8 Plants That Look Good After Bitter Cold: Garden Bloggers Bloom Day November 2013

– Posted in: What's up/blooming

Plants That Look Good After Bitter Cold

It takes more than an inch of snow and temps in the teens to trash these plants.

After a mild start to November, we have recently had snow and bitter cold*–down to 15F(-9C) one night and in the low 20s for several others. You would think there would not be any plant worth looking at after that, and you would be mostly right. However, if one looks carefully, there are still some good looking plants to be seen. We are primarily talking foliage here, but not exclusively. Come take a walk with me . . .
golden Siberian iris foliage in late fall

This glowing Siberian iris foliage remains erect after snow and bitter cold. The green foliage behind them belongs to some glads that I didn’t dig up.

The leaves of many perennials turn lovely colors in the fall, but not many persist after several freezing nights. Siberian iris foliage(1) is a champ in this regard. And the gladioli behind them are still green!
Polemonium reptans Touch of Class Jacob's Ladder

The foliage of ‘Touch of Class’ persists for an incredibly long time.

Jacob’s Ladder (Polemonium reptans)(2) is mostly valued for its blue flowers. I have never heard anyone mention its long-lasting foliage as an asset, but it is one of the very last plants to turn to mush. A foxglove seedling(3)–attractive in its own right–provides a textured backdrop for the vareigated foliage.
dianthus foliage

Icy blue dianthus foliage faces down the cold with aplomb.

Frances of Fairegarden gave me these dianthus seedlings(4), self-sown progeny of her original dianthus plants. They don’t look any different than they did this summer.
Viola tricolor Johnny-jump-up

Is there any plant more determined to bloom in the face of winter than the petite Johnny-jump-up?

What cold climate gardener doesn’t love Johnny-jump-ups (Viola tricolor)(5)? They thrive in the cold and hunker down for the summer, blooming with renewed vigor in the fall.
crocus speciosus and hellebores

Hellebores are famous for good looking leaves through winter. The autumn crocus continue to throw out a few new blooms.

This scene takes place in the Cabin Fever Bed. The hellebore foliage(6) still looks handsome, and will continue to do so for several more weeks. Those autumn crocus blooms(7) are freshly opened today. Their brethren were slain by the cold and snow, but these are taking advantage of today’s sunshine.
Acorus gramineus Ogon Sweet Flag

Sweet flag has yet to experience an upstate NY winter.

The golden variegated sweet flag(8) was also a gift from Frances. The sources I have consulted disagree on its hardiness. It hasn’t spent a winter in my garden yet, and may turn out to be an annual for me. (I hope not!) You never know until you try, but I felt I must warn you gardeners in the coldest climes that it is probably not hardy for you–USDA Zone 5 seems to be its limit.

So there you have it: Eight plants that still look really good in mid-November, after temperatures in the teens and low twenties, and an inch or so of snow. We walked all over the garden to view them, but just imagine if they were all in the same garden bed!

Inspired by the words of Elizabeth Lawrence, “We can have flowers nearly every month of the year,” Carol of May Dreams Gardens started Garden Bloggers Bloom Day. On the 15th of every month, garden bloggers from all over the world publish what is currently blooming in their gardens, and leave a link in Mr. Linky and the comments of May Dreams Gardens.

*Most cold climate gardeners would argue that temperatures have to drop below 0F before you can truly call the cold “bitter,” but I am looking at it from the plants’ perspective. And honestly, the first time it hits the teens each winter, it feels bitter, even if it doesn’t seem quite so bad after it’s been colder.

About the Author

Kathy Purdy is a colchicum evangelist, converting unsuspecting gardeners into colchicophiles. She would be delighted to speak to your group about colchicums or other gardening topics. Kathy’s been writing since 4th grade, gardening since high school, and blogging since 2002.

In the end, this may be the most important thing about frost: Frost slows us down. In spring, it tempers our eagerness. In fall, it brings closure and rest. In our gotta-go world–where every nanosecond seems to count–slowness can be a great gift. So rather than see Jack Frost as an adversary, you could choose to greet him as a friend.

~Philip Harnden in A Gardener’s Guide to Frost: Outwit the Weather and Extend the Spring and Fall Seasons

Comments on this entry are closed.

Donna@Gardens Eye View November 17, 2013, 7:11 pm

Love looking at what is left in our gardens…no snow here yet but lots of cold..of course today it is warm and raining.

Frank November 16, 2013, 7:25 pm

Those first cold windy days really do bite into you! They seem twice as cold as when they hit in February.
The dianthus does look nice, and the johnny jump up is practically a sign of spring! (well almost)

les November 16, 2013, 6:41 pm

After reading this, I will not complain about my brief flirtation with below freezing weather.

Kathy Sturr of the Violet Fern November 15, 2013, 7:56 pm

I used to have many Jacob’s Ladder plants – a favorite – before our porch redo. Now they are spread out along the entire Woodland Edge and I don’t seem to see or notice them as much. I will have to look for some to see how they are holding up. I am loving Amsonia right now! But also have some Dianthus out front in the Riverfront that I at first glance, mistaked for an evergreen – that’s how good its foliage looks after several hard frosts and a snowfall!

Deborah B November 15, 2013, 7:24 pm

Sweet flag overwinters fine for me, but we seem to be trending toward zone 5a now instead of 4b. Japanese iris still looks good with nice yellow leaves, though it has flopped. Artemisia ‘Powis Castle’ still looks nice, though I’m not sure it will come back next year; I try it again every 3 or 4 years because it’s such a great plant. My toughest plant is gentian which just starts blooming at the end of October into mid/late November. It looks beautiful right now despite the 14 degree nights we had last week and the couple inches of snow early this week.

Deborah B November 16, 2013, 2:01 pm

Adding to my list: iberis looks as green now as in the summer, Sedum Angelina is still bright yellow and fresh looking, and both Lamium ‘White Nancy’ and Pineapple mint still look good.

Alana November 15, 2013, 7:02 pm

We have a euphorbia in our front yard that is still nice and green. Our Jacobs ladder plant, on the other hand, isn’t doing too well. I’ll be curious to know how the golden variegated sweet flag does – I love variegated plant. (My variegated euphorbia has turned to mush…)

Helen at Toronto Gardens November 15, 2013, 1:44 pm

Funny about temps — they always feel colder on the way down (in fall) than they do on the way up (in spring). You know, I’ve never been able to get Johnny-jump-ups to stay in my garden. *imagine sad smiley here* Happy Blooms Day, Kathy.

Kathy Purdy November 15, 2013, 2:10 pm

Helen, that is sad about the Johnny-jump-ups, but I suspect there is some plant that grows well for you that won’t grow for me. That’s how gardening is.

Frances November 15, 2013, 12:24 pm

Hooray!!! I am so glad those shared plants from the fairegarden are doing so well for you in that cold climate, Kathy. Fingers crossed on the Acorus, its yellow blades really brighten our winters down here in Tennessee. The Dianthus looks fabulous. I am anxious to see what the flowers will look like, some mixture of pinkish tones, I suspect. Happy GBBD and thanks for the linkage!

Lea November 15, 2013, 12:00 pm

Beautiful foliage and sweet little blooms!
Happy Garden Bloggers’ Bloom Day!

Angie November 15, 2013, 12:22 pm

I agree, some plants do look good in winter – I don’t let the winter chill stop me from enjoying them. My first visit to your blog – well enjoyed thank you and happy bloom day 🙂

Kathy Purdy November 15, 2013, 12:42 pm

Welcome, Angie. I hope you stop by again!