R. fulgida var. fulgida) at the back:
Ironweed (Vernonia hybrid):
‘Temptation’ Culver’s root (Veronicastrum):
‘Cloud Nine’ switch grass (Panicum virgatum):
‘Rotstrahlbusch’ switch grass (Panicum virgatum):
‘Karl Foerster’ feather reed grass (Calamagrostis x acutiflora):
Little bluestem (Schizachyrium scoparium):
Pony tail grass (Stipa tenuissima):
Last, a few woody plants that still have some eye-catching interest, starting with southern bush honeysuckle (Diervilla sessilifolia):
Silverleaf hydrangea (Hydrangea arborescens subsp. radiata):
Emperor or daimyo oak (Quercus dentata):
This last one never fails to amaze me. It was a single-stemmed seedling barely 18 inches tall when planted in 2002; now it’s over 10 feet tall. The only other woody that’s grown so fast here is a silver willow (Salix alba var. sericea). You expect that from a willow, of course, but not an oak. This one hangs onto its leaves until some time in March, when they suddenly all drop within a period of 2 or 3 days, as the new growth starts to push. There’s a word for the phenomenon of dead leaves hanging on to the branches: marcescence. Beeches (Fagus) and hornbeams (Carpinus) do this too. But with leaves this size, it’s far more of a spectacle.