the fall into winter garden

I start this morning with a picture of one of my November roses. I have a handful of rose bushes still blooming, and yesterday I was able to cut a small bouquet.

Another oddity given the weather, is this morning I picked fresh raspberries from my raspberry bush. Yes, really!

I have not only planted a “layered” garden, I have done my best to make this garden four seasons. The beauty is different in the fall and in the dead of winter, but if you open your eyes and look around you see it.

I planted a lot of the red twig dogwood shrubs throughout my garden. Some have a variegated leaf some a solid green leaf. Once they start to shed their leaves, the other part of their attractiveness shines through. These shrubs get brilliant red stems that give you the most glorious color from late fall through the winter. There are few things as pretty as seeing a red twig dogwood against freshly fallen snow!

And my hydrangeas – they also provide their own four season attraction. The hydrangeas keep their flowers through most of the winter until winds and what not start to knock them off. (I finish dead heading them in the spring which is NOT the same as pruning. ) It becomes more like a dried flower still life versus the crazy vibrant colors of the growing season.

A lot of my herbs overwinter nicely in this garden as they have enough protection in the beds. I will never get things like basil to overwinter outside, but I have even had tarragon over winter here, which I hadn’t had before. My two big pots on the front walk are filled with lavender and thyme. I will not cut them back I will leave those herbs exactly as is. I finally figured out the trick to lavender was NOT cutting it back if you found a spot where it can overwinter.

I have a much more laissez faire attitude to my garden in the fall then a lot of people. First of all I have a lot of garden and I have to accept that I can’t do everything. So much to the surprise of many, I kind of let my fall garden do what it wants to do. I do not dead head everything. Among other things if you leave the seedpods and whatnot on your shrubs and perennials, it’s food for birds.

But I have discovered if I let my fall garden do what it wants I have this whole other display. It’s almost like looking at a whole other garden. Instead of nothing, I have interest.

We do rake and blow the leaves, and our forest and woods are mostly oak trees, so we put the leaves on the flower beds.

A garden in fall and winter doesn’t have the lush beauty of spring and summer and the riot of color. It’s more subdued and it’s also more structural. You are, after all, looking at the plants without their spring and summer finery.

I do spray everything for deer around now, and I will have to do so again even in the dead of winter. That is the trade-off for having a garden in deer country.

I planted the last of my fall perennials that I picked up on sale and one more shrub. After this weekend I just have some bulbs to plant. But I hadn’t felt like planting them because honestly it was too warm.

I plant mostly daffodils and Narcissus. I gave up on tulips years ago as they are just squirrel food. I like Brent and Becky’s Bulbs for mail order bulbs. Most local nurseries do not get the variety I like, and they are simply more expensive. I have also used a company out of Connecticut called Color Blends.

Today I bought the ceramic vintages birdbaths in and put them in their winter homes in the basement. I bought in one concrete birdbath top, leaving the largest one for my sweet man to flip over and cover for me. It’s just too heavy for me to move.

The kitchen herbs that I have in pots that I do not overwinter inside I will take out of the ceramic and clay pots and put into the flowerbeds. As a result I have a healthy bed of thyme (makes an awesome ground cover), and returning sage and other things like oregano and even some rosemary. I just dig them in and they get covered with leaves and what survives is meant to be and that’s the way it is.

My house looks sort of like a jungle because the Boston ferns have come in from their hooks in the backyard and once a week they get a good water and misting every other day.

During the winter months I will keep myself busy with my ivy topiaries, clivia, and my ferns. I used to do a lot of amaryllis bulbs but I really don’t have the room anymore and the last few years of bulbs I have purchased I have been disappointed in.

Anyway, the time has come for the gardens to sleep. We will be getting a hard freeze over the next couple of days. I will get in the balance of my bulbs, and look to my gardening magazines and catalogs for inspiration for next year. But I will also enjoy my garden in fall and winter. I hope you will too.

Thanks for stopping by.

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the trouble with pachysandra…..and other gardening tales

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The trouble with pachysandra is if it likes a place, it loves the place. And pachysandra is very happy in my gardens.

Where we live has well established pachysandra that grows like it is on steroids. It’s common name is Japanese spurge and is in the boxwood family. When we moved in, the flower beds weren’t so much flowers anymore as they were pachysandra ponds. Pachysandra was everywhere. So if you wonder what my first garden inspiration was, it was to break up the sea of GREEN.

My mother loves pachysandra and maybe part of my intense dislike was having to plant it for her too many years. (Yes, as much as I love my mother, her idea of gardening was to supervise, not actually plant things.) I did not want the pachysandra to go to waste, so what I have done is relocate it around the property. Waste not, want not when it comes to the garden.

