Cheery (and tasty) winter companions

Mush, schmush. Some plants went down in the early freeze, but the mums barely shivered. ‘Country Girl’ chrysanthemums expect a vase on the Christmas table, though the faltering asters will be gone by then.

Country Girl chrysanthemums and fall asters
To tidy up a bit, I clipped off rain-drenched departures. A few minutes of work means new flowers to ring in the New Year.

Country Girl chrysanthemum
‘Butterpat’ mums are gearing up for champagne.

Butterpat chrysanthemum
This beneficial hover fly (syrphid fly) warmed up enough to get lunch. (Sadly, one froze in the middle of dinner).

Hover fly on Butterpat chrysanthemum
Just a few frosty nights rendered a color change. Since I adore burgundy, I thank my Rusty blackhaw viburnum to satisfy me, even briefly, before its leaves hit the ground to enrich its soil.

Rusty blackhaw viburnum winter leaves
This new Salvia regla wanted to tell me that it’s happy in its “forever home,” even when it goes into hiding soon.  “Don’t forget me while I’m gone!”

Mountain sage, salvia regla

Its young buddy already got frost-burned, but the spiderworts are guarding the reglas from the shovel until late spring. They’re joined by baby blue-eyes that re-seed every year since 2009 when Melissa at Zanthan Gardens dug up transplants from her garden for me.

Spiderwort and baby blue-eyes seedlings
Salvia coccineas have gone to their forever home in the compost pile. They left a legacy through the seeds they frantically spewed the last few weeks.

A month or so ago, I planted cherviI near the summer performer, A&M Texas Superstar angelonia, since I knew it would hit the ground in freeze.

Chervil and cut back angelonia companion planting

Over winter, chervil’s a cheery little herb to pinpoint where I want more angelonia next summer. By the time angelonias return to the nursery, the chervil will have checked out of its winter resort. Until then, it’s great in salads, sauces, or other recipes for a touch of anise flavor.

Recently, when I found feverfew (Tanacetum parthenium) grown by local Gabriel Valley Farms, I nabbed a few to fill a spot in front.

Feverfew with sorrel and pansy winter garden

In the past, I’ve loved its prolific white flowers that companion with spring bulbs and into early summer.

Feverfew with spring bulbs companion plant

In Judy Barrett’s book, What Can I Do With My Herbs?, I learned that bees do not like feverfew.  She plants it around hummingbird feeders or doorways where you might not want bees.  So, don’t include them in your vegetable garden!  But for a few feverfew in your ornamental garden, the bees will still zoom in on nearby feeding flowers this winter!  In my experience, feverfew’s tenacity in summer and its return depends totally on conditions. What’s been your experience?

Nearby, I added red-veined sorrel.  When it’s not in our salad bowls, it’s just so pretty!

Red-veined sorrel
One of my first winter annuals as a gardener was fragrant stock. This year, I just couldn’t resist a repeat!

Pink stock
I paired them with my little leaf Jerusalem sage (Phlomis lanata) and silvery Heartleaf skullcap, FINALLY making a comeback. Oooh, that deep pink and silver to come; what a winter combination.

Pink stock with Phlomis lanata and heartleaf skullcap

Stock up your sunny front door and patio containers for fragrant punch to greet your holiday guests!

Although rain-beaten, my new ‘Sonnet Crimson’ snapdragons are so poetic against the one ‘Diamond Frost’ euphorbia that made it through drought.
After this picture, I snipped the snaps for new flowers to feed nectaring wildlife this winter.

Snapdragon and Proven Winners Diamond Frost euphorbia

Finally, I thank you all so much for sharing my life and CTG this year! It’s a total honor to serve you. Your questions, insight, and pictures award you all an “associate producer” credit to help gardeners sharing your concerns. Your guidance is essential, and I thank you very much!

Lady Banks rose with crossvine

Tom and I also thank the gardeners who supported CTG this year with their pledges of support!  And please give a shout out to our production underwriters, Geo Growers and The Planket.  And to our 2011 local underwriters: Botanical Concerns, The Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, the Sustainable Food Center (Sunset Valley Farmers Market), and Breed and Company.

Buff Beauty rose

Thanks to you, we’re on the way to another 40 programs, coming your way starting January 7!  Happy holidays and we’ll see you in the New Year!  Linda

7 Responses to “Cheery (and tasty) winter companions”

  1. Robert Breeze says:

    That’s a great tip about putting the feverfew around hummingbird feeders. It’s now on my To-Do list! Question: With all this mushy ground, is it okay to plant right now? I have three milkweed plants I’ve been keeping inside for two weeks now that I bought for the sole purpose of feeding Monarch caterpillars I was raising through the freeze and now they’re almost leaf-less. Which is worse for them–keeping them inside under florescent lights and tap water or putting them in a flooded yard?

    • Linda says:

      Hi, Robert! Great question! Did you actually get Monarchs on them? How wonderful!

      The milkweeds do go dormant and drop their leaves in winter. No need to keep them inside under lights. On the soil, dig down where you want to plant them. It may not be as wet as you think. If it is mushy, you do want to wait until the soil dries out or you’ll damage its texture. If it’s just moist, it’s okay. When you plant them, be sure to mulch very well since they’re young plants, and that will help them through the winter. Tap water inside or water from our hoses in the summer is all the same, so that’s not an issue. If you can get their roots established outside this winter, that will take stress off them when it’s 90 degrees and dry in March! And any rain we get is certainly better for them until then.

  2. Hella says:

    Linda,
    Thank you for keeping us all well informed over the year!
    My very best wishes for a wonderful Christmas and a healthy and successful 2012.
    Hella

  3. Bob Harper says:

    Dear Linda, I hope you have a splendid Christmas (will be back with a New Years wish next week). The red oak that Daphne helped me with is just glorious – lots of yellow and orange (but no red yet) and I want my neighbor to take a picture for you and Daphne to see, even if it’s too late for Jan. 14. Best to you Bob Harper

    • Linda says:

      Hi, Bob! If you can have the picture to me before 8 a.m. on Monday, I’ll sneak it in! Thank you again for being so helpful to our CTG friends! This segment is so on target for what others are experiencing. Happy holidays to you, too!

  4. [...] one Salvia regla is still flowering.  And as predicted earlier, on Christmas day, hoverflies (syrphid flies) feasted on ‘Butterpat’ and ‘Country Girl’ [...]

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