Now’s the time we all begin preparing for winter: cutting back dead growth, raking up fallen leaves, and cleaning garden tools.
While these are valuable tasks for gardeners as daylight dwindles and crisper temperatures prevail, you don’t have to settle for practical garden maintenance.
Creating a “pocket garden” for color, texture, and satisfaction through the cold weather season can be an creative addition to your winter wind-down routine.
A pocket garden uses small-scale planting in a tucked away space. Picture classic 18th and 19th century dooryard gardens. These planting areas near a home’s entry typically faced south and benefited from the protection of brick walls and outbuildings.
They focused on utilitarian plants: herbs for cooking and home remedies, flowers for drying or soap making. However, dooryard gardens also dressed up an entrance with visual delights on cold windy days.
Your pocket garden might be in a container or one or two square feet of open ground. Pick a spot that gets a good dose of midday sun in winter. Near a building wall is best.
Make it somewhere you pass frequently, or a spot right outside a much-used window. (What’s the point of an attractive pocket garden in a rarely seen corner?)
Then decide on a container or plant directly in the ground. Teresa Surratt, Pitt County Extension master gardener volunteer, recently prepared several large containers at the Pitt County Arboretum. Here are a few of her plant suggestions for winter:
- Traditional pansies (Viola tricolor) and common violets (Viola) are dependable winter bloomers.
- Snapdragons (Antirrhinum majus), which are winter hardy in our zone if planted in a sunny protected area.
- Ascot Rainbow Spurge (Euphorbia martini) is a great choice for upright interest. Its dense clusters of chartreuse flowers with dark centers emerge in late winter/early spring.
- Dusty miller (Centaurea cineraria) can provide beautiful gray-silver foliage through the winter.
- Coral bells (Heuchera), with its deep red or lime green leaves, is another choice for center interest.
- Golden creeping stonecrop (Sedum kamtschaticum) or creeping jenny (Lysimachia nummularia) are two good choices for trailing ground cover. Both maintain vibrant color through the cold season.
Surratt and master gardener volunteer team that manage container planting at the Arboretum also have two new winter choices for 2020:
- American wintergreen (Gaultheria procumbens) has small glossy dark green leaves and bright crimson berries.
- Creeping wire vine (Muhlenbeckia complexa) has a dense network of small dark green leaves that make a pillow effect.
Plan now to make a pocket of winter interest you’ll enjoy in your garden for many months.
Master gardener volunteers are on hand for assistance and advice for all things gardening. You can reach them via the Extension Master Gardener Infoline on Mondays and Thursdays from 10 a.m. to noon at 902-1705. They are a treasure for insight and real-world advice in the world of horticulture.
N.C. Cooperative Extension is a strategic partnership of NC State Extension, The Cooperative Extension Program at N.C. A&T State University, USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (USDA-NIFA), and local governments statewide.
Extension professionals in all 100 counties and with the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians connect millions of North Carolinians with research-based information and technology from NC State and N.C. A&T. Educational programs specialize in agriculture, food and nutrition, 4-H youth development, community development and the environment.
Find your local center at www.ces.ncsu.edu/local-county-center.