I have become an expert at liberating pachysandra from planting beds. I cut it out with garden clippers and a sharp shovel edge like strips of turf or carpet and roll it up. All you have to do is plunk down the sections where you want it next and water it in. I have relocated my liberated pachysandra to bare spots on the edge of the woods and it regrows nicely and chokes out the weeds.

This weekend I had stopped at Home Depot in Frazer and noticed a lot of plants were on sale. A lot of the sale plants looked horrible because they needed watering, but along the side of the store where the “nursery” is were a ton of day lilies at $3.00 a pot. They were decent cultivars and were from their Vigoro line which is grown by Bell Nurseries in Maryland. Bell has their own land and a network of growers. They are all along the Eastern Shore of Maryland.

And incidentally, if you are looking for plant nurseries, the Eastern Shore of Maryland has some amazing places. One nursery I used to go to is called Pumpkin Shell Nursery on Route 213 in Cecilton, Maryland. They used to have the most amazing boxwood and trees, shrubs, perennials.
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So anyway, I found a bunch a day lilies that had bloomed but were still vigorous and healthy plants. I will be honest I don’t really buy too many plants from Home Depot, but I will look for things in the Vigoro line like hydrangeas and day lilies when they go on sale to use to fill in spots in the garden. The day lilies I bought were the same cultivar, “Baby Moon Cafe“.

……BUT before I planted the day lilies I had to liberate more pachysandra. And the formation I ended up planting the day lilies in was not what I originally envisioned because I also discovered today that the concrete path along which I wanted to plant was well, a foot wider than I originally thought. So I spent quite a while excavating the path and trimming pachysandra along other borders too.

I also noticed my deer friends have been munching a section of garden I planted near the woods this year that I hadn’t sprayed with Deer Out. Apparently my oak leaf hydrangeas are even more yummy than my hostas.

Ah yes, Deer Out. My friend Melanie (who has a gorgeous garden) told me about this stuff. It smells vaguely minty and it is working…..where I sprayed it of course LOL. (I had forgotten about this particular planting area, so they ate the buds off the day lilies and topped one of the oak leaf hydrangeas.)

Right now the late summer flowers are blooming. The garden phlox is just delightful and smells amazingly fragrant especially in the early morning. The phlox was inherited with my house, I can take no credit for it. Three different shades of pink, pink with white edges, and white. It’s old school , tall garden phlox and as opposed to more newly introduced cultivars it is fairly mildew resistant. I have split a lot of this up as well. When we first moved in it took up almost the entire front half of an old perennial bed, so I split it and replanted it all over the garden. Same with the inherited yellow lilies and flag irises.

I also cooked up a batch of hummingbird food (nectar) today. It’s easy. Four parts water to one part sugar, bring to boil in a pot on the stove, cool completely and fill your feeder. You can store the nectar in a sealed container in the refrigerator for a few days per batch. When temperatures reach the 80s and higher you should change the nectar in your hummingbird feeder every couple of days, and it works best when the feeder is in a more shady location. For more information check out the Wild Bird Shop website.

Planning ahead, I have also reserved my next pile of bulbs. Daffodils and Narcissus from Brent and Becky’s Bulbs in Virginia. I also might have to take another peek at the bargain hosta bin at Bridgewood Gardens , also located in Virginia. I will also be waiting to see what else Applied Climatology at the West Chester Growers Market has to tempt me with between now and fall!

Gardening is one of my favorite things. It is a great thing to be able to connect with nature, and it is a creative outlet. Anyone can garden. You just have to try. Start small, experiment with what you like. Get your garden on a routine and it really starts to take care of itself. I realize I garden more than a lot of people I know, yet what I am doing is not so unusual as I see a lot of similar plantings and groupings of plants in my friend Abbi’s garden in Northern New Jersey. Abbi is an artist among other things so her garden is very cool. And she does her own gardening as well.

Digging in the dirt is fun!

Thanks for stopping by, and please let me know how your garden is growing as well!

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winter gardening

gardeningAhhh, I know all of you, you were hoping for a winter gardening post.  Hoping that in the midst of all this I may have discovered something amazing outside this morning.

Nope.

Just a little winter gardening humor from a friend.  After all, it is like the freaking Tundra out there…. so there is no winter gardening.  Only a fervent wish for all my plants to survive and thrive in the spring. Once spring gets here, that is.

Inside is not much better.  My rosemary plant has given up the ghost and so has my beautiful bay leaf tree and the Mandevilla vine I inherited from the previous homeowner is not faring much better.

