A 9a Garden in Winter: Front Yard

I finally made it out to the garden at my parent's place yesterday, and overcompensated by taking a ton of pictures. So many plants were still thriving and green, and even the dead looking plants were only sleeping. Hey, you know what? Why don't I give you a tour of the front yard?

Okay, first up we're going to take a look at the big oak tree in the middle of the front yard. I can tell that you were eying the aechmea distichantha bromeliads at the base! These guys are spiny, but they sure do handle our winters with ease... and I like that in a bromeliad. I moved the other broms to a warm spot by the house just to play it safe, but I wouldn't dare tangle with these spiky plants!

Moving on to my itty bitty rain garden garden, you'll see that I've planted some annual flowers, as well as some edibles like mustard greens and collard greens. (not pictured) I'm a firm believer in growing edibles in with the landscaping, and so is my friend Ivette who happens to have a book coming out next month called The Edible Front Yard. It's gonna be AWESOME, guys! Go buy a copy! Do it NOW! Actually you might want to wait til it comes out, but you really won't want to miss this book. Don't worry, the gardens in her book will be much more impressive than my meagerly scattered greens.

Okay back to the garden.

See that glowing whisk to the right of the cordyline? Its a russelia that seems to be doing pretty well considering.that it got down to 24 degrees a few nights! Oh, and see that crape myrtle in the back with an awful buzzcut? Landscapers crape murdered it again, the jerks.

Across my grand rain garden you'll spy my bottlebrush, galangal gingers, toasty lemongrass, and a crispy arrangement of twigs and leaves that I used to call a firebush. It seems like its always the first to go in a freeze, and considering its so commonplace, I'm not sure why I even bother with it.

Now we've made our way across the rain garden and into the courtyard garden.This galangal seems to excel in winters here. Sure, the leaves are a little singed, but its still there with green stalks to brighten my day! At least I like to believe that it stays green just to cheer me up...

Alright, this chamaedorea radicalis one of my favorite plants, and it packs a real subtropical wallop through our coldest winters. If you live in zones 8b and up, you simply must give this palm a try. Even the seedlings are thriving through the winter.

Situated at the foot of the bottlebrush tree, my feijoa or 'pineapple guava' retains its bluish green leaves through winter and forms a nice little privacy screen. I love this shrub. Moving on...

It might not look like much, but here I've gathered all of the bromeliads for easy covering during hard freezes. Most of them would do just fine if given the chance, but until they've multiplied themselves by pupping for a few years, it keeps my mind at ease. My dad is nice enough to cover them at the slightest risk of frost too, which also does a great deal to comfort me. Thanks, dad! Oh, and you may have noticed that I've mulched these with big sycamore leaves. You didn't catch that? Well, I mulched this spot with leaves... on to the next area!

By the front door and across from the courtyard is a lone aechmea "blue cones" that I left outside out of curiosity. Sure enough, no damage to be seen and pups are even forming at the base.

The right side of the front entry garden is called... well I haven't come up with a name for it yet. What I do know is that its in need of renovation and I'm planning on utilizing a bunch of bulbs as groundcover, some of which were featured in my post on South African plants. Maybe some amaryllis thrown in with some unusual agapanthus varieties... maybe some clivia? Anyways, I'm going to make this area a lush tapestry of plants with a fountain-like form, and I'll back it with a couple of shrubs to add privacy and a sense of enclosure. Any recommendations on shrubs and bulbs?

The first plant pictured above is a lycoris radiata, or hurricane lily. I planted it for the red flower stalks, but am pleasantly surprised by the evergreen foliage. This looks like a good candidate for interplanting amongst winter dormant bulbs! The second plant is a multiplying onion, or rather, a whole bunch of multiplying onions. These also seem to be a good bet for winter planting with winter dormant bulbs... oh, and they're edible too!

I'll follow this post with a tour of the side yard and back yard! I don't think the garden looks so bad personally, and I'm sure it will look better with each passing year.


  1. I love your upbeat attitude. I need to learn to look at my garden and see it for its good points. I think bromeliads are the best all times of the year but especially so now.

  2. NanaK:
    Thanks... I was getting kinda blue, but actually stepping into my garden for the first time in weeks did the trick. And those bromeliads really are tougher than people realize!

  3. Steve I hope you'll post an update in about 4 months. I'd love to see how everything looks when it's warmer and happier.

  4. Kat:
    Oh, you betcha! I think that everything looks pretty good considering, but it will be nice to see the leaves of gingers and bananas again.

  5. Still looking well Steve! The Cycad at the background of the Russelia looks unmarked. In a couple of months it will look pristine again :)

  6. BTW. C. radicalis used to sail through winters in our place but not this time when we went down to -10C. All the leaves have collapsed but the central spear is still intact though, cross fingers!

  7. Looking good! I was just in South Africa for christmas and I loved the miniature alstromeia - that might do well in your climate. Also yesterday today and tommorrow.

  8. Just wanted to pass on that I havent had much luck with Clivia here. It stays alive, even through the past few winters, but doesnt grow much. There was recently a post about this on Palmtalk and it seemed like most people in Florida had trouble getting it to flower.


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