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Gardening: No Winter Garden? Plan One Now!

At this extraordinary juncture in U.S.. history, I’m finding it hard to write about gardening. Gardening itself, however, is still seductive — a rare escape from anguish mixed with sheer terror. When I am gardening, gardening is pretty much all I think about. So any chance I get, as long as the temperature hits 45 or better, I have been outside sprucing up my winter garden, clearing the decks for emerging signs of spring.

My first priority is removing an excess of wet, fallen leaves where primroses and small early bulbs are emerging. Then I cut last year’s leaves off the hellebores. It deters blackspot disease and shows off the flowers, some of which are already opening. And it is easier to do now than after new leaves appear, especially if the clumps are large. I’ve also started clearing and weeding some places where the foliage of daffodils and tulips are poking out of the ground.

Most yards look pretty drab at this time of year. They don’t have to. Winter flowers may be smaller and less showy than the glorious blooms of late spring and summer, but they can still make a difference. They also provide food for honey bees, which can emerge on any sunny winter afternoon. One witch hazel, a couple of Lenten roses and a clump of snowdrops in a spot you pass by every day or see from a window can really lift your mood.

Lenten rose

Lenten rose

SOME OUTSTANDING WINTER ORNAMENTALS

Lenten rose (Helleborus x hybridus)
Snowdrop, early crocus, winter aconite
Witch hazel
Cornus alba ‘Elegantissima’, Cornus ‘Midwinter Fire’(for colorful twigs)
Pieris variegata - compact growth and pretty leaves-a great container plant
Iris fetidissima ‘Variegata’(for beautiful variegated leaves)
Mahonia species, native or not, are great for the bees

Witch hazel