Wtih The Augusta Chroncile since Dec. 20, 1995 covering courts and legal issues. Now serving as part of the projects team that focuses on investigative reporting.
Posted February 26, 2010 09:30 am

Chasing winter blues away



Since we are almost out of winter _ loud cheering in the background and foreground _ Crystal Eskola and I thought we better get to the winter season in Crystal's garden done right now.

You may remember, or will be happy to learn, that veteran Master Gardener Crystal Eskola agreed to a Gnome series on how to have a beautiful yard and gardens through all four seasons. We started with fall and now feature winter.

It's been a busy season and since the holidays ended it seemed to either rain or be freeze every weekend. Crystal wisely refrained from extending an invitation to tramp all over her yard when the ground has been wet. (It leads to compacted soil, which is very bad.)

But last weekend when temperatures soared and the sky cleared, it was time to see what was happening in Crystal's yard. Like most of us, she fretted that there wasn't enough going on, it is winter after all, but there are always things of beauty to see at Crystal's.

The trick to an interesting garden scene in the winter is to have a number of plants that keep their green leaves throughout the seasons. Mix in a few that will also flower for you and, while you may still mope until spring, you might not go into withdraw.

Crystal's done that. Among the evergreens and plants that keep their leaves she has several types of hellebores blooming, and camellia and winter honey suckle that are just finishing up.

 She has a Daphne that's about ready to pop open into flower. When asked if she has had any troubles with this reportedly fussy plant, Crystal said "Mine doesn't know that." She's replanted it a couple of times and now it's in a pot.

She loves cedars and has a variety that green up the landscape. But everything isn't green that is in leaf _ there's variegated gardenia, and a black lace elderberry that's so deeply purple that its deeply etched leaves look black. Below are gingers and a small sea of strawberry begonias with the pretty little round leaves.

She has a Dichroa febrifuga, which is in the hydrangea family but this one keeps its green leaves through the season and sports bright blue berries in the spring. It spreads but it's so pretty even in the winter you couldn't possibly be annoyed by it. Of course Crystal unfortunately does have the extremely annoying money grass thanks to birds which flew over after helping themselves to the berries in someone else's yard.

But the stars in Crystal's landscape this time of the year are Edgeworthia, also known as the Chinese rice paper plant. There's not a leaf on the bushes, but they have these clusters of fleshy flowers that kind of resemble sunflowers. It's so cool I couldn't believe I walked right by it a few months ago.

Well, Crystal explained, back then it was just a green bush.

Don't you love the seasons?


Home & Garden Show starts today at the James Brown Arena. It's fun to cruise the venders and there are featured garden speakers on roses, orchids and containers. But the highlight for the gardening crowd will be Paul James of HGTV's "Gardening by the Yard."


March 10 at 4 p.m. you can hear Gordon W. Chappell on "Design for Small Spaces. Chappell, a published garden writer and member of the American Society of Landscape Architects, will speak at the Sand Hills Garden Club. The event is open to the public. Tickets are $35. For more information, contact Mary Moretz at marymoretz@knology.net.


CSRA Hydrangea Society meets at 7 p.m. March 18 at the Aiken Technical College Community Room Building 1200 (1400 Health and Science Building.) The speaker will be Everette Jones from Shady Characters Nursery. His topic is Companion Plants for Hydrangeas. For more information contact Sandy Randall (803) 649-7748.