A Carpet of Snow in December

Drifts of snow white blanket the cottage garden in December. On a sunny winter day, the few remaining pollinators buzz among the blossoms. So far undaunted by frost, Sweet Alyssum 'Carpet of Snow' still flourishes.The honey fragrance of the blooms makes it nearly impossible to resist picking a stem to deeply inhale the scent. Braving the cold morning, I snapped a few photos of the alyssum, just before the sun warmed up the garden.

Sweet Alyssum 'Carpet of Snow'
(8:00 am, December 3, 2011)
Alyssum with burgundy leaves of loropetalum.
(December 3, 2011)
I sow seeds the tiny seeds of Sweet Alyssum (lobularia maritima) from October through March. Known as a cool climate annual, the small investment in seeds was worth the effort here in zone 7b of North Carolina.My cottage garden is a micro-climate more like zone 8a.

The alyssum patches spread remarkably wider in 2011 compared to 2010 and I believe this is due to some self-sowing.  The height is relatively low, less than twelve inches. Beginning in April, the fresh and new alyssum sprouts bloom and they gradually spread over the next few months.

The focus of my mass plantings is an edge of the cottage garden path that is seldom seen until September. The heaviest blooms crank up from September until...we shall see!

During the hottest, scorching months, I grow taller annuals and perennials to shade the south side of alyssum. The blooms take a break on the hottest days, but the foliage is still lush until re-bloom. I've found the annual to be remarkably drought-tolerant and rabbit resistant. Given that the rabbits haven't touched the alyssum, I've sown seeds outside the fence in deer territory. I'm optimistic that the annual will be deer resistant.

I am so enamored by alyssum that I have already sown seeds in a new cottage garden bed that is based upon white with nandina 'Alba', phlox 'David' and a few other favorites.

Alyssum is the perfect plant for hiding the stems and ankles of taller plants. I've given thought to growing this versatile annual in so many spots! It is a wonderful companion for annual dianthus and verbena 'Imagination' as both are still blooming on this December morning.

With the low cost of seeds, the many months of blooms, fragrant scent and food for pollinators, Sweet Alyssum 'Carpet of Snow' has earned a permanent place in my garden.

Annual dianthus, verbena 'Imagination' as companions.
(September 2011)
Alyssum and tender perennial/annual salvia 'Victoria'.
(August 2011)
Alyssum blooms are fewer and smaller in the heat of July.

In the beginning.
The first white blooms of Sweet Alyssum in May 2011.
(Lower left hand corner)

Words and photos by Freda Cameron, Defining Your Home, Garden and Travel. Deer and rabbit resistance varies based upon the animal population and availability of food. All company or product or patented names mentioned are registered trademarks, copyrights, or patents owned by those respective companies or persons.


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