Fresh Flower Arrangements

A Gardener’s Plan for Winter

Here I sit inside on a gray almost-winter day, grateful for a rest from cleaning up the garden, reflecting on a gorgeous fall season and already making plans for an amazing spring.

While I love my fall blooming Camellias, I have to admit that the divas of my fall garden are the Asters and Japanese maples.  Year after year, they never disappoint. They hold their own among the screaming colors of our North Carolina fall foliage.

On October 30 our first hard freeze was forecast – 15 degrees in Summerfield – and every flower in the garden was destined to become mush.  I could not bear the thought,  so I cut every beautiful bloom and brought it in.  Everyone I knew got flower arrangements, the 3 guys cleaning my windows, my hairdresser, my lawn care guy, his daughter, and many other friends.  14 vases went out the door. The black leaves of my Castor bean and black pearl peppers with red mums & orange zinnias made for spooky Halloween arrangements.  The lemon yellow ‘Gethsemane Aster” paired with pink zinnias lit up the room.

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Halloween colors of orange zinnias with  black foliage.

When gardens are so abundant it is natural to want to share the beauty. As a child, I watched my mother cut flowers and send me all over the neighborhood delivering them.  You never know when some random act of kindness, however small, might positively change the life of another person.

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Yellow Gethsemane Mums with Pink Zinnias.

November 22nd Holiday Workshop was filled with long-lasting greenery and berries.  Greensboro is blessed with a mild climate and so many fabulous plants that shine right through winter.  Only a few store-bought mums graced these gorgeous decorations of Pine, Magnolia, Nandina, Eucalyptus, variegated Osmanthus, Chamaecyparis, Cryptomeria and Poets Laurel.

Nov 22nd Winter Arrangements with just a few store bought mums

Nov 22nd Winter Arrangements with just a few store bought mums

People assume that winter is a time of rest for gardeners and to an extent that is true.  Somehow I always seem to have lots to do this time of year.

Here is my list of things to do this Winter:

  • Finish planting tulips & alliums ASAP.
  • Make plant markers for perennials (so I don’t accidentally plant on top of them before they come up in spring.) Hurry, they have almost disappeared!
  • Continue adding shredded leaves to top my vegetable beds and add to the compost pile. The pile of composting leaves is getting huge, but running over them a few times with the mower shrinks them, as does turning the pile every few weeks. The pile gets much smaller over the winter and by summer I will have fabulous compost for the garden.
  • Cut down my tall grasses before they start falling apart and blowing all over the lawn.
  • Update my list of plant purchases from the past year (currently a stack of nursery tags overflowing a large envelope). This is important if I ever want to identify them again to replace, acquire more of the same, or share with friends.
  • File all those garden articles I have been tearing out of gardening magazines since spring.
  • Thin out seedlings of poppies, larkspur, columbine and other biennials that have come up from seed.
  • Order seeds and bulbs now for spring planting. All the seed catalogs are arriving in the mail now, and there is even more online!
  • Limb up trees to allow more sunlight into my gardens.
  • Give up on growing grass in very shady areas. Plant more ground cover like Mondo grass, Ferns or Pachysandra, or encourage moss by spraying a solution of water, buttermilk and sulfur.
  • Design my next garden. Prepare the soil and install any hardscaping (boulders, stone walls, borders, paths, fencing…) now.  Plant shrubs in winter, perennials in spring.
  • Attend the NC Nurserymen’s 2015 ‘Green & Growin” Conference & Trade show to keep up to date on industry news. Non-members can attend the trade show on January 8th & 9th at the Greensboro coliseum.   More information here: https://ncnla.memberclicks.net/green—growin-attendee-information
  • Plan a spring vacation to tour a public garden I have not seen. (My favorite vacations have been in gardens. They are among the most beautiful places in the world to hang out.)
  • Get a manicure!
10 yards of compost is a great start for any garden!

10 yards of compost is a great start for any garden!

Yes, this is the start of my new garden, in my last spot of really full afternoon sun.  I already have a vision in my mind of how wonderful it will be. (Can’t you picture the path through the center?)  We gardeners are the consummate optimists!  Whatever happened in the garden this year, we believe without a doubt that it will be better next year. Of course!

 Holiday Gifts for the Passionate Gardener:

Garden gloves and gardening tools such as hand pruners, a new shovel, a sturdy trowel or long handled loppers are always welcome.

A gift certificate to their favorite nursery such as New Garden Nursery  http://www.newgarden.com/ or Tony’s Plant Delights Nursery http://www.plantdelights.com/.

Give a ticket for the Greensboro gardening event of the season, the Guilford Horticulture Society’s Annual Symposium.  Register ASAP for this all-day event as seats are limited. Click here for information and registration: http://www.guilfordhorticulturalsociety.org/symposium/ (Only $45 for the day.)

For the desperately addicted gardener, consider the gift of Gardening Classes.  A printable copy of my 2015 Course Schedule is  here: 2015 Course Schedule   The 2015 Registration Fee is $425 for new students. I will honor the 2014 price of $350 for payments received by December 24th, 2014.  Get in touch from my “Contact Ellen” page at https://www.learntogarden.net/.

For those with limited funds, a seed catalog will ignite the imagination of any passionate gardener!

Or offer your services: sharpen pruners or sand the rust off of a trusted shovel or trowel, paint tool handles a bright orange to make them easier to find when they are inevitably dropped in the grass.

Of course, FOOD is always good – Here is the perfect “Pine Cone” cheese ball to get a holiday smile.

Click here for the picture: http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/the-heavyset-cheese-ball-recipe.html

The Pine Cone Cheese Ball

1 1/4 cups roasted almonds
1 (8-ounce) package of cream cheese
1/2 cup real mayonnaise
3 crispy cooked bacon slices, crumbled
1/2 teaspoon dill weed
4 oz shredded cheddar cheese
Salt and pepper
1 tablespoon chopped green onion
Pine sprigs, for garnish

Mix together the cream cheese and the mayonnaise. Add the bacon, cheddar, salt and pepper, dill, and onion. Chill overnight.

On a serving platter, make 2 pine cone shapes with the cheese. Begin to press the almonds at a slight angle into the cheese, starting at the narrow end of the pine cone shape. Do this in rows, continuing to overlap rows until all the cheese is covered. Garnish with fake sprigs, or real ones, or with rosemary.

Serve at room temperature and spread on crackers.  Recipe courtesy Amy Sedaris


Happy Holidays and Happy Gardening!

Gardening Enthusiast, Educator, Speaker, Blogger