“In every winter’s heart there is a quivering spring, and behind the veil of each night there is a shining dawn.” -- Gibran Khalil Gibran
Our garden is very nearly in shambles. I don’t know if I’ve ever seen it look so pitiful. The vegetables seem stunted, the roses look sparse, we need more winter annuals, and many of our wooden frames are buckling (untreated wood for organic growing).
I’m not being unreasonable about the garden. Southeast Texas is plenty green in the winter and vegetable beds usually flourish. I’m pretty sure that I’ve done something wrong, but haven’t figured out what yet. Does the new soil have too much bulky compost? Has the watering not been sufficient or too much? Did I sow seeds too late? I will have to take notes in my garden planner this year.
On the other hand, the patio’s ambience continues to improve. Joseph, husband and carpenter extraordinaire, finished another one of his weekend projects – a rollback swing. It’s large and pretty and so very comfortable. It’s been up for only a few days and is already a focal point.
I have a feeling that, despite the garden’s current, puny condition, it will be glorious this spring. It will take work, but we like work. It will also take time, waiting. For that, we have a swing.
This morning, I stepped outside, planning only to enjoy a few minutes of fresh air before returning indoors to finish un-decorating. But when I looked around our front garden (we have no yard) and saw the work that needed to be done, I couldn’t help myself. Where we live, pentas bloom happily until at least the first frost. At that point, they usually begin dying back to the ground, depending on how protected their location is in the garden. Our pentas are many and huge and most were either partly brown or entirely so. I just couldn’t leave them looking humiliated another day.
So there I was, in my cozy slippers, cutting the pentas back. I still have pansies and snapdragons to plant in front of them.
Then I noticed that one bed under an oak tree, usually very pretty, was practically empty, especially once the pentas had been trimmed. There were a few small oak branches, a zillion acorns, and even an empty bedding plant container. Really? Yikes. So, I found my clogs and continued cleaning. The weather was sunny and cool, absolutely beautiful.
We have so much to do in the garden during the next few months. Some of it will be rather hard work. Our wood frames are rotting. We’re considering replacing some with cinder blocks. We want to move our fig tree and create a sitting area out in the garden. Our patio is almost entirely shaded all day, so a spot in the sun would be welcome. And there are so many empty spaces. Okay, to be honest, I’m sort of thrilled about that. Not everything works, so it’s an exciting challenge and an opportunity to experiment with plants and maybe discover a few new ones.
The roses that have survived the garden – not as many as I would have hoped – are still blooming away. This morning I discovered a lovely rose bud at the side of the house. It was a nice surprise.
While we usually leave our decorations up until Epiphany, this year I decided to wrap it up early. Of course, if I continue as this morning, they might well still be up in a month or two. 😊
Wishing you all the best in 2021.
I was hoping to share a beautiful poem about a winter rose. I couldn’t find one! I suppose I will have to keep looking. If the English romanticists couldn’t get over themselves, surely other cultures might offer up a few?
The garden was not on my to-do list today, except that it’s always on my list. I spent a lovely hour in the sun spacing vegetable seedlings. I still have a few hours of that pleasant task ahead of me this week. As difficult as Texas gardening is in summer, it’s positively lovely in the cooler half of the year.
It feels great to to work outside, concentrating on the task at hand, without having to deal to with bugs biting or sweat trickling down my face and neck.
Cilantro, cabbages, lettuces, beets, carrots, parsnips, kale, chard and so much more – all popping up exuberantly. Last year, everything came up late and I didn't space the seedlings properly. This year, I hope to do better and enjoy an even bigger harvest.
The roses, of course, have simply been waiting to show off.
The day is cool and sunny – perfect gardening weather. But a few nights ago, we actually had a freeze. To my surprise, the tomato plants survived. But the usual suspects, the subtropical plants and the basil, have died to the ground. They should return in spring. For now, it’s time to trim and plant cool season annuals around them.
Fortunately, I still have some snapdragons and pansies left from my last trip to the plant nursery in October. It seems impossible that I haven’t planted them yet, but November just zoomed by. I’m just glad that I don’t have to return to the plant nursery yet. My favorite nursery makes for a rather long drive and the closer, local nursery supplies mostly professional landscapers and doesn't have a particularly pleasant atmosphere.
I’ll probably continue to try to propagate the seasonal annuals myself. So far, I haven’t had much success and don’t know why. But I don't have to give up.
In the meantime, some plants are perfectly happy with the cooler temps and most of the cool season vegetables are coming up. I planted some early, some a little late, and a few in between. We’ll have to wait and see how it goes.
Wishing everyone a wonderful December!
So…. I still have eight flats of cool season annuals to set into the ground. I know where they are to go, at least. It’s just been rather busy lately and the back took a lot of work. We keep things organic and I don’t like mulch, so sometimes a lot of weeding is necessary. We also whacked back some giant plants and did a general cleaning. Now, it looks great back there. Nice little rows of pansies, sweet allysum, and snapdragons are here, there, everywhere, and cool season vegetable seeds have been sown. We also have lots of green fall tomatoes -- so exciting!
