December’s best plants

When I visit garden centers in the spring and summer I seem to have a hard time remembering to buy plants that will carry my garden through the winter. I forget all about my intention to buy a cartload of evergreens when I walk down an aisle of any other plant coming into leaf or bloom. I’m sure I’m not alone. (Or am I?) But it didn’t take a very long walk around Blithewold in this frigid weather to find that there are plenty of plants that could catch my eye at the nursery – and keep a good hold of it now.

I get sweetspire (Itea virginica) and summersweet (Clethra alnifolia) completely confused in my head, always thinking one is the other. I wish, back when I bought a clethra for my garden that I had remembered that it’s itea that colors up so beautifully in the fall and waves red flags right into December. (Of course I do love that clethra blooms almost by itself in August…) Oak leaf hydrangea is also stunningly multicolored in the cold.

Gail confuses agave and yucca, which is so funny because their differences are very obvious to me. (Of course they are in the same family and Gail’s the one who keeps clethra and itea straight for me.) And while I generally think agaves are the coolest plants, it’s yucca that can take the cold.

It never occurred to me that Toad lily (Tricyrtis hirta) could be as beautiful in seed as it is in bloom. And I think the purple moor grass (Molinia caerulea ‘Variegata’), with its curly blond tresses, is even more beautiful dormant than it ever was growing.

I have a deep appreciation for the evergrey of lavender – and have planted quite a few of those in my garden but I never noticed before today how silvery the slender deutzia (Deutzia gracilis ‘Nikko’) is.

What plants are carrying your garden into December?