The wind blows gently but steadily throughout my winter garden. The chimes provide the melody while the swaying dried grasses create the chorus. There are still leaves blowing about the lawn and the patio seeking a home for the remainder of the winter. I leave them wherever they end up. They will hopefully find some place nice to settle in, sleep and transform. As they decay, they will provide much needed nutrients for the worms within the earth allowing for the cycle of life to complete. All summer they cleaned the air I breathe. Bits of flowing green gathering carbon, singing and dancing allowing the odd insect to have a nibble now and again. As the days grew shorter and the nights cooler, the roots sent the signal to the trunk who sent a signal to the leaves – it is time for rest. The leaves responded. Now, there are only a few clinging dried leaves on the trees but that will change.
It is days like today where I feel the pull to garden a bit stronger than usual. It got up to 65 today and I took a leisurely stroll through the entire garden. If Alice Morse Earle were here, she would be absolutely delighted by the viola blooms. I have two of them if you can believe it! Not to mention, there is a snap dragon beneath the cluster of aspens near the house that still has green leaves. How inspiring nature can be with her tenacity and fortitude.
I wanted to include this segment from Alice’s book “Old Time Gardens”. The words are so wonderful and beautifully characterizes this humble little plant.
For several years the first blossom of the new year in our garden was neither the Snowdrop nor Crocus, but the Ladies’ Delight, that laughing, speaking little garden face, which is not really a spring flower, it is a stray from summer; but it is such a shrewd, intelligent little creature that it readily found that spring was here ere man or other flowers knew it. This dear little primitive of the Pansy tribe has become wonderfully scarce save in cherished old gardens like those of Salem, where I saw this year a space thirty feet long and several feet wide, under flowering shrubs and bushes, wholly covered with the everyday, homely little booms of Ladies’ Delights. They have the party-colored petal of the existing strain of English Pansies, distinct from the French and German pansies, and I doubt not are the cherished garden children of the English settlers. Gerarde describes this little English Pansy or Heartsease in 1587 under the name of Viola tricolor: –
“The flouers in form and figure like the Violet, and for the most part of the same Bignesse, of three sundry colours, purple, yellow and white or blew, by reason of the beauty and braverie of which colours they are very pleasing to the eye, for smel they have little or none.”
It is now nearly 4:30 in the late afternoon and I am sitting outside allowing the setting sun to wash against my face. I filled up all the bird feeders and a group of finches and nuthatches are darting about enjoying a feast of shelled sunflower seeds, whole sunflower seeds and a variety of nuts. In the distance a jay is calling out. Yes, I have food for you as well. Just come and look. I have a whole feeder of cracked corn and whole peanuts just waiting for you.
I went off topic a bit there. As I was saying, I took a leisurely stroll through the entire garden. Beyond the two little brave violas and snapdragons, verbascum leaves are popping up everywhere, the ajuga chocolate chip is also demonstrating its desire to wake from its winter slumber. Well, don’t be fooled my friend. The cold, bitter temperatures will return with a vengeance I am sure. Then again, we may get lucky as we sometimes do and the rest of the winter will be mild. The snow-in-summer leaves are gorgeous right now and they are faring wonderfully. The leaves on the early spring blooming phacelia have been pretty much evergreen. I am already looking for their gorgeous lavender clusters of flowers. Oh! Just near the ajuga and one of the small violas, I can see the tips of some bulbs! The only bulbs in this area are daffodils – unless a squirrel played gardener again. It is a bit early for them but still this provides an early reminder that spring will soon be here.
At the top of the garden in the water smart garden, the silver edged horehound is still green and of course the sedum is draping beautifully over the rocks. Under the kitchen window the dragon’s blood sedum and vinca have been enduring the cold and I know they are eager to stretch their legs a bit. At the bottom of the garden where a grove of bee balms grow, I was amazed by how perfect the creeping Veronica looks. Once those warm days and evenings arrive, I have much to look forward to with this plant.
The excitement is building and already I have visions of what I hope to see this spring and summer. Last year the anemone Coronaria provided me with some exquisite blooms. I did not remove the corms so I am hoping they will survive the winter though odds would suggest they won’t. The star attraction under the kitchen window where the vinca and sedum grow are the old fashioned irises. Last year I had plenty of foliage but no blooms. I am hoping to be greeted by fragrant blooms this year.
