a gardener in winter

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Part of my winter reading selections.

One of my neighbors was laughing at me yesterday.  He drove down the street saw me outside with my hands on my hips staring at my giant pile of frozen woodchips. (Yes I know, like I was mentally willing them to thaw and lay themselves down.)

Sigh.

I was also staring with a scowl on my face because when you are piling woodchips, you can aim when they are being dumped, but they also just slide. This year they swallowed up my Kerria Japonica. Sadly, while a super tough shrub, I do not know if it will survive.  I think I have to source another.

129763a6c730afaeded0240129bc29abI have also been going over the Go Native Tree price list again.  I am a believer in reforesting the woods and I want to plant hickories and American Chestnut too.  I found out they won’t have American Chestnuts ready until at least the fall of 2019. But I am going to go ahead and buy 2 Shagbark Hickory seedlings and 2 Black Haw Viburnum.

RareFind Nursery will help with with my quest for Kerria Japonica. And I am also getting a Camellia japonica ‘Hokkaido Red’, Rhododendron ‘Mountain Marriage’ , (Witch hazel) Hamamelis  ‘Beholden’ and (Witch hazel) Hamamelis x intermedia ‘Rochester’.  All of these I think are for the back.  Edge of woods or thereabouts.  Jenny Rose Carey  got me interested again in witch hazel and Catherine Renzi of Yellow Springs Farm is the first person who introduced me to them years ago. And Catherine will laugh at me, but I had forgotten I had planted some other witch hazels until I rediscovered them this summer on the edge of the woods. (Yes that happens when you have a plant habit!)

Read about witch hazels on FineGardening’s website and Sir Monty Don has written about it  too.

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One of my witch hazels starting to bloom.   It is an orange one.     I believe I purchased this one from RareFind Nursery.

Now the Audrey Hepburn quote.  She was a gardener.  Years ago I had these VHS tapes called Gardens of the World With Audrey Hepburn. They got lost in a move.  I wish I could find online or in a new DVD set.   Only used sets are out there and they are outrageous in price for a used DVD set that may or may not work.

Anyway, I continue to wander around outside check on things.  It’s what gardeners do in the winter.  I also stop and listen to my birds.  Some days they are very chatty.  I noticed recently a mockingbird and today I saw the little bluebirds. And above, hawks circled calling to one and other.  The cycle of life in the woods.

Out front I am mentally rearranging some plants.  Like the shorter version of Joe Pye weed. Eupatorium dubium does not keep itself to 2-3 feet tall and in a front bed it is taking up too much real estate.  So come spring I will dig it up, move it, and plant a new bare root David Austin rose.

Some of my roses have struggled because the damp wet summer bought borers.  I lost one in the fall.  I have two bare root David Austins coming – Benjamin Britten and England’s Rose.

How else do I get through the winter as a gardener? Reading.  I subscribe to Gardeners World and Fine Gardening. I also have a gardening book problem. Like cookbooks, I love them.  A lot of what I love is kind of out of print.

I have written many times of my appreciation of the late Suzy Bales, whom I wrote about a few times and most recently in 2016.  There were a couple of her books I wanted but did not have.  One of which was titled Gifts from Your Garden published in 1992,  and before I get to that, there is a lovely archive of other articles she wrote on the Huffington Post website.

So Gifts from Your Garden arrived the other day.  In her acknowledgements for this particular book she thanks Ken Druse. I never knew that connection and he is an author, gardener, podcast master whom I like and follow.  As a matter of fact, his book The New Shade Garden is also on my winter reading list.  She introduced this book in the following manner:

“For a time, I was a closet gardener.  Friends would call to invite me to play tennis, swim, or come for lunch.  In the beginning, I tried to tell the truth. ” I’d love to, but I have some things I planned to do in my garden.” They felt gardening was a chore, and it was all but impossible to make them understand that I really loved gardening.”

I totally, completely, 100% understand that sentiment.  I know many people out there who think I am completely bonkers.

Now my husband thinks I am bonkers when it comes to my little bits of garden art. Or my concrete zoo as he likes to call it.  Oh the face when I purchased Chubby Checker from Brandywine View Antiques.  Ok first of all, the squirrel was quite reasonably priced, and second of all WE HAVE LOTS OF SQUIRRELS some of which are quite rotund so this made me giggle.

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Chubby Checker the chubby squirrel purchased from Brandywine View Antiques in Chadds Ford, PA

So yes, that is what I do. I wander around the garden mentally placing new plants where I think they will go and rearranging in my head where existing plants should be moved to. And I will twitch about it until spring arrives and my shovels can hit the dirt once again.  And I find garden accents…well let’s be honest, I do that all year round but I am picky.  I do not add just anything.

I am also mentally planning out my pots and I am thinking of switching more to of the resin variety which are not as unattractive as they used to be if you buy the ones that are supposed to look like stone.  I am getting tired of hauling pots in and out every year.

