The Wonder of the Winter Garden



Southern California is a great place to live…you can have snow in the mountains, and still have a great day on the beach, or in your garden, where most of us can frequently be found.  The winter season does not stop us from enjoying what we love most…getting out into our gardens!  Yes, even maintenance excites us.  I love to zip up my sweat shirt and do some pruning, but as I do…the creative part of my brain is visualizing colors, varieties…changes for the coming year.  It could be as simple as adding a bird bath, or a search for a piece of garden art.  Literally, I look through antique or salvage/vintage stores hunting for the right quirky find for my garden.  Who knows what interesting item I might discover?  It can be anything that strikes me with a fire of inspiration. 

We are all familiar with the usual maintenance items for winter, but as we go about those tasks, we are working our muscles, breathing in the fresh air and (I like to think of us as artists) creating a fresh start with a list of what we need …fertilizer…a new pruner…some interesting rock?  The therapy begins as we work. We solve problems that have been giving us a twitch at the corn of our eye, or giving us a stomach ache.  We start to feel joy spring to life…a smile start to take shape as wrinkles between our eyes relax and begin to disappear.

No matter what kind of landscape or garden you have, something is blooming and something needs to go!  It’s a lot like life, right?  Before you know it, I’ve filled trash cans with clippings and leaves, snipped vines that have invaded their boundaries, removed and renovated to make room for change, considered painting the iron table by the chaise lounges with a new color, and decided to try that new recipe for dinner.  It’s a marvelous feeling, isn’t it!  As we make room for our gardens to change and experience new growth, we do too!

Locally, in Southern California, Aloes are blooming beautifully with brilliant orange color in the winter. It’s especially striking when I walk through the nursery around sunset and see the orange all around me… the sky, the Euphorbia tirucalli, Aloes in bloom and the reflection of it all in the ponds! 

I’ve always loved Iris and have a few patches of them in the back of the house that need some thinning out.  They surprise me with their varied colors, and their graceful, ruffled petals each year. 







 Roses seem to be individuals needing pruning intermittently, but for the most part, all roses like a good trim in the winter, growing back quickly with fresh foliage and flowers. 

This is a season when Succulents are stressed by the cold, giving them surprising color ranges, however if you live in an area that gets much frost, be careful of your varieties and cover them when the temperatures dip.  Sage and Rosemary like cool weather and perform quite well here in the winter, as well as my amazing orange, black-eyed Thunbergia vine that happily grows along a fence.  I call it my happy plant! 


Tagetes lemonii also gives winter a burst of golden daisy-like flowers that almost makes me feel a warmth glowing from it’s golden color. 


Leptospermum is bearing a flurry of tiny flowers like confetti at a New Year’s Party!  One of my favorite plants ever…Lavender, will soon start blooming.  I can almost close my eyes and imagine its scent.  I will be filling in some spots in my garden with it, so I can enjoy the scent through springtime, but it really doesn’t like the heat of summer here in North County.


This is also the time of year for planting Sweet Peas.  I have a passion for these amazing plants.  They are not forever, but some of the best things in life are not.  You need something for them to climb up, so I plant them next to a chain link fence dividing two spaces.  Some are hardier than others, but I get mine at Rogers Gardens in Newport Beach.  They come from England and are a wonder!  They are so strong; they must have been raised on super vitamins.  The drive to Newport is only about an hour or two depending on traffic, but it’s worth it for this great variety and picturesque destination.   The colors are magnificent and abundant, but you don’t get to see them until they bloom.  I choose them from a color chart at Rogers.  When they do bloom, I get bouquet after bouquet to enjoy with a scent that can only be called “heavenly”. 

Winter and white go together …I guess because it makes me think of snow.  I’d like to contemplate having a white garden someday, or maybe mostly white.  I love white gardens!  I find them enchanting.  You can blend whites, grey or pale green, both foliage and blooms to create a wondrous garden from the tall…to the small.  The fun is leaving some spaces to fill in with new varieties as you find them, leaving enough room for grace and surprises.

Speaking of surprises, we just spotted those beautifully stripped Caterpillars on our Milk Weed!  That was a happy surprise so early in the year… meaning we can look forward to getting Monarch Butterflies in the spring. 

I always enjoy our time together.  Wishing you a new year of surprises. 

                                                                                    Till next time,