As I write this, the weather is finally feeling like true Texas winter. The sky is white, the sidewalks are wet and the pecan shell casings are splayed open on the tree branches, some still holding on to the last of the ripened nuts. It is January, the 22nd to be exact, and the garden is sleeping.
This is the time to look over your landscape garden when all that remains visible, the backbone plants, reveal themselves. Is there structure in your garden in January? Do the visible evergreens create vignettes that are pleasing? If not, this is a time to assess what changes you need to make to the evergreen structure of your garden. Deciduous shrubs and trees, which are dormant right now, can be planted during the winter. In fact, now is the best time to plant these and fruit trees and shrubs, so they can get a head start on their root growth before the harsh summer heat bears down later in the year.
It's also a good idea to take some winter pictures of your landscape, when everything is exposed in the dead of winter so that you can make adjustments to the anchoring evergreens of your garden.
Ideally, evergreen shrubs should create small vignettes rather than sprinkled in polka-dot fashion throughout the landscape. The evergreens should be grouped in clusters, as if they are small-scaled gardens within the larger landscape, contrasting upright shapes with low mounded shapes. For example, an upright columnar Ilex vomitoria 'Will Fleming' yaupon holly which will attain 10-12' in height placed next to the Texas native Mahonia trifoliolata (Agarita), with it's mounding grey-green foliage that is reminiscent of holly. To finish the evergreen cluster, a low growing and stately twistleaf yucca palida with its deep green arching blades will give this island of green a spiky contrast to the evergreen composition.
Along with looking at the evergreen bones of the garden, now is the time to order vegetable and annual seeds! I have just set up my grow lights up in my loft office and I'm anxiously awaiting my shipment of seeds and starter kits. I am installing a new vegetable garden this spring and I'll post updates on that process as well.