I also have to start my seeds.  I start them in a highly scientific manner. No not really, just on my dining room table.  Tomatoes and hatch chilies.  That’s it.  I am not a truck farmer and don’t have much veggie room so they grow in pots and grow bags and move around following the light.  Well I have to, we are half in the woods, after all.

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Photo taken October, 2018

Gardening books are so much fun especially in winter.  Locally, places like Baldwin’s Book Barn have a marvelous selection.  Balwin’s could use our support right now as they were recently burglarized which offends me on so many levels. How do you steal from people who are so nice? How do you steal from a place that is an institution locally?

Gardening I think is one of the best things you can do for yourself.  That connection to the earth, and the creative process of creating your garden. As in YOU create it, not a landscaping service.  Put the time and work into a garden, and it will reward you every day of the year.

I look at my garden and wonder if in the future if someone will appreciate my handiwork.  Will they love my garden as I do now? Will they care about what I planted? Will they keep up with what I have done? I hope so. My garden gives me so much joy.

The last word is my pussywillows are starting to bloom already.

Thanks for stopping by.

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even your friendly neighborhood blogger geeks out occasionally

so I saw this

 

So….Mike McGrath is one of my gardening idols.  He’s kind of like Pennsylvania’s Monty Don, right?  I have listened to his show off and on for years…long before I knew there was a Monty Don, truthfully (Sorry Monty!)

Anyway, if you follow their Facebook page for You Bet Your Garden With Mike McGrath you get all sorts of fun stuff to check out and learn…just like by listening to his shows.

So I saw that post I screenshot above and thought what the heck and sent the show an email expressing interest in calling in. And O.M.G. Mike McGrath e-mailed me himself!! (Yes, the inner and outer gardener start to geek out simultaneously.)

So today I spent time chatting with Mike McGrath (inner gardener and outer gardener are completely geeking out now all hope is lost!)  Yes ME. Ordinary rabid gardener ME.

He is SO cool.  He is every bit as welcoming and nice as he sounds on the air when you listen.  Having had a rather different experience this week when I was on a local talk radio show after being asked to call in, this was a welcome change. It was like he was sitting at my kitchen table having coffee.

So we talked about growing tomatoes and I learned something new which was super cool .  And we talked about my closed gardening group Chester County Ramblings Gardening Group.

Now I did not get to get his advice on Bishops Weed and ask whether or not there are actually true red cyclamen or if growers just feed pink ones dye. I did not get to tell him about my favorite seaweed feed Irish Organic Fertilizer….  Which is a bummer.

I admit I kind of did a wee short circuit like a teenage fan girl of David Cassidy or something.  Dork city in other words. BUT nevertheless apparently I am on the show they will air on February 23.

If you have never checked out his show – you should – here are the times:

Saturdays at 10am
Mondays at 3pm
Wednesdays at 5pm

Episodes Available On:
Stitcher

Podbean

iTunes

Where can you listen to YBYG?

Click here to find your local station.

He is one of what I like to call my garden influencers.  Here are the others:

Jenny Rose Carey Senior Director at the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society’s Meadowbrook Farm 

Glorious Shade  is her book and every gardener should have a copy!

Suzy Bales who passed away in 2016 –  two books in particular Down to Earth Gardener: Let Mother Nature Guide You to Success in Your Garden, The Garden in Winter.  My unexpected pen pal for a short time when I wrote to say thank you for her garden writing.  Her books can be found with used book dealers on Amazon and other places.

David CulpThe Layered Garden – I have a layered garden in places so his book was invaluable. Haven’t seen Brandywine Cottage in Downingtown would love to – here is his website.

Monty DonGardener’s World Magazine and BBC show.  Author of a whole slew of books.  I own Down to Earth and The Complete Gardener.

Gene Bush – Shade Garden Expert.  Visit his website. (you’ll be glad you did)

Other influencers?   Some of the growers and nursery folks I know.  And gardens I have visited and gardens I have had. My current garden is a little bit of all of those.

Also another treat for you today? People I buy plants from…yes….plant resources:

Black Creek  East Earl PA Mennonite owned,  Facebook page and sort of a website 11 E Black Creek Rd  East Earl, Pennsylvania 17519

https://reallancastercounty.com/markets-2/flowers-gardens/black-creek-greenhouses/?fbclid=IwAR1l2EOKyVH_r7m2nHaBZrl9WJiQueluSxY5_Y8yxjpRJ3SsxnIRse7hX4o

https://www.facebook.com/Black-Creek-Greenhouses-163960706964555/

Black Creek is my spot for herb plants, vegetable plants, old fashioned perennials and annuals that no one else has and much more.  They also sell supplies and tools fairly reasonably.  They are the only place I will buy a pre-made hanging basket from.  The best times of year to go? Spring until full-on summer hits and then the fall.  The greenhouses are PACKED with plants.