I do love spending time out there, especially during this time of year. And I’m downright gleeful about the tomatoes. We struggle with them every summer. By mid-July, they all but go up in flames. But now, in November, they’re healthy as can be. And the bird life is beautiful. That’s why it’s important to note the seasons, to understand and appreciate what’s best in each one, and to never take anything for granted
“I’m so glad I live in a world where there are Octobers.” Anne of Green Gables
I agree with Anne! I’ve never tried to grow “fall tomatoes” before and so far, I’m astounded. They’re looking happier than any tomatoes I’ve ever grown. We only have four plants, but they are all bearing fruit.
If the harvest is good and the plants continue to do well, I will have to seriously rethink my planting next summer. Vegetables usually die painful deaths by mid-July. I might have to try a new approach. Maybe I'll make the beds cutting gardens filled with heat-tolerant annuals and seasonal herbs.
Speaking of weather, we’re looking forward to a cool front this weekend. Daytime temps might be in the 70s. That kind of weather, especially first of the season, is pretty much a major event around here. It definitely is for yours truly.
I hope to spend at least one day in the garden. We have a new bed to build and fill with good, organic soil. I hope to also top a few of the beds with the same. Next week, someone is coming out to check and tweak our sprinkler system. Hopefully, by the end of October, I will be free to sow seeds for our cool season garden.
And then there are always situations like this:
A gardener's work is never done -- thank goodness!
Isn’t it Autumn yet? We’re often away in September and October, which leaves me scrambling to start my garden late in the season. This year, we’ll be home and I’ve been looking forward to sowing and planting early in the season for a change. I was hoping starting this week.
But that’s not going to happen. The temps are still in the upper 80s, lower 90s – too hot for cool season flowers and vegetables. I knew it. I know it. But I’m still disappointed because, well, I’m not always reasonable where gardening is concerned.
It really is for the best, though. We’ve decided that since we have a few weeks, we’d might as well reinforce some of the raised beds. We’re also going to squeeze in one more bed. It will be great for my (mini) crop rotation.
And since I have time and will have a little more space, I’d might as well order a few packets of something wonderful that I haven’t tried yet.
And I have still have plenty of work in the garden, which is just beginning to show it’s lovely fall exuberance.
There’s a longstanding, wonderful, well-documented affair between writers and gardens. Oftentimes, it’s the gardener writing about his or her own garden and experience, sharing knowledge, joy, and goodwill. There are many wonderful, inspiring, and often hilarious books written by gardeners. But even with the most prosaic how-to gardening book, there is a strong, inherent undercurrent of passion.
Then we have the reverse. Through history, there have been countless writers – novelists, historians, poets – who not only looked to gardens for inspiration, but gardened themselves. To name a few are Beatrix Potter, Emily Dickinson, Ronald Dahl, Leonard and Virginia Woolf, all of whose gardens are now open to the public.
Eleanor Perenyi (1918-2009), author, editor, gardener, wrote a collection of essays about gardening that was published in 1981. Her book, Green Thoughts: A Writer in the Garden, is now a beloved classic. I’ve decided to borrow part of her title for a series of posts about writers and their gardens. I will cover great writers of the past as well as some of today’s wonderful writers. For my first post, I am proud to introduce Vonda Sinclair, novelist and gardener par excellence.
Welcome, Vonda. We are ready and eager for a tour!
I call this the secret bench because it's difficult to see in the shadow of this huge 'Limelight' Hydrangea paniculata (not yet in bloom). I can see this small vignette outside my living room window. I wanted something pretty to look at there. I planted variegated hostas and ferns on either side of the bench. Beside that is raspberry pink hydrangea macrophylla 'Summer Crush', Heucherella 'Sweet Tea', Arborvitae fern (Selaginella pellascens), a prehistoric plant. The pink bloom in the foreground is Invincibelle Mini Mauvette® Hydrangea arborescens. A small stream runs behind the bench. It's a nice shady spot to sit and rest. I love benches in the garden and plan to add more.
Hi, Anastasia. Thanks so much!
I live in the beautiful North Carolina countryside, close to nature and the woods. I welcome wildlife into my garden (but I hope no bears or copperheads show up.) lol As I was growing up, my mom grew lots of flowers and vegetables, and she still does. I started gardening here on these few acres more than 30 years ago, right after I got married. My late husband built some stone walls, a pond, and other things. He helped me plant many of the trees and shrubs. I decided to start a remodel on the garden about two years ago because a lot of the plants had either taken over or disappeared during times when I didn't have time to devote to it or wasn't able to garden due to injuries. I noticed that my flowerbed by the mailbox looked best, but I couldn't see it from the house because of the large shrubs and trees. I decided I wanted a beautiful flower garden that I could view from the house and especially from the screened porch I use a lot. I enjoy writing there while I listen to the pond waterfall and fountains.
