December 24, 2012

Warm holiday wishes to you and yours

Christmas! The very word brings joy to our hearts. No matter how we may dread the rush, the long Christmas lists for gifts and cards to be bought and given--when Christmas Day comes there is still the same warm feeling we had as children, the same warmth that enfolds our hearts and our homes.

~ Joan Winmill Brown

(Dear gardening friends: I'm taking a short break from posting, but I'll be visiting my favorite blogs in the interim. My next post will be in the new year. Merry Christmas, and a very Happy New Year to all!)

December 21, 2012

Definitely a new season around here...

Once again, it's time to wrap up the season with the quarterly "Lessons Learned" meme. And around here, there's no question we've moved from autumn to winter.


On Thursday, we awoke to seven inches of fresh snow, with another seven or so added throughout the day--along with blustery winds gusting up to 50 mph. We're still digging out, but there's no doubt now we'll have a white Christmas.


So, autumn is long-gone for me. But I'm thankful for the folks who participated in the meme. All of our lessons from the past season will be helpful as we prepare for the next growing season.


Thanks to:

Holley at Roses and Other Gardening Joys, who says she hasn't been using evergreens to their full potential in her garden. After reading a book about a garden of many evergreens, she describes that type of garden as one that "doesn't wait for the cocktail hour of winter" to show off its finery. Holley's planning to plant a bed in her garden devoted primarily to evergreens.

Jason at Gardinacity takes us on a tour of his fall garden--through Asters, Rosebuds, berries, and "way too many" seedheads. Jason reminds us to savor mild days while they last (and I'm thinking I didn't follow his advice very well, myself--now it's too late).


Karin at Southern Meadows shares several practical and thoughtful lessons--like making sure you keep your hummingbird feeder up all winter (if you live in Georgia, that is). Karin is fortunate to have a hummer overwintering in her garden. She offers detailed instructions on keeping the feeders from freezing, and keeping the hummers happy.

Diana at Elephant's Eye also also offers practical lessons: Agapanthus flowers for Christmas need watering as the buds emerge--especially in South Africa, where Christmas occurs during the summer. Diana shares her "Dozen for Diana"--12 particularly favorite plants. And a simple tip that Artemisia afra smells of licorice or anise when you brush against it.


Donna at Gardens Eye View discusses how nothing seemed normal in her garden this past spring and summer. But she suggests stepping back to watch nature and the signs it provides. When you do that, says Donna, you're likely to be a more successful gardener. She quotes Vita Sackville-West: "The more one gardens, the more one learns; and the more one learns, the more one realizes how little one knows." So true!

Thanks, everyone. If I forgot anyone, please let me know in the comments. See you again after I finish shoveling. ;-)


December 17, 2012

Plant of the month: Alcea rosea

One of my New Year's resolutions (a little premature, I know) for this blog is to be more specific with my "plant of the month" choices. If I know the species, variety, and/or cultivar, I will share them here. If not, I'll attempt to identify them and ask for your help to confirm.


This month, I'm taking a little break from the holiday decorations to highlight a plant that in its full glory elicits a mood opposite that of snow, winter, and cold: the Hollyhock (Alcea rosea). Fortunately, I still have the tag for this one, and the cultivar listed is 'Chater's Double Pink.'

This next photo shows what my Hollyhocks look like in my garden today, in mid-December in the cold, northern state of Wisconsin.


I know, I was surprised, too. But they're planted adjacent to the house foundation on the sunny west side of the house. I'm pretty sure this microclimate is a tad warmer than the typical USDA zone 5 garden plot. In any case, these babies are about to be covered in six to 12 inches of snow, if the meteorologists' forecasts are correct.


In mid- to late-summer, Hollyhocks of all varieties are towering extroverts in the garden. You can't ignore them, but why would you want to? 'Chater's Double Pink' grows to six feet tall, and like most Hollyhocks, prefers full sun. It's a biennial or short-lived perennial, but it reseeds. I think I've had this beauty in my garden for at least six years, probably longer.


I first fell in love with Hollyhocks when I saw them leaning romantically against my neighbor's white picket fence many years ago. If I had a tall picket fence and more sun, that's where they would go. And I understand now why I fell in love with Hibiscus moscheutos, highlighted in a previous post: The two have a similar style and belong to the Malvaceae family.


Hollyhocks, in their earliest form, were native to China, according to Cornell University's Growing Guide. They are noninvasive, hardy in zones 3-9, and available in a variety of colors and shades. 'Chater's Double Pink,' in particular, takes my breath away. My only problem with it: The Japanese beetles love it, too. But we'll save that story for another post.

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Jen, at Muddy Boot Dreams, mentioned that many bloggers are designating Tuesday, Dec. 18, a day of silence and support for the community of Newtown, Conn. If you would like to donate to the Newtown Family Youth and Family Services, follow the link to their site. All money will go directly to those affected by the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting.

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Please note that Friday, Dec. 21, is the December solstice. I will be wrapping up the "Lessons Learned" meme, and my friend, Donna, at Gardens Eye View will wrap up the "Seasonal Celebrations" meme. Please share your garden lessons by clicking here or on the tab at the top of the page, or simply share your link in the comments. Even links to past posts about your techniques, joys, and challenges are welcome. Thank you.

December 06, 2012

Persistence pays

When you hang on, fight the odds, find a way to survive...people notice. As I join in Donna's Seasonal Celebrations meme, I acknowledge a very tough plant that has survived in my front porch planters through early December.


This Ivy, planted in the spring, is still alive--even though I've neglected it and failed to water it, and even though we've had numerous frosts and hard freezes. The other annuals in the planters shriveled weeks ago, but these guys keep going.


I've planted Ivy before, but I don't remember it surviving this late into the season. It's convenient, though, because it's perfect for holiday decorating.


Thinking about one of my favorite Christmas carols, I found these modest sprigs of Holly at the garden center.


The store associate said to keep them lightly misted and they should last through the holidays.


They look fantastic and festive together, don't they?


I plopped the ends of the Ivy stems into a floral water tube...


And wound the Holly and the Ivy through the stems of a dried Grapevine wreath. Instant, inexpensive Christmas decoration!

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One of my favorite Christmas carols is "The Holly and the Ivy." Nothing gets me in the holiday spirit more than hearing it sung by a choir in a cathedral, like this:

Join my friend, Donna, at Gardens Eye View for her "Seasonal Celebrations" meme! And please join the "Lessons Learned" meme by clicking here or on the tab at the top of the page, or simply share your link in the comments. Even links to past posts about your techniques, joys, and challenges are welcome.

Both memes will be active until the solstice, when Donna and I will post wrap-ups. Feel free to combine the two memes in one post!