Yellow Springs Farm Chester Springs PA (amazing native plants and the best goat cheese ever)  https://www.yellowspringsfarm.com/

Yellow Springs Farm is owned by Catherine and Al Renzi.  Native plants organically grown and I have planted with them through three gardens.  Catherine helped me do my first sort of riparian buffer. And they raise goats for award winning goat cheese.

Go Native Tree Farm in Lancaster County PA  https://www.gonativetrees.com/

Go Native is so cool. The owner literally forages in woods all over including places like West Virginia for seed and seedlings.  I have bought Chestnut and Burr Oaks from them and they have a micro species called an “Amish Walnut” which when cut has a tiger grain – it is a natural cross between a walnut and I forget what but you only find them in Lancaster County.

Rhododendrons Direct in Oregon  http://oregonrhododendron.com/  Yes you can visit if you go across the country.  The guy who owns it is named Jim.  He had all my crazy red rhododendrons I wanted.  His shipping is impeccable and plants are flawless.

RareFind Nursery in NJ  https://www.rarefindnursery.com/  Mail order and in person – native plants – amazing

Brent and Becky’s Bulbs   https://www.brentandbeckysbulbs.com/  Mail order. Best bulbs

Camelia Forest Nursery  https://camforest.com/  Ok in NC and you can visit I have only done mail order.  There was a winter hardy Camelia created by Morris Arboretum years ago I wanted they grow Sochi tea plants.

Applied Climatology at the West Chester Growers Market    appliedclimatologyllc@gmail.com  -they are on Facebook and in season you find them Saturdays at West Chester Growers Market https://www.facebook.com/AppliedClimatologyLLC Chris Sann is a walking encyclopedia of plant interesting – he is like my gardening father.  And I have gotten some amazing plants from him.  He gets me to go out of my comfort zone and try new things like green Japanese peonies.

Morningstar Daylilies in Woodstown NJ http://www.morningstardaylilies.com/ Mary Burgents.  Open Farm days and mail order.  And she manages Delaware Valley Daylily Society.  LOVE her daylilies

Crownsville Nursery and Bridgewater Gardens for hostas and some woodland perennials  https://www.crownsvillenursery.com/  in person  and mail order in Virginia – I only use mail order – awesome plants

New Hampshire Hostas   https://www.nhhostas.com/  in person and mail order – only have used mail order – also great plants. Unusual cultivars and old favorites.

Pickering Valley Feed on Gordon Drive in Exton.  They have a Facebook Page. Plants, Supplies, and more….love them

West Chester Agway. Matlack Street in West Chester. They are so awesome and great plants, garden ornaments, supplies, garden carts and more. They also have a Facebook Page.

Uhler’s Feed & Seed Lancaster Ave Malvern. Plants. Supplies. Bird seed. Love them. They have a Facebook Page.

Somerset NurseryTwo locations to blow your mind Glenmoore and Zionsville. 

Please note I list the resources I have used as a regular customer.  I am not compensated for my opinion.

Bye now! (I have a cake to bake)

gardening reading for the winter

My garden is wearing her winter structure already. Harder angles, the stick shapes of shrubs like my red twig dogwoods. Giant pussy willow boughs naked of leaves and catkins bobbing when a breeze blows. Looking up, the trees and their limb structure look like giant arms outstretched, and everywhere are squirrels’ nests (and even a squirrel box for our Eastern Flying Squirrels!)

Our annual tree work is done and the flower beds are resting comfortably under piles of oak leaves. I pruned the rose bushes a few weeks back, and planted my bulbs. I still spray for deer every few weeks, however.

Now as we enjoy the remainder of the Christmas season and are headed towards New Year’s Eve, I have already started the countdown to spring and wondering what the garden will look like because every year as my garden matures, it’s a little different.

As we head further into winter months, my inner gardener always gets twitchy. It’s hard to dig in the dirt when the ground is frozen, after all.

So how do I bide my gardening time until it’s spring? Gardening and seed catalogs and gardening books.

This winter’s reading list for books will be as follows:

  • Down To Earth by Monty Don
  • The Complete Gardener by Monty Don
  • The New Shade Garden by Ken Druse

Read a review of Down to Earth HERE. You can buy new and used copies on Amazon and eBay.

The Complete Gardener has been out quite a few years now. My edition is 2003. But it is worth the purchase. My copy came from eBay and a British book seller. Also available through many sources including Amazon.

The New Shade Garden by Ken Druse first came out in 2016. I had to do a bit of a search to track down a copy of this book. It’s a little pricey too. But it is an awesome book thus far. The book has suggested plant lists which I love. The author, Ken Druse, also has a website which is terrific.

Anyway, these are the books I am delving into while I wait for spring.

