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5050 SE Stark • 503-231-5050

9000 SE Division • 503-788-9000

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Portland Nursery

Frost Proof Combo

A February garden in the Pacific Northwest can look cold and dormant. In addition, weather this time of year can be highly unpredictable. Warm days may be followed by cold spells that have the potential to do harm to any number of plants. However, with the selection of the right plant palette, Pacific Northwest gardens can be frost-proof, colorful and cheery throughout the tough dark and cold days of winter.


Three plants that work well in combination, are frost-proof and that will instantly pep up the winter garden are: (1) Carex oshimensis Evercolor ‘Everillo,’ (2) Hellebore x ballardiae ‘Cinnamon Snow’ and (3) Polystichum polyblepharum or tassel fern. Planted next to each other these three plants look amazing in the winter garden and bring out the best in each other.

Featured Plants


Carex o. ‘Everillo’ is an evergreen clumping grass whose blades emerge lime green then turn golden yellow. In winter the eye craves warm tones and this is the perfect plant to meet that need.

Hellebore ‘Cinnamon Snow’ is an evergreen perennial that produces a multitude of creamy yellowish/white flowers with yellow centers from late December until March. Even when the plant is not blooming it has striking green foliage with red stems.

Polystichum polyblepharum or tassel fern which has shiny, serrated light green and dark green fronds which are also reliably evergreen. Planted next to each other these three plants look amazing in the winter garden and bring out the best in each other.

Special Considerations

The combination of plants described above are a perfect fit for a shady woodland garden which can be dark and dreary in winter and lacking in flowering plants. They also continue to look good after a hard frost.

These three plants will not do well in a full sun location when summer rolls around. However, they are capable of handling dry shade conditions
once established.

Substitutes also exist, including Carex o. ‘Evergold,’ Helleborus x niger ‘Jacob’ and Polystichum minutum (Western Sword Fern).

Care and

  • The plant combination mentioned above should be seen as a permanent addition to the garden. They are long-lived plants with year-round interest.
  • Make sure compost, such as Master Nursery’s Black Forest, and a starter fertilizer, such as E.B. Stone’s Sure Start, is mixed in during planting time.
  • Regular deep watering during the first season of growth is important, especially during our dry summers.
  • A cold weather event may flatten the hellebore’s flowers or the fronds of the tassel fern but a rise in temperature will restore their former grandeur.

Plant Spacing/Repetition
Addition of Plants

  • Plants look most natural planted together in threes. Therefore, plant your three plants in a group, accounting for their ultimate size. Please see the photo above for an example.
  • Hellebore ‘Cinnamon Snow’ grows to 2 feet by 2 feet. Carex o. ‘Everillo’ grows to 1.5 feet by 1.5 feet and the tassel fern grows to 2 feet by 2 feet.
  • If your planting area allows for more plants then repeat the palette of three plants together.
  • Some shrubs that would look great as a backdrop to the combination include Sarcococca confusa, winter blooming camellias, Vaccinium ovatum (huckleberry) or Mahonia x media ‘Arthur Menzies.’