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»
This has been, according to the meteorologists here in Boston, a pretty warm winter.
Despite a few cold days and a bit of snow, it hasn’t been horrible. And while this may be good news for us, it’s not necessarily good for our winter containers. Driving around town I notice that many greens have “browned” with the warm temps and sun.
Many beautiful containers, once the pride of the neighborhood, have given up the ghost.Read More»
My winter pots remind me of Friday nights. Why Friday nights you may ask? One word…leftovers. Also known as GYO, as in Get-Your-Own. I tell my kids to open the fridge and see what’s left and make something good out of it. And that’s what ends up happening for me when I am designing my winter pots sometime towards the middle of December.
My clients’ homes are all decked out for the holidays so I take stock of what greens, twigs and ornaments I have left and try to determine a cohesive way of tying all the remaining material together. Anyone who has heard me lecture knows that I often come up with some kind of a theme before starting the winter pots. This helps me make sure all my clients’ pots (and sometimes there are upwards of 20) reflect a cohesive look regardless of whether they are by the garage, pool or front door.
This year after looking through the leftovers of Winter 2016 I realized two things: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.
While salt on your French fries may be just the thing, salt on your plants…not so much
Despite the relatively mild winter road crews and homeowners have been using ice melt (sodium chloride) and with that comes the risk of salt injury. Plants most affected are those along walkways, roadways and driveways. Along highways cars can kick up salt spray which is deposited on adjacent plants causing dehydration of evergreen leaves. The major symptom of salt injury is needle browning or yellowing and tip dieback. To avoid salt injury reduce your use of salt, using it only in high traffic areas. Protect plants from damage with a physical barrier such as burlap (much as I hate these winter mummies it would be helpful in a situation with heavy salt spray). In the city the problem becomes salt runoff washing into the soil. If plants absorb this runoff it can prove deadly. If you think your soil has a heavy salt content water it thoroughly in the spring; as long as the soil has good drainage this will help leach the salt out.
Many people are familiar with the beautiful spring-flowering dogwood tree (cornus kousa). Fewer are aware of the wonderful attributes of the dogwood shrub (cornus alba, cornus sericea).
This four-season shrub is useful in every landscape.
In the spring it’s covered with white flowers which are followed by a bluish tinted fruit in summer.
In fall the leaves can turn a dusty maroon.
But it is in winter that this shrub shines.
Bare stems are either vivid red or yellow and brighten the winter landscape. The cultivar ‘Cardinal’ is one of my favorite varieties for its brilliant red/orange stems.
Cut back 1/3 of dogwood branches every year as the most beautiful color occurs on newer stems.
As I look out my window at the winter landscape I am thankful for good bones. Not mine, although they are helpful with all the shoveling I have been doing lately. I think here in Boston we are nearing a record for the snowiest winter ever recorded. I am thankful for the “bones” of my garden – plants that anchor the space four seasons a year. All too often we become enamored of flowers, when in actuality their beauty is fleeting. Even the most robust perennial will rarely reward you with more than a month or so of blooms. The beautiful peony, with its gorgeous flowers, will be bare within weeks, leaving you nothing but foliage prone to powdery mildew. Why build a garden around that kind of performer?
Bones provide visual interest even in the dead of winter and when I am creating a design for my clients they are the first place I start. After all, I live in New England where it sometimes seems that winter is the longest season. What will we be looking at in the garden from November until April? Often the bones I use are evergreen, like the ‘Centennial Girl’ holly and ‘DeGroot Spire’ arborvitae that stand watch over the sleeping perennials at their feet. Sometimes my “bones” have interesting bark or branches. A dusting of snow on the twisted branches of my Japanese Maple is magical. The beautiful peeling bark of Paperbark Maple (acer griseum) is beautiful when backlit by the winter sun. The bright red and yellow branches of dogwood (cornus sericea) shine against the snow. If your winter garden looks flat why not consider a redesign? Incorporate some evergreens with different shapes and textures. Add deciduous trees or shrubs with interesting bark, berries or branches.
Let’s face it winter in New England is long; having good bones can make it more bearable.