I've had this pond for around 20 years and I only grow my favorite pond plants. I've tried most of them and removed them all except for 4 colors of water lilies and variegated Japanese Iris. The iris is beautiful from the time it emerges in spring until frost kills the foliage in fall. It blooms purple in June. The waterlilies provide cover and shade for the goldfish in summer and they bloom off and on all summer. I have dark pink, light pink, white and pale yellow lilies. These are all easy care plants.
My goal in the garden remodel was to have a low-maintenance garden that is pretty in all seasons. I soon realized this would require a lot of thought, planning, and orchestration. And yet, I wanted to follow inspiration and have fun with it. I wanted to explore lots of color combinations and try out plants I hadn't before. Of course, it is also very hard, physically demanding work that I must do myself. I've discovered digging out plants, sometimes large clumps of plants or small trees is great exercise. Physically, I'm stronger than I was before, so it has been good for me in many ways. I find working with nature to be very healing and calming. Plus, looking at beautiful plants makes my soul light up. I don't know why, but plants bring me great joy.
I was surprised at how well this combination turned out. The 'Salmon Beauty' yarrow and 'Cheyenne Spirit' coneflowers will bloom for over a month each but the focal point here, the red Asiatic lilies, only bloomed for a week. Still, they were worth it. Hopefully, next year they will have more buds for a longer succession of blooms.
I believe we each have at least one guardian angel and I decided to create a garden to show this. I wanted the look of it to evoke the feeling of an old European walled garden where a forgotten angel statue is almost hidden under the overgrown shrubs and ivy with flowers.
As I said, I welcome wildlife into the garden. In addition to the goldfish that live in the pond, the water attracts a few different species of frogs and toads. There are turtles, songbirds of all types, snakes, lizards, chipmunks, rabbits, insects, etc. I don't use insecticides on my plants. I garden organically and plant many things specifically for hummingbirds, and I love watching them feed from the flowers. I also love to plant flowers for butterflies and bees.
Butterflies, bees, and hummingbirds all love the native coneflowers aka echinacea.
As for the garden makeover, I saw that many new plants or improved varieties have been introduced recently. They bloom longer or have better disease resistance. Some also rebloom. I've been removing problem plants and replacing them with improved varieties that require less work and put on a better show. The fun part is experimentation to see how plants perform and how they look. One example would be two plants I bought at the same time from a local nursery. One came down with a horrible fungal disease and will likely have to be removed, while the other has bloomed for months and has no diseases. The plant in this case that gets the thumbs up is Stachys 'Hummelo'. It was awarded perennial plant of the year 2019 by the Perennial Plant Association. I pay special attention to award-winning plants because they are usually great performers and require less work.
Stachys 'Hummelo' blooms for months in summer. It plays a great supporting role.
Almost any plant that blooms for over a month, stays healthy, and doesn't require constant coddling is one that I will enjoy. I especially love plants with beautiful foliage. And I love evergreens for winter interest. As for a favorite group of plants, I would probably choose hydrangeas, especially the blue mophead type (hydrangea macrophylla). Here in the southeast US, they're not bothered by pests or diseases and they put on a great show for months. They require little care and are easy to grow. I've been collecting a few more varieties to try. My soil is acidic and fortunately hydrangea macrophylla love that and turn blue as a result.
My favorite plant... blue mophead or bigleaf (hydrangea macrophylla)
My favorite garden style would be cottage garden or English country garden. I enjoy watching English gardening shows and find them inspiring. I love the romantic look of ancient, moss-covered stone walls and weathered statues, as well as arbors or gazebos enshrouded with roses and clematis. I find benches tucked away in hidden corners to be charming. I'm not sure if lots of writers also like to garden, but for me both are creative outlets or ways I can express myself. The palate being either plants or words to create a form of art. The feeling of inspiration in either writing or garden creation is wonderful.
In May, the roses, alliums, and purple dame's rocket put on a great show. These are my favorite colors.
I write Scottish historical romance and have traveled to Scotland seven times, I think. My favorite things to explore there are castles and many of them have stunning gardens. Scotland usually has a temperate climate, thanks to the Gulf Stream. The country also receives lots of rain, which many plants love. Some of the amazing gardens I've visited in Scotland are those at the castles of Dunvegan, Dunrobin, Inveraray, Crathes, etc. as well as Inverewe Gardens. Scotland's natural flora and scenery is most beautiful of all. Nothing can top the heather-covered Highlands and moors or the prickly yellow gorse blooming along the edges of dark lochs. I try to include as much of Scotland's scenery as possible in my stories. In my newest release, Highlander Besieged, the heroine is especially fond of growing roses. ;)
'Pomponella Fairy Tale' rose in front of the bird house. I put the bird house up as a focal point for the flower garden.
Vonda, thank you for the fabulous tour. There are a few plants I'm going to have to check out for my own garden, and I look forward to reading Highlander Besieged.
Amazon Author Page:
Newest release, Highlander Besieged
Be like the flower, turn your face to the sun. – Gibran Khalil Gibran