Monday, December 21, 2020

The First Day of Winter

Today is the astronomical first day of winter in the Northern Hemisphere, marking the winter solstice and the shortest day of the year. Winter weather arrived at my house even sooner, however, when a snowstorm blanketed the Northeast last Thursday. We had less snow than expected although at eight inches deep it was more than the total that fell all of last winter. On days like that I am grateful for a warm house and a fireplace. I relish staying indoors, appreciating that I don't have to move the snow -- thanks to my husband, Duane, and his snow blower and a neighbor with his snowplow.  I finished decorating for Christmas, forced some amaryllis bulbs, and watched backyard birds through the garden-room window.  

Further north saw much more snow, but this was enough for me.

I scaled down the amount of holiday decorations as the family wont be coming this year due to the pandemic. In the den, I adorned the mantle with a bit of green and red; I put up the Christmas tree. This is only the second year we haven't had a fresh tree, but our cute, skinny, artificial one is so much less work and takes up less space. 

The wooden cardinal bird was made by a family member as a wedding favor. Lovely memories.

More memories on the tree. It may be artificial, but every ornament has a meaning. We brought some with us when we emigrated from England over forty years ago.   

 In the garden room I made a little vignette, incorporating a poinsettia.

 I love poinsettias for their cheery red color. I placed another one in the dining room....

Sparkly deer, a music box, and a poinsettia on the dining table.

For several years Duane collected little schoolhouses that light up. We always display them with some of his model cars and other 'toys.' Jon puts the array together; he does a great job.

The Queen leads the parade in the village of schoolhouses

Carol, at May Dreams Gardens always quotes Elizabeth Lawrence, 'We can have flowers every month of the year.' I missed Carol's GBBD post this month, but the quote applies here. To ensure that I have blooms in midwinter, I force some amaryllis bulbs. This year, I purchases two online from White Flower Farm. In fact I bought kits comprising the bulbs, glass containers, and pebbles. (Yes, it's true that bulbs do not need soil to grow.) I assembled everything on the dining table.

River rock with Amaryllis 'Barbados' and glass-like  stones for Amaryllis 'Aphrodite'

The first step is to cut off all the dried, dead-looking roots - leaving any white ones.

Place approximately four inches of 'rocks' in the bottom of the container.

It was obvious that White Flower Farm did not include enough pebbles in the kits. I had a bag of river rock in the potting shed, but needed to send Duane to the Dollar Store for more of the glass-like ones. Thank you, Duane. The bulb is then covered except for the top third.

The next step was to add water to the container. The level of the water should not be higher than about one inch below the bulb to prevent rotting. Finally, I placed the containers in a sunny window. I turn them regularly so that the stems grow up straight.

Today, both bulbs have healthy green shoots.


Watching the birds at the feeder and at the heated water dish is another favorite snowy-day activity of mine.

Top: Male Northern Cardinal,
Bottom: Female Northern Cardinal
Top: Black-capped chickadee. Bottom: American goldfinch

Top: House wren. Bottom: White-breasted nuthatch

Whatever the holiday you are celebrating, I wish all of you peace and happiness, dear gardening friends. Stay safe!


Pamela x


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Monday, November 30, 2020

I Am Thankful for These Eight Plants

Summer 2020 - Where did the time go?

This Thanksgiving weekend I made a list of some of the plants that I appreciated most in 2020. Of course, I am thankful for all of the flowers and vegetables in my gardens, but the following stuck out for various reasons. I chose at least one for each season, starting with the striking red-twig dogwood in winter and ending with the beautiful Sheffield Pink chrysanthemums of fall. I wonder if you would agree with my choices or pick something quite different?

  Arctic fire™ red twig dogwood (Cornus stolonifera 'Farrow'). I think you can see why I chose it.


Last year I installed a rain garden, and planted it with native plants that don't mind wet feet. At the beginning of April, the marsh marigold started to bloom for the first time. Such joy ...

Marsh marigold Caltha palustris

I am excited each year to find dwarf crested iris flowers on the edge of the Serenity Garden.  Spring 2020 was no exception. This is one of my all-time favorite native plants.

Dwarf crested iris Iris cristrata 


My David Austin rose, 'Lichfield Angel,' has thrilled me every year since I bought it in 2010, but it was particularly beautiful and prolific this summer.  It has special meaning for me because I attended school in Lichfield, England. David Austin named the creamy-white rose for a limestone carving of an angel in that city's cathedral. 


David Austin's rose 'Lichfield Angel'


I am extremely thankful for my Limelight hydrangea for a good reason. When it came time to make the bouquet's for my friends wedding at the end of the summer, most of my flowers had faded. I am happy that Limelight was beautiful still. The perfect focal point of blooms for the bride to carry.


