Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

A Scruffy Winter Garden Draws Its Own Circle of Life

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

A Scruffy Winter Garden Draws Its Own Circle of Life

Article excerpt

Byline: Beverly Fleming

To some, my winter garden may look somewhat scruffy, even untended. To me, it represents a winter wonderland of promise.

During the summer, when the beautyberry bushes are full of leaves, the Carolina wren sings from its branches hoping to attract a mate or to declare his territory. During the winter, the leaves have fallen but the glistening magenta berries cling tightly, offering a banquet to hungry foragers.

During the summer the coral honeysuckle is full of succulent, nectar-laden blossoms. During the winter the tangle of hundreds of twisted vines proclaims a safe haven from the ferocious talons of hungry hawks. Tiny birds dart to the safety of its interior daily. During other months the passion vines are covered with leaves, beautiful purple flowers and hundreds of hungry caterpillars. In winter, chrysalises drop to the ground amid the fallen leaves, waiting for sunnier and warmer days to produce their fluttering beauties for another generation of grace and elegance.

Summer produces green fronds of graceful grasses waving in the warm gentle breeze. Winter turns the leaves to lifeless tan but still holds on to the many seed heads, which provide feasts for hungry birds. Sunflowers drop their bright yellow outer petals but retain their clustered heads of sunflower seeds. The angel trumpet leaves met their demise when the first frost arrived but I have not yet removed them as they protect the understory of this huge plant from further damage.

During the winter months the top of our drainfield looks like a miniature jungle of overgrown fairy roses, spent pentas and faded glory run amuck. However, I look at it as a prime hotel for weary souls who have spent the summer laboring to produce more of their own kind. They hunt for food, grow, mate and lay eggs, and each generation does the same all over again. In the winter they rest. Some go dormant. Some roll up in the fallen leaves. Some burrow into the soil. Some drop to the bottom of the grasses to hide.

And they wait. This overgrown area is their haven. It is their resting place. It is peaceful. …

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