By Mirror staff writer Jane McKinley
The fall mums are played out and the winter pansies are nestled in preparing for their burst of spring color. So, what’s showing its color in Cape Charles in December? As my dog, Mickey, and I take to the sidewalks this month, it has been delightful to see that, even in early winter, the yards and businesses in Cape Charles are displaying some bright winter color. Albeit, you may have to look closely. But it’s worth the time to slow your pace and seek out the surprising colors that mother nature brings to us this month.
Of course, not too surprising is the quintessential red color bursting forth from many trees and shrubs. From the Nandina domestica , known as ‘Heavenly Bamboo’ (a wonderful specimen of which is found at the Civic Center), to multiple varieties of hollies, the town is covered in red! These berries also make great additions to one’s holiday greens, so cut away if you are inclined to do so. It won’t hurt the plant.
One can even find red Sasenqua camellias (possibly ‘Yuletide’) in bloom this time of year. Camellias are hearty in our region, with the sasenquas blooming as early as late fall. Camellias typically bloom through April, have thick, glossy leaves and make a nice specimen plant (as long as it has room to grow up to 20’ tall if you don’t want to keep it pruned) and a backdrop for annuals and perennials in the warmer months.
In addition to the red sasenquas blooming this time of year, the town has a number of white ones that look as if they are covered in snow balls. Wouldn’t that be striking to mix the red and white ones for a spectacular holiday display!
When I “moved” to Cape Charles for the month of January, 2016 to decide if this could really be my ‘forever home,’ I noticed several big, hearty shrubs with wide leaves that offer a year-round tropical foliage effect. This shrub sports panicles of spiky, greenish balls in the winter. Having never seen anything like this, I quickly began making inquiries and learned that they are Fatsia japonica. These shrubs, which grow up to 10’ tall and require a protected site (great for a shady yard), are tolerant of salt spray which is a bonus for our bayside exposure.
It’s probably a foregone conclusion that the entrance to Cape Charles has a lot of opportunity to improve. But one must omit the flower bed at Chesapeake Properties from this conclusion. All year long this bed is full of bursting color, winter included! The current arrangement of pansies (which are doing a lot more than nestling down for the winter), two varieties of ornamental cabbage and snapdragons with their oh-so-happy faces makes this garden bed a show stopper! Thank you, Kim, for giving us such a lasting treat.
The brilliant magenta color of the Eastern Prickly-pear was the inspiration for this article. My eyes practically flew out of my head when I saw the striking magenta fruit atop the flat, prickly cactus pad. There are a few of these native plants growing around town but the one in the picture below is truly a magnificent species. This plant grows best in full sun and in dry, sandy soil.
The pots of pansies and other winter annuals are a nice addition to the downtown landscape. However, to find a perennial in bloom this time of year is a rarity. But I found one! The glossy leafed perennial, Ligularia, also known as leopard plant, growing in front of Voiajer on Mason Ave, was in full bloom this past week in spite of the chilly temps. This plant is in the groundsel ‘tribe’ (see note below) and a member of the sunflower family.
I’m not sure which cultivar this one is, but it’s a happy camper, indeed! These plants grow well in shady conditions and enjoy damp habitats.
Of course, beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and if you don’t get into gardening but want perennial color, then there’s always plastic flowers. We have something for everyone here in Cape Charles!