What Time is it in Nature: Garden in Winter
Most of the big, bright flowers have disappeared for the winter in our native plant garden, but that doesn’t mean there’s nothing left to see until spring. There are all sorts of colors and interesting textures if you look!
While the garden might not appear as lush and verdant in the winter as it does in the summer, take a close look at the stems and remaining greenery and you’ll find little surprises hidden throughout the garden. The texture of dead flowers can often be quite beautiful:
The Eastern Aromatic Aster, Phlox, and Rattlesnake Master all have unique textures, ranging from crisp and spiky to soft and hairy. There are stalks of spoon-shaped seeds and the bizarre dried flowers of the Purple Pitcher Plant as well. You might be surprised by the shapes and textures you can find if you look closely.
Some plants are still in bloom. The Carolina Jessamine is a climbing vine and has bright yellow flowers:
This vine is popular with gardeners in our area and the leaves remain green throughout the year. The yellow flowers attract a wide variety of pollinators, though all parts of the plant are poisonous to people.
The Coral Honeysuckle vine is also in bloom:
This vine typically loses its leaves in the winter, but our vines still have the majority of their leaves and are still flowering thanks to the mild winter. During the summer, you’ll often see hummingbirds nectaring at the Coral Honeysuckle, though there are few pollinators taking advantage of the flowers now.
We have one non-native weed that is active in the garden currently:
Though was originally introduced from its native habitats in Eurasia, Henbit is a winter-blooming plant and produces attractive dark green leaves and bright purple flowers throughout the season in many areas of North Carolina. Look for the plants low to the ground in the southwest corner of the garden. Take a close look at the flowers if you have a chance! They’re spectacular. Those flowers can provide important nutrition to some of the spring’s first pollinators, though this species is considered a serious turf pest in North Carolina.
The winter flowers in the garden are fairly subtle and subdued, but you can still see bright splashes of colors in some areas. A few Black-eyed Susans have survived the cooler temperatures and are still in flower:
You’ll find them nestled against other, larger plants in various places throughout the garden.
Our grasses might be dry and the trees might be largely leafless, but there are still exciting things to see at Prairie Ridge! You never know what amazing things you’ll find lurking under a clump of Switchgrass or clinging to the bark of the Devil’s Walking Stick, so stop by soon and see what you can discover.
What Time is it in Nature is a weekly feature highlighting the current plants, animals, and other wildlife at the Musuem’s public outdoor facility, Prairie Ridge Ecostation. Find out more about the natural happenings at Prairie Ridge at our What Time is it in Nature Archive!
(Photos by Chris Goforth)