Thanks for stopping by.

enjoying the november garden

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One of our big maples out back 

The November garden is spectacular in her own right.  The bright blooms of summer might be gone, but the fiery glory of late autumn waiting for winter is a magnificent display all on her own.

Years ago when I discovered the late Suzy Bales’ books Down to Earth Gardener and The Garden in Winter it was like having a gardening epiphany.  I had been gardening my whole life and she just inspired me to see things differently.  Like many gardeners, for years and years I gardened for two seasons: spring and summer.  She opened my eyes to four season beauty.  I have learned over the past few years the sheer beauty of each season if you let it happen.

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A flower on my Sochi Tea Plant!

This year I added Jenny Rose Carey’s book Glorious Shade to my garden library and she sort of picked up where Suzy Bales’ had left off because I was new to such serious shade gardening and woodland gardening in our current garden.  Through this book and one belonging to my late mother-in-law my eyes have been opened to the possibilities of the shade and woodland garden.  In these gardens, fall I think is one of their best seasons because you completely see the amazing range of fall colors getting ready to make way for the winter garden, which is different yet again.

In addition this year I discovered British gardener Monty Don when I realized through streaming services like BritBox I could get Gardener’s World, the long running and can I say amazing BBC gardening show.  I also acquired Monty’s Book Down To Earth Gardener recently.  Monty Don is a true inspiration to the home gardener and his show is the best I have ever seen.  It’s actual gardening and learning about plants and gardens and gardening, not just some DIY or HGTV hack show where people  blow in over a few days and create unrealistic outside gardening spaces with about as much charm as a McMansion wrapped in Tyvec.  Sorry not sorry but for all of the brilliant U.S. gardeners and gardens it blows my mind the U.S. television is unable or unwilling to produce a quality program along the lines of BBC’s Gardener’s World.

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One of my little blue birds of happiness

This morning the first thing I saw when I looked out the window was blue birds.  Not just a pair, but at least six fluttering around and checking out the bird boxes! Last year we had two.  They have returned and bought others. We think it is last year’s mating pair and perhaps some grown chicks.

I am telling you there are few sights as happy as seeing blue birds flittering and fluttering around the back gardens.  They are shy and hard for me to capture in photographs, so the photo is small and grainy.

Also a happy discovery today was a flower newly opened on my Sochi Tea Plant (tea camellia) and that witch hazels I forgot were in a woodland bed on the edge of the woods were blooming!

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Common Witch Hazel H. virginiana. This is the variety the atringent witch hazel is made from.  This was purchased from Yellow Springs Farm in Chester Springs, PA

Witch hazels are a wonderful often overlooked shrub. The first person to introduce me to them as a wonderful native plant was Catherine Renzi who along with her husband Al  is the owner of Yellow Springs Nursery in Chester Springs PA.  (Al Renzi is the one who finally got me to try a Chicago Hardy fig this summer so we shall see how it over-winters!)

Witch Hazels like moist, well-drained somewhat acidic soil.  They grow in full sun to partial shade, but are an understory plant so I do not recommend full sun although people do grow it in full sun.

Witch Hazels also might like moist soil and flood plains but they don’t like heavy, wet soil.  Have a care on their mature heights and width.  Mine are in a spot that will require regular pruning on my part because I did not pay close enough attention to their mature dimensions, yet I do not wish to move them as they are really happy where they are. Prune before summer but after flowering.  Since these are blooming now, I could technically prune them any time after they are finished.

Gardener’s World has a great piece on witch hazels.  I am not sure if all cultivars are available outside the U.K. but it gives you an idea of variety available. The Brooklyn Botanical Garden has a great article about them on their website too. Fine Gardening is fond of witch hazels as well!  Catherine Renzi introduced me to them originally, but it was in fact Jenny Rose Carey who made me look at them again.  She talked about them at a spring garden lecture I attended and she has several varieties in her own gardens at Northview. I am really lucky to know some fine gardening folks!

I have several trees to plant yet this year, along with a few shrubs and ferns.  Chestnut and Burr Oak , Amish Walnut, baby umbrella magnolias, more witch hazel, dogwood shrub, native azaleas, and a couple of ferns.  And more leaf mulch to be shredded as well. I have planted all of my bulbs though!

I also have hydrangeas to prune.  Yes, you CAN prune hydrangeas and you SHOULD.  It just depends on your type of hydrangea and if blooms on new or old wood. It is one of the most often asked questions in my gardening group.  This link to Gardener’s World will help you, other tips from Gardener’s World, and the one I have used in the past— help from Fine Gardening Magazine.

Enjoy the photos at the bottom of this post.  The garden in November is so lovely. Afinal note is if you are a Chester County resident or live in close proximity to Chester County, one of my favorite growers, Applied Climatology is having their end of season clearence sale at the West Chester Growers Marke on Saturday morning, September 10th.  Check out their event listing on Facebook for more details.

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