My inner gardener is VERY frustrated with this winter.  And I say that knowing that a very cold winter is actually not the worst thing for the garden. Except right now is the ugly phase of the winter garden.  Everything is ice, snow, frozen mud and cold.  And it is too early for the snow drops to emerge. I hope all my hostas make it through the winter, but only spring will tell me that for sure.

So I think I will pick out my virtual herb garden for the spring today.  I tuck herbs in everywhere I can – in pots, in beds, along paths. I love Colonial Creek Farm for the things I cannot source locally.  And I might look for one more rose…..a climber for the side of the house….David Austin of course.

It is time to begin the plant wish list for spring.

I go to my favorite nursery sites and I choose what I want and print out the order list.  I am not ordering today, but I want a list of what cultivars intrigue me. I know, I know I am creating plant wish lists….but it makes dealing with the Tundra temperatures so much easier that way!

After that I will peruse my copy of Suzy Bales’ The Garden in Winter.  It was one of the books she sent to me and I think today is a day where I have to find my love of my winter garden again.

Grumblingly yours,

The Frustrated Gardener in Winter

 

 

 

 

dreaming of gardens yet to come…

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What do you do on a gray and rainy winter’s day?

Why dream of gardens yet to come of course!

I can’t wait for the weeks and months to fly by until I can dig in the dirt again!

I thought I would share with all of you a few of my favorite mail order plant resources:

Brent and Becky’s Bulbs

Colonial Creek Farm

Bridgewood Gardens

David Austin English Roses

White Flower Farm

Do not misunderstand me, there’s nothing to replace the awesome experience of a fabulous local plant nursery. However, if you are a gardener like me who looks for plants that are not part of a regular nursery’s roster, you need to have other sources as well.

It is wet and damp and cold outside….my garden needs these winter days in advance of spring. So while my plants sleep, I plan.

What are your gardening plans for spring?

time to put the garden to bed

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It’s November.

Hard to believe that the growing season is done, and in a couple of weeks it will be Thanksgiving. All this means it is time for my garden to go to sleep for the winter.

I have been doing it in bits and pieces, planting bulbs, mulching, trimming things back, raking leaves, piling leaves into the beds to give them an extra winter blanket.

I have been a little under the weather the past couple of days, so I haven’t been doing as much as I should have. But today I decided I needed to do a little more work in the garden, as among other things I had some clay pots and ceramic pots to empty and bring in.

Today is also a weird day for myself and members of my family because today marks eight years since my father passed away, and six years since a cousin we were very close to passed away. So I decided I needed to occupy myself with something I love to do. I love to garden.

When I was a little girl, gardening was something I did with my father. So it was only fitting in fact if I did do a little gardening today.

I harvested some remaining herbs to hang in the basement to dry. I love the smell of lavender, thyme, and oregano as it dries. I emptied out and washed out the remaining clay and ceramic pots that need to be put away inside for the winter. I also did a little trimming.

Now my garden moves into it’s late fall and winter mode. A garden in late fall and winter is a mere skeletal bit of itself, but nonetheless interesting.

I accomplished a lot in my garden this year, and hopefully my hard work will pay off next spring and summer. It is always a bit of a crapshoot to see if everything will survive over the winter, and all those bulbs you plant will come up. But I am hoping for the best. With the exception of the bulbs and a few other things, my plants are locally sourced.

The two places I buy from the most are Woodlawn Nursery and Garden Center on Paoli Pike in Malvern, and Applied Climatology which is from Delaware, but they can be found at the West Chester Growers Market.

I buy bulbs from places like Brecks and also a place called Brent and Becky’s Bulbs out of Gloucester, Virginia . I buy Hostas from Bridgewood Gardens which is near Strasburg, Virginia. For things I can’t find anyplace else I can always rely on White Flower Farm. They are located in Litchfield, Connecticut. But White Flower Farm is only an occasional habit as they are extraordinarily pricey I think.

I know a lot of people do not do their own gardening anymore, and I almost feel sorry for them. They have no idea the experience they are missing.

Gardening, overall, is so rewarding. It is good for your head, it is good for your soul, and it is a creative outlet. Digging in the dirt is a very primal thing, but there’s nothing better than to be able to sit back and watch what you’ve done grow…. literally.

When you garden you’re creating your own personal haven. Who can complain about that?

My garden is definitely one of my happy places. And that’s all year-round.

There is always something to be done in the garden. And even if it’s cold and snowy outside, I can plan and dream and wish for next season inside.

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