Winter Beauty in Bonnie’s Garden

We’re visiting with Bonnie Plikaytis in north Georgia today.

One of the most difficult design features for me to accomplish in my Zone 7 woodland garden is to incorporate winter interest. After 10 years of gardening, I have learned a few things, which I share with you today.

In our woodland community in North Georgia there are many evergreen trees and shrubs native to the property, including mountain laurel (Kalmia latifolia, Zones 4–9), American holly (Ilex opaca, Zones 5–9), and a variety of species of pine trees. In the areas of the property that were cleared during construction of our home, I have planted a variety of evergreens that tend to be deer tolerant to provide a backdrop for the deciduous trees and perennials in the garden.

Low-growing Japanese plum yew (Cephalotaxus harringtonia, Zones 5–9) and ‘Savannah’ holly (Ilex ‘Savannah’, Zones 7–9), with its bright red winter berries, frame this dormant Japanese maple (Acer palmatum, Zones 5–9). The large garden boulder in front provides additional interest with its natural shape.

Evergreen low-growing plants are a real treasure. This variegated Rohdea japonica ‘Piccadilly Pace’ (Zones 6–10) attracts extra attention with its variegated leaves and red berries.

During summer and fall, the perennials and different varieties and sizes of Japanese maples that line this garden path are the stars. However, in winter and spring the hardy anise (Illicium parviflorum, Zones 6–9), anise (Illicium floridanum ‘Swamp Hobbit’, Zones 7–10), and several varieties of rhododendrons reign supreme with their evergreen broadleaf structure and early spring blooms.

Dwarf sweet flag (Acorus gramineus, Zones 6–9) is a grasslike ground cover that is evergreen in Zone 7. In this photo it is paired with ‘Autumn Bride’ heuchera (Heuchera villosa ‘Autumn Bride’, Zones 3–8) and champion wood fern (Dryopteris championii, Zones 5–8) to frame a dormant dwarf Japanese maple. Garden boulders provide year-round interest with no threat of deer damage!

Siebold’s wood fern (Dryopteris sieboldii, Zones 6–9) with its unusual shaped, leathery fronds almost looks tropical. As with most evergreen ferns the fronds do tend to look tattered in spring and should be trimmed.

This stumpery built in the fall of 2018 always attracts the attention of those visiting the garden. The evergreen ferns really stand out in winter. The evergreen ferns in the stumpery include shaggy shield (Dryopteris cycadina, Zones 5–8), champion wood fern (Dryopteris championii, Zones 5–8), autumn fern (Dryopteris erythrosora, Zones 5–8), hard shield fern (Polystichum aculeatum, Zones 3–8), and East Indian holly fern (Arachnoides simplicior, Zones 7–9).

Winter daphne (Daphne odora, Zones 7–9), though somewhat temperamental, is well worth its diva status. The variegated glossy leaves and dark pink flower buds in winter are stunning. In February it blooms, and the sweet fragrance is intoxicating.

Evergreen Solomon’s seal is an uncommon evergreen ground cover. It spreads by rhizomes to form clumps but is not aggressive in the garden. As a bonus it blooms in May, producing white 3/4-inch tubular bell-shaped flowers. The clump in this photo contains both Disporopsis pernyi (Zones 6–9), which has lance-shaped leaves and Disporopsis arisanensis (Zones 6–9), which has rounded leaves. Hardy begonia (Begonia grandis, Zones 6–9) seedpods are glistening in the sunlight in the background.

Sometimes winter interest doesn’t come from an evergreen at all. The dark burgundy color of the large leaves of this oakleaf hydrangea (Hydrangea quercifolia ‘Ruby Slippers’, Zones 5–9) certainly holds one’s attention. (Note that this shrub has grown much larger than the predicted size!) The photo shows a Southgate® Grace™ rhododendron (Zones 6–9) in the foreground and a Japanese plum yew (Cephalotaxus harringtonia, Zones 5–9) to the side.

Our property borders a paved hiking trail. My gardening companion, Cody, is checking to see if any of his canine buddies are heading down the trail to his water bar.

We hope that you find serenity in the beauty of our winter garden.


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