My garden | 01.23.11

The landscape is still covered in snow, with daytime temperatures in the teens. The sun warmed a quick walk through the garden this morning, counterbalancing the chill from a steady breeze. Though winter still holds a firm grip on us, signs of the transition between winters and spring subtly emerge.

Hydrangea macrophylla ‘Blushing Bride’ (winter habit)

I haven’t shared a photo of the full winter habit of Hydrangea macrophylla ‘Blushing Bride’ in previous posts. As you can see, it’s not much to admire. As Dirr notes in his Hydrangeas for American Gardens (2004), “the winter texture is quite coarse, and the best that can be said is that well-grown plants have the aura of a bundle of sticks.”

Hydrangea macrophylla ‘Blushing Bride’ (vegetative buds)

From a distance, ‘Blushing Bride’ doesn’t do much to inspire thoughts of spring. But hope often lies in the details, and a closer inspection of the stems revealed swelling vegetative buds that have virtually doubled in size since last week. Under this quiet cover of snow, ‘Blushing Bride’ is gearing up to burst forth in leaf as soon as spring arrives.

Cercis canadenis (Eastern Redbud) bark

My enthusiasm was tempered as I walked toward the redbud. The tree appeared unchanged in the northwest corner of the garden. Snow rested in the branch crotches, a stark contrast to ruddy undertones revealed by the exfoliating grey bark.

Cercis canadensis (Eastern Redbud) twigs and vegetative buds

I inspected the trunk and branches closely for signs of flower buds, but they have yet to appear. On the thinnest of twigs, the small black dots mark what I believe are the early stages of leaf buds, rather than simply leaf scars from last year. A gardener can hope, right?

Hylotelephium ‘Matrona’ (broken, dried flower head)

While new growth on the herbaceous Hylotelephium ‘Matrona’ won’t appear until temperatures are much warmer, the passing of winter can been seen in this member of the garden cast as well. Standing fully upright and strong as winter begins, heavy snow and blowing wind eventually break down the plant. This morning, several small pieces of the dried flower heads lay in the snow, victims to our latest storm.

Hylotelephium ‘Matrona’ (dried flower head)

As I knelt down in the snow to photograph ‘Matrona’ against the background of our Picea pungens ‘Fat Albert’ (Colorado Blue Spruce), one of the mourning doves that nests within the Picea scampered across the snow in front of me. Its path crossed a network of rabbit tracks leading to and from the base of the tree. We planted the ‘Fat Albert’ several years ago so that our son would have a Christmas tree outside his window for the holidays and it has become a cozy winter haven for wildlife in the garden.

This is the stretch of winter that is hard on so many people in cold climates. Sun is scarce, the glow of the holidays has ended, and spring often seems eons away. We hope for the day when our landscape will burst forth in new life. Mother Nature is much more subtle. If we look closely enough, we realize that she is working day-by-day, slowly easing our landscapes into the new season.

For additional photos from Week 3 at Cherry Creek, please see and

Published by Christopher Tidrick

Be real. Love always. Share beauty. Lead well. Learn more.


  1. I planted a 'Fat Albert' for my 92 year old Dad for Father's Day last summer after he lost a majestic 100' spruce to a windstorm. It looks so darned cute out there with the snow frosting on it! And he'll never have to worry about THAT falling over and hitting the house!:)

    BTW, I do plan to watch the game!:)



  2. Anne, our 'Fat Albert' has been the most beautiful specimen. And it's grown quickly! About 5 feet when we planted it, it's now over 13 feet tall and the perfect habit. I've only taken pruners to it once, to clear a couple of branches off the bottom.



  3. Wait when did Sedum stop being Sedum and turn into Hylotelephium???



  4. Tom, it's a much debated change in the nomenclature. The upright Sedums have been reclassified as Hylotelephium. In common usage, they're still Sedum.



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