Disney artwork/properties: ©Disney
After the turkey gets put away, it’s time to jump into the shopping and decorating fray. But somewhere between feeling just plain busy and over-the-top overwhelmed, imagine having to put up 8.5 million lights and 15 miles of garland. That’s what the Disney folks are doing this year. For me, watching Behind the Magic: Disney Holidays (Sunday, Nov. 29, 8/7c) will get me into the spirit & and put my Christmas to-do list into perspective.
They’re pretty spuds, but they’re not for the table. Garden blogger Kylee, at Our Little Acre, has dug up the tubers of her ‘Margarita’ sweet potato vine (Ipomoea batatas ‘Margarita’), hoping to repeat her past success at holding them over until spring. It’s a smart idea. We gardeners love to keep things going whenever we can, so we overwinter tender plants, nurture cuttings, propagate “pups,” divide and repot. For one thing, it saves money; for another, we get to develop long-term relationships with the plants we love.
The sweetspire is golden, the sourwood and sumac are coloring up, and the asters, anemones and helianthus are in full bloom. Yet my yard still has a long way to go before I’d call it satisfyingly fall-exuberant. Before I plant some new arrivals that promise an even more colorful autumn next year, I’ll have fun scrolling through other gardeners’ outdoor spaces for ideas.
The perennials, annuals, trees and shrubs that Mr. McGregor’s Daughter has in her garden include plants I’ve not appreciated enough for their fall color — the burgundy leaves of a ninebark (‘Monlo’), the golden glow of sweetshrub, the berries of false Solomon’s seal.
One of the best things about fall for gardeners is the chance to correct what’s not working. I want to move the bleeding heart where its normal summer dieback won’t look so conspicuous. And the amsonia, baptisia, Shasta daisies and meadow rue, which I’ve moved up into bigger and bigger pots, need to go into the ground. Early fall in our Zone 6 garden is a great time to dig, plant and move, especially when it comes to perennials.
Water features usually take a lot of planning and, depending how large and complex they are, a fair degree of digging and assembly time. In fact, my husband and I have talked endlessly about creating a waterfall and pond and have yet to dig out more than a 20th of it.
More on affordable water features »
Magellan Coral Zinnia
If you gave into springtime cravings to grow a lush and beautiful garden — whether veggie or ornamental or both — you’re now in the summertime slog. It’s one thing to spend a few hours working in the garden when the temperature’s a cool 60 degrees and the most rampant weeds of your area have yet to take hold. It’s quite another to do battle with aggressive weeds, bad bugs and too much or too little water – all while heat and/or humidity make 30 minutes of hoeing akin to an athletic event.
To spend your gardening time smartly, check out the best ways to have a beautiful garden with the least amount of pain.
Don’t have the time or space to grow veggies? A blog post on Gardener’s Journal tells the story of an employee who doesn’t have a good spot for growing vegetables at home. She takes a pepper plant to work with her every day and, after parking, places it on the pavement behind her car, where the heat-loving plant takes a sunbath all day.
Gardeners love to say that gardening is a thrifty way to beautify your landscape, raise a lot of your family’s food, get plenty of exercise and commune with nature — all at the same time. But, despite our love of economy, some of us know in our hearts that we succumb to pretty plants in the nursery like some people cave in to pretty shoes.
I’m in the midst of landscaping a steep hillside to keep my husband from having to mow it. After foraging among the discount centers for good deals on junipers, yews and boxwoods, I head to a local independent nursery that’s known for its high-quality plants. They love to see me coming, because they know I’m a sucker for interesting specimens. An hour later, my collection is increased and my bank balance is decreased.
Still, I’m all about saving money on the nitty-gritty: I save seed, take cuttings, divide plants, convert plastic food and beverage containers into seed beds and container plants. And I love checking in at Compost Confidential to see how Joe Lamp’l is progressing with his “Quest for a $25 Victory Garden.” Joe, a nationally known lecturer and TV personality, has laid his garden out for all the world to see. His biggest single expenditure to date has been $7 for seed-starting mix; he got people on Twitter and Facebook to send him free seed. A month ago, after a prolonged period of rain that put the damper on the garden’s (and his tomato seedlings’) progress, he splurged ($5) on two large tomato transplants. It was a hard decision, he said, but one based on reality: the growing conditions were awful, and he needed to start producing food soon.
Which just goes to show you, a large pretty plant can be a hard thing to pass up.
Somebody asked me the other day if I had gotten my garden in. The question took me a little aback. I’m never without a garden, even in January, because ornamentals are year-round enterprises and even in winter, things like Siberian kale and parsley are possible, with the help of cold frames.
But I knew what she meant — had I gotten my vegetable garden in? I have, but that’s always a work in progress, in or out of season, and veggies are only part of what matters to me out there in the yard. I can’t eat ‘em but I love my sweetspires, astilbe, goatsbeard and hodgepodge collection of several hundred shrubs, grasses and perennials, not to mention the few young trees we’ve put in (even though we’re sitting right next to woods).
I don’t dedicate much real estate solely to vegetables. Instead, ornamentals and edibles share their various spaces with each other: The peas are flowering next to a rose hedge. A shady bank of perennials near the kitchen door contains parsley and chives. The potatoes are tucked into a hill next to the compost pile. Coneflowers, shasta daisies, bee balm and joepye weed flank the tomatoes and squash. Every year the blueberry bushes duke it out with the butterfly bushes for who can take up more space. And, of course, it doesn’t have to be a question of either/or: you can have pretty and edible garden beds.
So I loved reading in Garden Rant, one of my favorite gardening blogs, that too much focus on “recession gardens” (growing vegetables to save money) could diminish — in new gardeners’ eyes — the value of ornamental gardens and, more importantly, of gardening itself. I couldn’t agree more. Saving money while we garden is a good thing. Gardening only to save money means we miss out on the great joys of this most wonderful of endeavors.
I find Mother’s Day the easiest of all holidays to shop for. The timing is so perfect — gardens have come far enough into spring to reveal their gaps, and nurseries are overflowing with goodies. Although my mama is now gardening in another realm, my husband’s mother, whom I adore, also loves most green things (a few exceptions include the kudzu which lurks at the boundaries of her yard).
This year I think she’ll love the new Flower Carpet ‘Amber’, which is a combination of peach-apricot-gold-yellow, depending on the age of the flower. Like the others in the series, it’s a pretty easy rose to grow (as in “plant it and ignore”). The ones in our garden haven’t looked quite as floriferous as the plant pictured here, but that’s because they’re in shade for a good part of the day.
There’s still a party going on with all the old-fashioned shrubs that have been made new again. It used to be that grandmas had to accept that the price of loving their flowering shrubs was waiting through the other three seasons of the year when not much was happening or putting up with disease-prone varieties, too-tall plants or floppy flowers. So now you can find tidier habits in just the size you want, with more disease resistance and even more flower color selections and interesting foliage.