It’s Valentine’s Day and love stories abound.
The one between me and my garden is one of my favorites.
And like love, it has its seasons.
The spring garden is ripe with promise.
Yet, like new love, it is fragile. A time of emptiness surrenders as an opportunity for hope springs up, like the snowdrop bravely pushing itself through the snow. Or the crocus straining towards the sun. Still, the spring garden can be full of worry and concern.
Will that late cold snap kill ripening flower buds? Will the deer munch the tulips? Will the snow load prove too much for the small snowdrops? Anything too weighty, at this point in the development, could prove disastrous. So much promise, yet so much risk.Read More»
Yesterday I finished my last winter pots. Decorating, at least for my clients, is done.
So today I woke up with a wonderful sense of freedom. It was euphoria, really. No need to leave in the early morning darkness in a car fully-loaded with all manner of holiday decorations. I could sit and enjoy a cup of coffee. Watch the sun rise. Enjoy the wood fire while I contemplated what to do for the day.
Which is what I am still doing. Hours later. In my pj’s.
Come to find out a day filled with free time and no agenda, rather than being liberating, is terrifying. I don’t know where to start. Should I organize the workshop which, over the last few weeks, has been as busy as the North Pole? Tables are piled high with ribbon, ornaments, and other crafty paraphernalia. God knows we could use a few elves down there to clean up the mess.
Maybe I could fill my own pots for the winter. This is the most wonderful time of the year, unless, of course, you are in the gardening business. Then I refer to it as “The cobbler’s children time of year.” My lights are not hung, the wreaths are not up and the tree is not decorated. An email from a kind neighbor the other day was ecstatic in her praise for surrounding neighbors and their beautiful lights and outdoor décor. No mention was made of the art of the stacked pumpkins still in my urns.
It’s kind of damp and cool out and I am still recovering from Monday’s full day spent outdoors in the snow/sleet/rain. Maybe I could stay in and do some office work. File receipts. When things are crazy lots can fall through the cracks and I should probably make sure that billing gets done while jobs are still fresh on my mind.
The coat closet is a disaster and has become a catch-all for anything people in my family do not want to put away. Which explains the yoga mat and watering can currently on the floor. With cold weather fast approaching I could organize it to make sure that orphan mittens find their match and each person’s winter accessories are in their individual bins.
Should I start work on my new PowerPoint lecture about designing gardens to be more pollinator-friendly? I have lots of great ideas and pictures that need pulling together.
I think today, the first day of vacation, I will end up doing none of the above. I need to learn how not to-do. I am going to enjoy another cup of coffee. Binge watch something on Netflix. Make a delicious dinner for the family that has lately subsisted on frozen burritos and take-out. And stay in my pajamas.
Life is good.
It’s that time of year.
People are beginning to plan their holiday/winter containers.
I want to encourage you to not forget about your door.
After all, with the exception of Santa, it’s how most people enter your home. A wreath, or a beautiful door topper such as this, is a wonderful way to welcome friends and family while also continuing whatever theme you are doing in your pots.
It happens slowly enough. You wake early and it’s not quite light yet. You have dinner on the patio and find you need to turn the lights on or light the candles. Or wear a miner’s cap. The hummingbirds have stopped coming to the feeder. You use the fan, rather than the air conditioner. You find that long pants actually feel comfortable. These are all signs that summer is drawing to an end.
While it may seem sad to say goodbye to summer (unless you are one of the mothers at the bus stop I see high-fiving each other) we do have fall to look forward to and it’s one of the best reasons to live in New England. No one is exactly sure how the drought will affect our foliage; the consensus is the foliage may still be good but will not last as long. I’ll take what I can get because I know after the beautiful colors of fall comes the white of winter. Despite summer’s finale, there’s still plenty you can do in the garden.Read More»
OK I’ll be honest. I have yet to do my fall chores. The recent frost has turned the plants in my containers into terrified skeletons, a blanket of leaves covers my lawn and the tropicals in the garden have gone to mush. Not to mention the chipmunk tunnels that are crisscrossing both the lawn and garden. Spending all day in my clients’ gardens leaves me with very little energy for my own. So I have come up with an abbreviated list of “must-dos”. This streamlined approach leaves me with more time to watch NCIS and enjoy a glass of wine (which is what I wanted to do in the first place).
To start, I remove all dead annuals from the pots and gardens. Diseased plants are also taken out but not put in the compost pile; I don’t want any disease spreading. I do not cut back most perennials for two reasons. First, those with ornamental seed heads or structure can provide winter interest. Second, some perennials, like delphiniums, have hollow stems; cutting them back allows water in and can promote rot. An exception is bearded iris. If iris borer is a problem I cut back the iris foliage AFTER the first frost.
Instead of raking I mow my leaves. Using the lawn mower with the bag attachment allows the leaves to be shredded and collected. All that’s left is to mulch the garden with them. Over the winter they will break down and enrich the soil. Finally I make sure both the garden and my home are not appealing to critters. I spray Deer Defeat (visit their website) on my evergreens and sprinkle some fox urine around the house to deter mice and squirrels. I do not wrap my plants to protect them from the elements; the burlap mummies I see in some yards do not look attractive to me. The best defense for any susceptible evergreen is to make sure it is well watered going into the winter.
Less time spent on fall chores means more time spent on fun things. NCIS anyone?
This time of year I feel like that kid from the movie The Sixth Sense. Remember the one who saw dead people? That’s me. Only I see dead windowboxes. Containers. Urns.
Ghosts of gardens that were undoubtedly the pride of their owners now left to die.
I can’t help but wonder why the people who delight in designing their summer containers don’t keep the beauty going into fall. After all, fall windowboxes are not difficult to create. The key is planting “pockets”.
Start by planting evergreens in the container to act as the “bones” of the design. Boxwood and dwarf arborvitae are great choices for bones. In between the evergreens, the “pockets”, plant seasonal material. Even if you choose to plant only in summer your evergreen “bones” mean you have a decent looking container during the other three seasons. You can make a great looking fall windowbox without planting a thing, just add simple embellishments. For instance, gather some interesting gourds or seed heads and use branches for height. Just make sure you NEVER use bittersweet vine as it is highly invasive. A simple combination for your fall container could incorporate an ornamental grass, a cabbage or kale, and some pansies. Even though the days are colder don’t forget to water your container. Until the soil freezes the plants still require moisture.
If you are not planting anything in your winter boxes remove fall material before it becomes frozen in place. Cutting off plant material at soil level is a good option if Jack Frost catches you unawares and helps you avoid the “ghosts of containers past” syndrome.
Fall in New England is a beautiful season with spectacular colors and interesting details. It’s the perfect opportunity to plant something in your containers that will take your breath away – before winter does.
This article was originally written for Pine Straw, an apparel and home goods store in Wellesley, MA.