Updated: Jan 26, 2022
January is when I take the time to review my garden plan for the year. What plants worked, what didn’t, what might if I tried it again in a different spot. What do I want to do differently, what plants did I love so much I will tend year after year? And hopefully it's time to enjoy the late November, early December plantings - bright blue Lobelia, still hanging in there Alyssum, Pansies, Snapdragons, and Dianthus. Potting up the tender perennials - lemon verbena, rosemary, rock rose, and getting them ready to move at the first sign of frost. Checking the beds for daffodil sprouts, and nurseries for cyclamens to add pops of color to the front door pots. And loving two flowers I consider winter thrivers, pansies and dianthus, that seem to grow under any conditions!
Pansies are my winter favorites, for their variety, hardiness, and versatility. They look beautiful on cakes and loaf breads, are ethereal candied, and their fresh, green flavor is as welcome as their colors in salads. The pansy name comes from the French word, pense, which means to think, and was adopted as a symbol by the Freethinkers Society at the turn of last century. Pansies also symbolized love in the language of flowers. Their sheer range of color combinations and hardiness make them an annual presence in my garden and containers! I also prize Dianthus, with it’s bright pinks, crisp whites, and clove-like flavor. I harvest them for cakes, muffins, quick breads, and in soups! Symbolically, Dianthus were used to convey love, affection, gratitude, and admiration, and I definitely admire these little gems. I’ve had my Dianthus plants going for about three years, and they made it through the summer heat, and Snomageddon 2021, and are still going strong! I highly recommend adding some of one or both of these beauties to cheer up your winter garden.
I’ll confess, I buy mostly immature plants, rather than growing them from seed - for me, the convenience factor can’t be beat. I support my local plant nursery, The Green Acre Garden Center in Van Alstyne - they always have a fantastic selection of plants and lots of experienced gardeners on hand to make recommendations and answer questions. (Mark your calendar now for their July 4th weekend sale, it is worth the drive!) In January, I look up my favorite local plant sales and mark my calendar. The Heard Museum in McKinney has an excellent plant sale in April that focuses on Texas Native Plants, and I never leave empty handed! Likewise I enjoy both the Dallas Arboretum Bulb Sale, focusing on bulbs in late February, and Texas Discovery Gardens Sale in early February, focused on Texas Native Plants. Shopping around at local and independent stores and plant sales has given me hardy plants that last, and a community of gardeners! So enjoy this mostly dormant time in the garden, and get ready for spring. Let me know if you have a plant that you would consider a winter thriver - I love recommendations!