What a crazy year. We thought we were finally pushing through COVID and it has reared its ugly head again. Fortunately, the vaccines, although not infallible, do protect us from hospitalization and death. That means that we can have family and friend get-togethers. That, I think, is what we all missed the most this past year. We’re social creatures and want to hug our friends and loved ones, not just talk to them on Zoom screens.

With so many people working from home and not spending money on travel and entertainment, many of them decided to improve their living spaces, thus the busiest year I’ve ever had. I am truly grateful to all who entrusted their properties to me. As I do each year, instead of giving you gifts, I have made donations to three non-profits: LAND, the Cleveland Foundation, and the Greater Cleveland Food Bank. This is definitely a time of year to be thinking about the less fortunate.

On a happier note, I had fun tweaking the garden and finding places for trial plants. I thought a great way to end the year would be to share with you some of the beauties I found as I walked through the garden.

Helleborus HGC ‘Joseph Lemperer’

At the end of February, Helleborus HGC ‘Joseph Lemperer’ was blooming under a Pieris in the back yard. He is always the first one to bloom.

Helleborus ‘Blue Lady’

Helleborus ‘Blue Lady’ is usually the second to bloom. This was March 12. I just love the color. There are many other hellebores in my garden and I eagerly await the bloom of each.

Spiraea ‘Candy Corn’ in March

Spiraea ‘Candy Corn’ in April

At the end of March, I marveled at the color of the newly foliated Spiraea ‘Candy Corn’ that I was sent in 2020 as a trial plant. A week and a half later, the leaves turned yellow.

Spiraea Double Play ‘Doozie’ in April

Spiraea double Play ‘Doozie’ in June and thereafter

Another trial plant received in 2020 was Spiraea Double Play ‘Doozie’. This photo, taken April 5, totally surprised me with its deep rose and rose-tinted green foliage. I really wasn’t expecting much in spite of the name but, not only did it bloom in June, it kept reblooming even into the fall.                                                                                                      

Synelesis aconitifolia emerging foliage

Synelesis in bloom

Synelesis acontifolia is one of the strangest plants you’ll ever see. The first photo shows it in early April when it is just foliating. The second photo is a closeup of the bloom which arrives on a three foot stem so well above the foliage.

April color echo

In late April, I espied this wonderful example of color echo in the left garage bed. I had deliberately planted tulip ‘Merlot’ next to Deutzia ‘Chardonnay Pearls’ for the color contrast without realizing that the variegation in the Epimedium alpinum foliage would echo both the maroon of the tulip and the yellow of the Deutzia.

Same colors in May

A week later, the colors were repeated in the right garage bed. Again tulip ‘Merlot’ but also ‘Budlight’ and Geum ‘Mango Lassi’ in a sea of Myosotis sylvatica. I love this little Forget-Me-Not that seeds voluminously.

Late May

Late May is always full of color. In this instance, the far right corner of the front bed sports Baptisia ‘Carolina Moonlight’, Rosa rugosa ‘Moje Hammerberg’, Camassia, and Allium ‘Purple Sensation’.

Clematis ‘Piilu’ and Nectarascordum in early June

Moving into early June, one of the weirder hardy bulbs Nectaroscordum bulgaricum bloomed in the front yard next to Clematis ‘Piilu’. As you know, I am a clematis junkie so this is one of many that are planted wherever I can find a spot. Keep in mind that they don’t have to be relegated to trellises.

Orange flowers in June on the driveway

Lest you think that I only plant blue, purple, pink, and white flowers, take a look at this orange composition. Penstemon barbatus and Papaver orientale ‘Pizzicato’ thrive in the very well-drained bed along the driveway in early June.

Allium ‘Summer Beauty’ and Geranium ‘Dilys’ in July

Moving into early July, the magenta of Geranium ‘Dilys’ sparks the pale purple of Allium ‘Summer Beauty’ in the front east hill bed.

July yellow and pink

At the same time, in the west bed, there is color contrast of the yellows of Achillea ‘Terra Cotta’ and daylily buds interspersed with the pinks and purples of Echinacea, Allium sphaerocephalon, and Hemerocallis ‘Lady Elizabeth’.

August yellow and pink

Moving into early August, the same color scheme occurs in the back: Lots of yellow Rudbeckia ‘Pot of Gold’ that has to be edited each year so it doesn’t take over, Canna, and Carex elata ‘Aurea’ with the rose and lavender flowers of Hibiscus ‘Summer Storm’, Phlox, and Rosa Oso Easy ‘Happy Smoothie’.

Arum berries in August

About the same time, under the shade of my old magnolias, I always exclaim at the berried spathes of Arum italicum ‘Pictum’  that have turned from green to bright orange. As I write this post, those berries are long gone but the arrow-shaped, variegated leaves that reappeared in the fall never seem affected by winter weather.

Late summer Phlox

In late August and September, the front bed is full of a white sport of Phlox ‘Miss Margie’ plus the original lavender-pink and the late-blooming Hemerocallis ‘Autumn Minaret’ plus the unusual deadheads of Rudbeckia maxima.

Hydrangea ‘Blushing Bride’

What a joy to discover a new bloom on Hydrangea macrophylla ‘Blushing Bride’ even as the old blooms have turned a deep rose. In late October, there were also some new blooms.

Monarch visit in September

Looking out our living room window at the end of September, I saw several Monarch butterflies that were attracted by the Verbena bonariensis and Hydrangea paniculata ‘Quickfire Fab’.

Colchicum and Sternbergia in late September

I always look forward to the emergence in late September of Colchicum autumnale and Sternbergia lutea in the magnolia bed.

October bloom of Hydrangea and Tricyrtis

In mid-October, I was quite surprised by the color combination of the coral-pink, aged blooms of Hydrangea macrophylla Let’s Dance® Rhapsody Blue and the purple, orchid-like flowers of Tricyrtis ‘Taipei Silk’.

Crocus speciosus and Ophiopogon in November

Even November has not been lacking in color. I love the combination of Crocus speciosus coming up through the black foliage of Ophiopogon. I have to laugh when I see passersby looking puzzled at Crocus in November.

Squirrel “statue”

How hilarious is this? This squirrel stood so still on the fruit sculpture on my front porch that he looked like part of it. The photo was taken December 1 and the Aeonium in the containers were still untouched by the cold.

Now, although some of my roses are still blooming, the garden is dominated by coniferous evergreen or gray foliage (conifers and lavender) and the beige of the ornamental grasses. But it won’t be long before the cycle resumes.

This post is longer than usual because it was really hard to choose the photos. My garden is a series of evolutionary events but I love sharing them with you.

Best wishes to all for a Happy New Year.