Hydrangeas 'Limelight', sedum 'Autumn Joy', pale pink zinnias, a rose bud, and sweet autumn clematis.  

I enjoy growing zinnias for their cheerfulness and reliability. This year, I added versatility to its attributes. For the first time, I planted them in pots where they made stunning displays of color. They didn't last quite as long as those planted in the ground, but they were a very inexpensive way of filling my many large containers. 

Zinnias in tubs


A surprise this fall was an abundance of chrysanthemums near the back porch. I believe it was due to the removal of the catalpa tree letting in more sunlight. I had a new appreciation for their pretty color, too.

Hardy mum (Chrysanthemum 'Sheffield Pink')


Finally, I must include a vegetable. Each year, I devote a raised bed in the Kitchen Garden to red beets. Previous years they have won prizes at the local fair. While there was no fair this year due to Covid, the beets were winners in my house. As always, I pickled and canned several jars. We will enjoy them all through the winter months.


My Red beets 'Detroit Dark Red' at the local fair.
Shelf of pickled beets in the jelly cabinet.


This was a different end-of-month view of my garden; it is now 'sleeping' with not much to show. I am linking with Sarah who invites us through her garden gate -- please visit her wonderful seaside backyard. Thank you Sarah for hosting each month. 

I keep reminding myself of all that I have to be thankful for in spite of the stresses of a pandemic.  Family, friends, flowers to name a few.

Stay safe and well,


Pamela x


Doodles, Taz, and Bilbo enjoy the November sunshine


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Tuesday, November 17, 2020

November's Changing Views of the Cottage Garden


The naked, silent trees have taught me this, --

The loss of beauty is not always loss!

                                                                                               November  by Elizabeth Stoddard


Last week, following a warmer than average start to the month, we had a hard freeze that changed the landscape. I took the pictures in this posting early in the morning, going outside in my robe and wellies -- afraid the warming sun would soon melt away the beauty. I love the glisten of frost on plants. Since then, however, a rain storm and strong winds have removed most of the leaves. The winds also brought down several dead trees -- more changes. Elizabeth Stoddard's poem perfectly reflects my thoughts about this month. You can read it in its entirety at the end of the post.  


The pond's heron decoy with frosted wings in front of the dwarf cutleaf maple (Acer palmatum)

The weeping cherry (Prunus x 'Snofozam') and smoke bush hang on to their last few leaves. 

The cottage garden is outlined with silver.
Arctic fire™ red twig dogwood (Cornus stolonifera 'Farrow') doesn't need leaves to be beautiful.
Swimming over waves of frosted lambs' ears.

Ninebark 'Tiny wine' turned a beautiful red color since I featured it in my last blog post.

By the time I got to the Serenity Garden with my camera, much of the frost had melted.
The foliage of the new Dawn redwood (Metasequoia glyptostroboides) wasn't as colorful as I was expecting.
The frost lingered in the Kitchen Garden.

I am linking to May Dreams Garden's Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day -- late to the party again. Sorry Carol!

I have much to do in the garden before winter truly sets in. It's been too cold lately for me to go outside. I would rather sit here at my writing table by the window and watch the frolicsome goats. Notice the plural! Yes, we have companions for Doodles who was so very lonely after Billy Goat died. They are two pigmy goats, a few months older than Doodles who was two in July. The three are getting along exceptionally well. 


Doodles at the front of of the picture, then Bilbo who is brown. Taz is at the back -- he is gray.

Wishing a Happy Thanksgiving to all who celebrate this wonderful tradition. It will be very different this year with all the Covid restrictions, but I'm sure we will find new ways to connect with family.  Stay safe and well!


Pamela x   


by Elizabeth Drew Barstow Stoddard


Much have I spoken of the faded leaf;

Long have I listened to the wailing wind,

And watched it ploughing through the heavy clouds,

For Autumn charms my melancholy mind.


 When autumn comes, the poets sing a dirge:

The year must perish; all the flowers are dead;

The sheaves are gathered; and the mottled quail

Runs in the stubble, but the lark has fled!


Still, autumn ushers in the Christmas cheer,

The  holly-berries and the ivy-tree:

They weave a chaplet for the old year's heir;

These waiting mourners do not sing for me!


I find sweet peace in depths of autumn woods,

Where grow the ragged ferns and roughened moss;

The naked, silent trees have taught me this, --

The loss of beauty is not always loss!

