The word "bling" had not yet been invented when my old faithful dictionary sported its latest upgrade, but my use of an online dictionary confirms that something with bling is rather flashy. So, today, I am going to address winter bling in the garden.
Walking my dogs through residential neighborhoods in the winter is not nearly as interesting as it is in the summer months when there are flowers, trees and shrubs to catch the eye. But there are gardens that still manage to appeal, even though most of the color has been leached out.
Winter interest can be created through attractive shapes, including trees, shrubs and even the remnants of summer perennials, as well as through the colors of berries and twigs and the waving plumes of ornamental grasses.
I love grasses in the cold season. There are so many to choose from, ranging from the tallest miscanthus and sea oats to the Japanese Blood Grass, various Fountain grasses, maiden grass and the low fescues. Although they do not offer flowers, most grasses have plumes in late summer and fall, and the foliage may be silver-green, icy blue, purple or many variegated shades of gree.
I never cut mine back in the fall, although that is an option, but I love to see the plumes waving in the wind outside my windows, and they are especially beautiful loaded with feathery snow.
I think differently about them for a short while in the early spring when those great heavy stems need to be cut down and hauled away,
but the winter beauty is worth it.
Berries certainly produce winter bling. Anyone fortunate enough to have hollies has a ready-made supply of Christmas decorations, and in some varieties, the berries last through the winter.
I moved my beauty berry last spring from the front sidewalk area to a spot by the back door, where it has more room to spread. It sulked for a while, and did not produce as many clumps of the beautiful purple berries as usual, but those that did appear have lasted much longer than usual in this mild early winter, and are a lovely sight peeking through the snow.
Other shrubs with attractive berries that do well in our area are some varieties of viburnum, the red chokeberry, barberries and hardy types of cotoneaster.
Shrubs that have colored bark stand out well in snowy weather, with the red twigs of the Siberian dogwood coming to mind. Those with contorted twigs such as Harry Lauder's Walking Stick or corkscrew hazel also show up well after the leaves have fallen.
Some permanent structures such as fences or trellises take on a new look when the surrounding vegetation is gone for a few months. A mild winter day is a good time to take a walk round the garden noting improvements that can be made in the spring.
A few perennials that hold their shapes well, such as Autumn Joy sedum and the silver dusty miller (which is really an annual but often sprouts anew in the spring), retain some interest in the otherwise empty flower beds.
Before we know it, there will be snowdrops and crocuses peeking up and taking our attention away from the quieter and more subdued tones of winter.
Just take a look around while you are outside one cold day, and see how much bling you can discover.
Janet Del Turco is a local gardener and a graduate of the Ohio State University Master Gardener program. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.