. . . after surviving each winter, I wanted a beacon during mud season. I hungered for at least one spot I could see from inside to buoy me if I were still marooned, perhaps no longer adrift in snow and ice but (the latest insult!) in sodden, sloppy soil, a sea of muck. I wanted–required–one visible bed that defied the last vengeance of winter and the tardiness and sloth of early spring, one realized dream in the mess beyond. ~Margaret Roach, The Backyard Parables
Cabin Fever Plants For
Earliest Spring Mud Season
I don’t think I’d call the spring phase of my Cabin Fever Bed “one realized dream in the mess beyond”–at least, not yet. I did have winter aconites blooming there last year.I am looking forward to more plentiful bloom from the hellebores that bloomed this past April, some of which were trial plants from Burpee, and some were moved from the old house. And I just planted two spring-blooming colchicums–C. hungaricum ‘Valentine’ and C. h. ‘Velebit Star’. I also planted a Bulbocodium vernum. I have never grown any of these before, so I’m really looking forward to seeing them next spring–perhaps as early as March!
What About Mid-Winter?
It’s all very well to grow plants that extend the the period of bloom, but what about when there’s a foot (or more!) of snow on the ground? What will help us cope with cabin fever then? (Unfortunately, my mosaic birdbath is not frost-proof and must be brought inside.)
You often see recommendations to leave perennials standing to feed birds and catch snow, and these can look attractive with a light snowfall. But even many sturdy ornamental grasses will get flattened after repeated heavy snowfalls. Even if it remained upright and attractive, I didn’t think a large grass would work well within my design constraints. The authors of Prairie Winterscape: Creative Gardening for the Forgotten Season suggest many ways of using lighting to provide interest. If you are only home in the evenings, this can be a way for you to enjoy your garden. My family would rather see the stars at night; we don’t want to dilute the view with any more artificial light than necessary.
I’ll be frank with you: I haven’t solved this problem to my satisfaction. I have a heated birdbath for the winter, but it was designed to be attached to a railing. The first winter I had it, I attached it to the porch railing, but I don’t think I ever saw a bird visit it. So last year I set it up where the mosaic birdbath rests in the summer. Again, no birds visited it, but it did have a kind of stark beauty when surrounded by snow.Better than nothing, I suppose, but a bit too austere to satisfy me. I am keeping my eye out for an ornamental object that will catch snow in an attractive manner, something at least as tall as the mosaic birdbath. Should it also include movement? Could it possibly serve a practical function as well? This trellis is the only thing I’ve seen so far that comes close to what I am thinking of. Update: I tracked the Pinterest image of the trellis back to its source and got permission to use it. Ashli, the owner, said she got it at Homesense (which I think is the Canadian version of Home Goods) three or four years previous to when she wrote the post in 2011. So I doubt I’m going to find this exact thing in a store. It’s a good excuse to go browsing through craft fairs and garden shops, right?