In my mind, I have a myriad of tasks to carry out and it won’t be long before I can get to work. In the interim, the sun is setting on this small winter garden so I should think about getting inside. I ordered some biodegradable pots from Botanical Interests today and when they arrive, I shall get some lobelia and peppers started and maybe a few herbs. I am getting a bit of a head start considering I won’t be able to put my plants into the earth until mid-May. No matter. They can grace the inside of the house with wonder as they emerge and grow all the while staring outside waiting for their day in the summer sun.
I thank you kindly for reading! Blessings to you all and happy gardening!
And now some more winter garden photos!
I have developed a routine of when and how I eat my lunch. I start off by putting a Dr. Pepper in the freezer around 12:00 and I have timed the freezing process perfectly so when I retrieve it at 1:15, it is of the perfect slushy consistency. I take the soda from the freezer and then get to work preparing what I will eat for the day. I then peer out the window and take sincere joy from watching all of the winged visitors indulge in all the treats I have provided for them. Each day I see something different and I truly consider these moments among my most blessed moments. Today I watched in fascination at a house finch couple courting. Well, he was courting her by dancing around her, nudging her now and again and generally showing off for his girl. She responded with nudging of her own and seemed to love all the attention. They eventually flew off and I continued to eat in anticipation of seeing the next set of visitors flutter in to the feeders.
This winter has seemed longer than normal. For the last few weeks, we have been blessed by moisture but that moisture arrived in the form of snow bringing with it record low temperatures. This has wreaked havoc in many gardens across the Denver metro area. The Denver Botanic Gardens has reported that the devastation caused by the cold is something not seen by those working there in all their years at the gardens. Yes, it has been cold but it is all cyclic and I personally am grateful that everything in my garden seems to be patiently waiting for a longer spell of warmer temperatures before springing back to life. I have the formation of buds on the aspens, elderberry and willow and from what I can tell these buds are still okay and very soon should burst forth into that unique translucent hue of spring green we all know and love.
I did make some mistakes though and really I should have known better. We took a trip to Arizona at the end of March and of course spring had arrived there in all its glory. As such, my favorite family owned garden center Rillito Nursery had an amazing selection of plants to choose from. I was not so foolhardy to choose tropical but instead, I bought a couple pansies, a blanket flower and I simply could not resist bringing home an autumn sage otherwise known as Salvia Greggii. My thinking was I would extend the growing season of the pansies for they would have soon perished as the Arizona temperatures began to soar. Further, the blanket flower can handle cold. Well, my philosophies and ideas did not work out too well. First, the pansies – Right now, they are a burned mess in a pot with slight hints of green here and there. I cannot say whether they will come back but I am hopeful. Next, the blanket flower – I kept this in my little plastic greenhouse and when those single digits arrived, the plant suffered. It is now indoors and kept alongside the salvia I brought home and will not be going out again until our last frost date comes and goes. Thankfully, that is the end of April so only a few more days!
The temperatures here have begun to rise and with that the urgency to garden has intensified. Like many who are anxious for the cold weather to end, I have gone out and purchased new plants for the garden to add some instant color. Well, becoming overzealous may have its price for it is due to snow yet again this evening. The moisture is so very welcome but I would love it to fall in the form of rain and I would like to see the temperatures well above freezing. Alas, it is not to be. Tonight it will drop into the 20’s and tomorrow night into the teens. It will remain cooler well into next week and I think at this stage I shall hope and pray that everything trying to make their start in my garden will survive. I will bring in the Parrot’s Beak along with the oregano and thyme I purchased over the weekend. There is no sense in letting them suffer.
Getting back to the purchasing of new plants, I am happy I did not get too crazy. I did buy plants that should survive this cold spell just fine. On Saturday, the 28th, we went to Wilmore Nurseries and here are some images representing most of what I took home:
How will all these plants cope with the drop in temperature? Most are accustomed to the cool weather but with temperatures below 20 degrees, I may be pushing the boundaries of survival. Stay tuned for my next blog post where I will report the effects of this latest cold snap and snow! ?