As dedicated gardeners, we have long lists of chores and ideas for new projects. We head outside and busy ourselves with clipping, weeding, planting, and watering. Or we might take a restful moment in a favorite chair and enjoy the garden as we have many times before. What I propose is to take a mindful wander around the entire garden without tools or plans and really see and enjoy each plant. When I did this in mid-December, I noticed numerous plants with bright berries, colorful foliage, and brilliant blooms. Amazing, considering it was almost the winter solstice!
There were four woody perennials or sub-shrubs that I found particularly beautiful and still in full bloom:
Woolly Blue Curls (Trichostema lanatum) Native to California, from Monterey to Baja California, growing on the dry slopes of the Coast Range. The aromatic leaves were used by the Kumeyaay tribe as a tea to help maintain good memory. The long bloom period, spring to fall, can be extended by removing spent flowers loved by bees, birds, and butterflies. Evergreen, 3’x4’, full sun, no water once established.
Verbena lilacina ‘De La Mina’ Native to Cedros Island off Baja California. The blossoms have a pleasing scent, so plant near a path. The most intense bloom occurs in spring. De La Mina Verbena can bloom throughout the year if cut back by 1/3 in late spring and again in late fall after the flowers have faded. Butterflies will love this year-round nectar source: Evergreen, 2’x2’, sun/part sun, occasional water during dry periods.
Mountain Marigold (Tagetes lemmonii ‘compacta’) Native to Copper Canyon in Arizona. The leaves have a very strong and pungent aroma that is either loved or hated, so determine your preference before adding to the garden! Mountain Marigold flowers from late fall through winter. Freezing temperatures can cause the plant to die back to the ground, but it will bounce back quickly when the weather warms. Cut back hard after flowering to control size and improve flowering. It is good for many pollinators. Evergreen perennial, 3’x3’, grows in full sun, drought tolerant, occasional supplemental water.
Airy Bachelor Buttons (Gomphrena decumbens cv. Itsy Bitsy) Native to Central America. It is airy and makes a good filler for the mixed border. Blooms appear from summer to fall. Cut back in October to extend the bloom period into December and cut back again in early spring to keep more compact. Evergreen perennial, 3-4’x3- 4’, sun/part shade, low/average water.
by Barbara Mhyre