Everyday Gardeners

Plant. Grow. Live.


I have written here before about my battles with the Japanese beetle hordes. The last two years have been orders of magnitude worse than in the past, for reasons that escaped me. Now this year, I have seen very, very few. Not that I’m complaining. It’s just really weird. All I can think of is snow cover. Last winter, we didn’t get much snow. The two prior winters, lots of snow cover. (Winter temps haven’t been dramatically different.) That’s all I can think of, and considering how much snow cover helps plants, and other critters, it makes sense. Think about that next time you have extended snow cover; it could be a rough Japanese beetle year.

It’s another snowy morning here in Iowa. Though skies are gray and bleak, you can still enjoy winter color in the garden. The variegated foliage of ‘Color Guard’ yucca, for example, is a delight.


I’m also enjoying the textures in my yard. My contorted white pine, for example, is putting on a splendid show despite its rich green color.


If your garden is like mine and still buried under a blanket of snow, what’s providing winter interest for you?

Those dreaming of a white Christmas in Central Iowa appear to be out of luck. Despite a dusting (or shall I say “slushing”?) of snow as Hanukkah began, prospects for additional white stuff before Christmas look slim. And with 40-degree temperatures in the forecast, it appears that what little snow we have will be gone before the weekend arrives.

Never fear. You can still have a white holiday in photos. I took these shots in my yard back in November when we had an early 4-inch snowfall.

Bright red winterberry holly pops against the white backdrop of snow.

The leaves of shingle oak capture newly fallen snow.

Flower Carpet roses covered in white are seemingly all decorated for Christmas.

Boxwood greens contrast with fresh snow.

This 'Blue Star' juniper topiary wears a cap of snow.

Perhaps I can force myself to stop watching the bald eagle cam (http://www.raptorresource.org/falcon_cams/) in Decorah, Iowa, long enough to show you what I found in my front yard when I woke up yesterday. Mind you, this pair of eagles is tending to three good-sized eggs, which are due to start hatching any day now, but here’s what I found:

My witch hazel (Hamamelis x intermedia ‘Jelena’), which has been blooming its head off for almost a month now, was covered with a couple of inches of heavy, late-season snow. Despite some recent disparaging remarks posted recently at a popular garden blog proclaiming witch hazels as not garden-worthy, I find their coppery tassels and spicy scent intoxicating at this time of year. It reminds me of the aroma of witch hazel at the old-school barbershop in Broad Ripple, Indiana, where my brothers and I dreaded boyhood haircuts. The essential oil, distilled from the leaves and bark, is a mild astringent used in skin care products. The natived shrub remin ded European colonists of the English “wych hazels,” whose branches were used as diving rods to locate underground water and minerals.

Poet Robert Frost—about the time of World War I—described a New England hired hand’s complaint about a young college boy:

“He said he couldn’t make the boy believe

He could find water with a hazel prong—

Which showed how much good school had ever

done him.”

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