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Saturday, October 31, 2020

This Month in the Garden; and Fall Tasks: Part 2


October was a beautiful month with stunning fall foliage. The first two weeks were warmer than average -- in the mid-seventies. The month is ending with more seasonal temperatures. I did quite a few tasks before it became so cold, including planting more than four dozen miniature daffodil bulbs in the Serenity Garden. We still have to cut back some perennials, especially hostas. I must clean and put away the flower tubs and store garden ornaments in the tractor shed. 


Time to cut back the hostas. Otherwise, slugs will lay eggs under the slimy, dead leaves.

We have been raking weeds. Duane shreds them returning them to the flower beds.

Only parsley and rosemary remain in the herb trug. It's time to start my indoor herb garden.

I must put away garden ornaments to protect them from harsh weather.


I've been busy with my new garden-coaching business -- I'm adding to my website October brought me my first client; I loved touring her garden and giving her ideas for making it better. I continue to answer home gardeners' questions. Here are a few more of the common ones:

Can I plant anything in the fall?

Answer: Plant bulbs: they need a an extended cold period to grow foliage and to bloom. It's not too late to plant container-grown plants. They need time to establish a root system before the ground freezes. In my area that will probably not occur until well into December. Add a thick layer of mulch to prevent them from heaving out of the ground when it freezes and thaws. October is the best time to plant garlic, so this weekend is probably your last chance. Garlic needs a cold treatment for two months to induce bulbing. Grow garlic in a soil with a pH of 6.2 to 7.0. Space the cloves four to six inches apart and three to four inches deep, with the root side down. Mulch heavily with straw.


I planted this ninebark 'Tiny wine' last fall. It established well. 


How do I winterize the pond?

Answer: With correct preparation for the winter months it is possible for aquatic plants and fish to survive in your pond for years. Our pond is 10 years old and the fish have always survived the winter. When the water temperature drops below 45°F, shut down the filter, remove the filter media and the main pump to prevent damage from freezing. Follow the manufacturer's recommendations for draining and storing the pump. Stop fertilizing pond plants and remove any yellow, brown, or decaying foliage. Discard floating plants such as water hyacinth (Eichhornia crassipes). Never put discarded water garden plants in our natural waterways. Put hardy plants such as blue flag (Iris versicolor) in the bottom of the pond to a depth of 20 inches or more. Place tropical plants like tropical water lilies (Nymphaea) in a tub of water in the basement or other location where the temperature is above 50°F. Clean the pond by using a skimmer net to remove debris. Prevent the water from freezing by running an air-bubbler. We add a floating deicer to stop ice from sealing off the pond. Do not allow water levels to drop significantly throughout the winter.

Last week saw the final water-lily bloom.

We winterize our pond between Halloween and Thanksgiving.


I don't need to weed in the fall, do I?

 Answer: It is important that you do a final weeding in the fall before weeds left in the garden go to seed and produce hundreds of new weeds next year. Fall is also the best time to treat lawn weeds with an organic broadleaf weed killer.

 I don't pull Queen Ann's Lace because I love it so. But I pulled most other weeds already.


What is a cover crop?

Answer: A cover crop is a living mulch that protects the soil from erosion, compaction, and weeds. Cover crops retain nutrients in the soil; some provide pest and disease control. Plant a cover crop in the fall on fallow areas such as raised vegetable garden beds. If possible, do this before the end of September, but you can plant winter rye in October. Winter rye, barley, oats, and winter wheat add organic material and improve soil structure. Alfalfa, crimson clover, and hairy vetch are legumes that fix nitrogen in the soil. Before planting your vegetables in spring, cut, mow, or pull your cover crop and fork under the remaining 'green manure.' I don't have any pictures to show you as I haven't grown a cover crop for some years. Being asked this question, however, motivates me to put it on my to-do list for 2021.

One of the reasons I didn't grow a cover crop this year is because time sped by so fast. I can hardly believe the gardening season is over already. With a hard frost last night, most of the leaves have now fallen and the last blooms have faded. I'm glad I took the following pictures before the freeze.

My gardens' beautiful October colors.

The evergreen needles of the white pines provide contrast to fallen autumn leaves in my woodland garden.

Late blooms. I took these pictures earlier this week. They are gone now.

A red squirrel was very busy storing walnuts in the tool-shed.


I am blessed to have had a comparatively peaceful month. I know that some gardeners in the south suffered more flooding from tropical storms. My friend Dee's garden in Oklahoma was devastated by an ice storm that felled many of her beautiful trees. Dee blogs at Red Dirt Ramblings where she tells about the ice storm's double whammy.  

I'm linking with Sarah's 'Over the Garden Gate' meme and looking forward to visiting her blog to see some October gardens from around the world. 

 Stay safe and well, dear gardening friends.


Pamela x

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