Improve a Dismal, Off-Season Yard With the Easy, Shade-Loving Evergreen Bush Almost No One Grows and Appreciates

a view of leafy bushes even in late winter or March: the dwarf evergreen plant sweet box

The reason this is called Sweet Box is it’s related to boxwood, which is the evergreen shrub people customarily make into balls and hedges. I knew about boxwood since I was young but I only saw the connection made last year. I never would have made it myself because the leaves and growth habit differ so much. I never would have thought of this plant as a boxwood (relative) for shade or a boxwood (relative) with fragrance. By the way, actual boxwoods stink. Smell one in case you never noticed! Read more

The Ornamental Cherry ‘Okame’ Offers a Celebration of February Plus Symbolic Luck and Happiness

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branches of the ornamental cherry 'Okame' loaded with pink flowers in late February 2017

Over most of its range, this tree comes into bloom before March. In the area around Philadelphia, where it was introduced to this country, it is also among the first trees to flower, usually between late March and mid-April. ‘Okame’ will grow as far north as zone 5 although it’s not commonly sold some places where it would grow. Since the flowers open so early, you might be worried about their ability to withstand late freezes. Worry not! Like other plants of very early spring, it can take a night or two below 32 without harm in bud or in bloom. In fact, I’ve seen it endure 17 degrees after flowering just ended.

So who or what is Okame? Read more

Sound of the Season: Music for a February Sky

note: Often the purpose of links is to indicate further information is available on related topics. Most links are independent, but some help support this web site. If you prefer, feel free to donate instead.

a painting of a city street lined with trees called Night in February (1901) by Charles Conner
Night in February (1901)
Charles Conner

In England, there’s a group of contrarians who oppose “blue-sky thinking” by helping people appreciate the beauty of clouds, which makes you realize a curious aspect of our language. Although we commonly use the term “landscape,” we only rarely encounter the term “cloudscape.” Yet we look up all the time, and gardeners in particular often look skyward and spend time thinking about what kind of weather will come. And all this means Read more

WARNING: Winter Bouquet Surprise From the mid-1880s

a painting of white hellebores and ferns with a sprig of holly
Still Life with Hellebores (around 1885-7)
Charles Porter

This scene was painted in New York City not long after Porter had spent three years in France. As any gardener can tell you, these are hellebores that are shown, and the sprig of holly adds to a wintry theme. The maidenhair fern must have been a house plant; the other kind is probably leatherleaf fern, Rumohra adiantiformis, also grown indoors, though it could be Autumn fern, an outdoor type which is evergreen.

Shelley’s Ode to the West Wind Ushers in Spring

oil painting February Atmosphere: Early Spring in the Vienna Woods (1884) by Emil Schindler
February Atmosphere: Early Spring in the Vienna Woods (1884)
by Emil Schindler

from the Ode to the West Wind by Percy Shelley (1792–1822), written in three-line groups called tercets:

O wild West Wind, thou breath of Autumn’s being,
Thou, from whose unseen presence the leaves dead
Are driven, like ghosts from an enchanter fleeing,

Yellow, and black, and pale, and hectic red,
Pestilence-stricken multitudes! O thou,
Who chariotest to their dark, wintry bed Read more

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