Bright spots in January

The dark, dreary days are upon us but there are bright spots in the garden. We continue to enjoy our bird-watching hobby. For the past 3 hours, this Juvenile Cooper's Hawk has been sitting in the apple tree. I kid you not - he has not moved for 3 hours!


One of our favorite visitors to the suet feeder is this beautiful Northern Flicker. This photo was taken on Christmas Day when we had snow on the ground - 



I have been working on the terraced area on off days when the weather permits. This large sloping area will have two terraced borders and wide steps between them. After some contemplation and listening to Michael's suggestions, I decided to use railroad ties instead of rocks for the steps. I was afraid it would be too much rock and I hope that the ties will not command too much attention. I want to have grassy steps here.







Believe it or not, one of the most pressing annoyances is what to do with the grass clods that I am removing. We are not supposed to put them in our lawn recycle waste. I have them stacked everywhere and am running out of ideas of what to do with them.




There are several evergreen plants that look good in the winter garden -


False Holly (Osmanthus heterophyllus ‘Goshiki’)


Pieris 'Passion Frost'


Fatsia japonica


Fatsia 'Spider's Web'


Cupressus macrocarpa ‘Wilma Goldcrest’
Euonymus albomarginatus


Bear's Breeches (Acanthus mollis) is beginning to grow

In an attempt to practice patience (something I am not good at), I have decided to leave this Cypress 'Swane's Golden' at the entrance to the driveway. It is growing but still very small. I had thought about replacing it with an already large Weeping White Spruce but they are so expensive. This poor little cypress has been moved enough already. For now, I am in favor of leaving it.




Text and photos by Phillip Oliver, Dirt Therapy

Comments

  1. Okay...not supposed to put the sod in the yard waste container but if you just add a few each week...well...

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  2. Your terraced area is really coming around. What kind of grass are you going to use on the steps? Obviously not the grass you are taking up or you would be putting it back down in the created steps. Your evergreens are very striking. Patience Weedhopper.

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    1. I am not sure yet about the grass and have not really researched the types we have here. The grass that we have now is very beautiful but it creeps into the beds. I am hoping to find one that does not do that.

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  3. Some nice bright spots in your garden! If you have space and patience, sod eventually makes nice compost.

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  4. I read that when removing sod you can stack it grass-side-to-grass-side and let it compost, and you end up with the most lovely soil. So when we removed ours, I tried it, and it totally worked! I mixed it with some perlite, coir, and a bit of sand and made my own potting mix. Perhaps a bit more work than you're up for, but in case it helps :-)

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    1. I will try that. I just wish I had more compost area.

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  5. Love the stacked stone wall! Cooper's will totally take out birds on your feeders. Love/Hate relationship with the raptors but a guy's gotta eat, right?

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    1. Yes, I assumed that was what he was doing. We usually have birds everywhere around our feeders and they were absent that day.

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  6. Looks like that hawk was in energy-saving mode ;-)

    Your Osmanthus heterophyllus looks much better than ours. I suspect that Osmanthus - and almost all broadleaf evergreens for that matter - generally perform *much* better in the PNW than in the Upper / Mid South.

    Would you say that's right? I know your garden in Alabama was a bit further south than mine in Tennessee, but Huntsville (for example) has already had one night with a low of 8 and multiple nights with lows in the teens. I'm guessing those temps would knock the Fatsias for a loop?

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    1. I only remember seeing Osmanthus fragrans in Alabama and I miss it terribly. I have not located it here but I may mail order. I am sure it would do great here. I heard about your low temps. I think an older plant that is established would have a good chance to survive there but not entirely sure about that.

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    2. There's a nursery called Gossler Farms down near Eugene, OR that carries Osmanthus fragrans, but it's pricey ($40 for a 1# plant). They do mail order, or I think you can make an appointment to visit in person...

      https://gosslerfarms.com/index.html

      Yep, I think O. fragrans would probably do amazingly well in PNW, from what I've read. I'm actually surprised the local nurseries don't carry it. I wonder if there's some reason?

      I think you're probably right that an established Fatsia japonica might survive in Alabama or even Tennessee, though probably as a dieback perennial. I just think it would probably look miserable most of the winter and early spring.

      These days, I'm leaning even more toward natives / regional natives. That doesn't leave me with many evergreen options, but it also relieves me from the feeling that I'm torturing plants that evolved to enjoy milder winters. :P

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    3. Gossler Farms is on “to do” list. I hear it is an incredible place and can’t wait to visit. I didn’t know they had the Osmanthus but will keep that in mind. I was referring to the Osmanthus about making it after being becoming more established. I had two of them on the south side of the house in Alabama and they had reached about 5 ft. I will ask the current owners how they are doing. Nothing beats that fragrance!

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  7. Those rr ties will visually disappear once the grass is in. Everyone will be oohing and aahing over the planting and design. If you can find a spot compost that grass. We piled ours up (well grass side down actually) in a curved shape and left it for a year. It created the most lovely berm for planting in.

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  8. Forgot to say we have had a Cooper's Hawk stay in the garden in one spot for so long we got bored of watching it!

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  9. Wonderful photo of the Flicker! Your terraces look great. That stone is very attractive. Seems like 'Swane's Golden's here took a couple years to grow the first 3 inches, but the next 20 feet after that happened in a flash.

    Flip the grass roots side up, pile it all, and leave it for the winter. It will be lovely stuff come spring (though I do not specify which spring).

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  10. We often have Cooper's hawks here in the winter too. A couple of times we've seen him or her sitting on the front porch railing surveying the front yard for birds that venture out of the cover of the garden to forage in the front yard.

    The stonework is beautiful. I think we're going to have to do something similar next to our driveway (a dry stacked wall, anyway), because the UPS driver keeps dipping off the driveway into the garden.

    The only suggestions I can make with some of the sod is to put some of it grass down on the steps for compost (as well as elsewhere in the garden, cover with mulch) and provide a bed for the new grass.

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    1. Thank you! I hope the hawk visit is a winter thing. I get upset when something disrupts the bird visitors.

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  11. Loved this post; enjoyed seeing your work on the terrace and all your evergreens. I have several ‘Goshiki’ in my own garden and this plant is one of my favorites. It is extremely durable and easy care. Seems that it can take a variety of climates as it does well here in central Alabama as well as the PNW. I also have a Spiders Web Fatsia, but it has lost its variegation. Still, a nice plant. I grow it in a pot so I can bring it to a protected area next to the house when we have extremely frigid weather. Low teens predicted for this week.

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  12. I love the look of grassy steps, good luck bringing your vision to life. Seeing those grassy clumps stacked up made me wonder if you had any areas of your yard where you wanted small hills or slopes built up. Perhaps you could “build” something with them?

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