Well, my winter vegetable garden looked great this fall and winter — until we got temps at or below 10 degrees Fahrenheit for two nights in a row, a few weeks ago!
Almost everything collapsed in a heap of frozen mush. So last weekend, I cleared out the debris, leaving a few hopeful stems that were still green in case they might sprout leaves again. Even my parsley died! The Bull’s Blood beets seem to have survived; the pansies will come back; a couple of kale plants are trying to regenerate. That’s all, folks! Sigh. Even the Swiss chard gave up the ghost.
Interestingly, some of the lavender in another part of the garden has survived very well (“Phenomenal”). The “Black Scallop” ajuga around it looks discouraged but not defeated. I will probably plant more cool weather vegetables in a while, but not until February at the earliest. Any suggestions? I’m in Zone 7, in Atlanta, Georgia.
We’ve had a busy fall, all in good ways, but now things are settling back to normal — except the weather. It went above 80 degrees this weekend, which is extraordinary for November, even in the South. One bonus: the fall foliage is still gorgeous, especially on the Japanese maples, though not on the same scale as New Hampshire, which we visited in October. We had just missed the absolute peak, with all the red maples, but there were still plenty of orange, gold, yellow, and brown vistas to make us happy. And the swarms of mosquitoes that tormented me all summer are gone.
We went to the Lakes region for a week to see my father-in-law, who is in his 90s and lives in assisted living. He was in fine form, and we loved being able to spend leisurely time with him every day! We treated ourselves to staying at our favorite bed and breakfast for the week, which was heavenly. They fed us such large breakfasts that we didn’t need lunch and mostly had wine, cheese, and charcuterie for dinner, with an occasional lobster roll. I think I’ve mentioned this before, but we only eat lobster in New England, because it just doesn’t taste as good anywhere else, no matter how quickly they ship it inland.
On this visit, we flew into Portland and spent the night of our arrival in Maine, staying with one of my cousins who now lives there year-round with his wife. Like me, he has inherited the hopeful gardening gene from our grandparents, but he is horticulturally challenged by the much shorter growing season in Maine. Noentheless, he proudly showed me the ropes and ropes of fresh garlic has had grown and is drying in his shed; and I proudly described the one shallot I succeeded in growing this year! Not sure what happened to the others I planted; I think they got pulled up by the yard crew I hired to clear out the overgrown summer veg garden.
I’ve been on leave from my job this fall, in a sort of trial run of retirement. I’ll go back on December 14 and see how I feel then. I must say, I’ve really enjoyed being able to do all kinds of things around the house and garden without feeling time-pressured! If I don’t get to a task on a given day, it doesn’t have to wait for the weekend. I still have a lot of de-cluttering to tackle, though. What I’ve confirmed, though, is that I have plenty of interests and activities to stay happily occupied when I do finally retire! And removing the stress of my workplace has done wonders for my health, which was the whole point of the leave.
And now, it’s onward to Thanksgiving, several family birthdays, and Christmas! Meanwhile, I still have to deal with the tomatoes I picked when we expected freezing temps a couple of weeks ago (it did get down to about 34 degrees for a couple of nights). And wouldn’t you know — with the recent higher temps, I now have more green tomatoes on the vine! I’ve let some of my basil keep growing and flowering, mostly for the benefit of the pollinators who cluster there and around my asters and wild ageratum.
I’ve just found a local source for “Coral Bells” kurume azaleas, to replace a couple that have finally died after decades of service along the walkway in our front yard. They must have been at least 40 years old, as they were planted by the former homeowners who died of old age in the late 80s (both their age and the decade). “Coral Bells” is no longer as widely found as it must have been at one time. I used to be able to find them as needed at the State Farmers’ Market, but not this year. All anyone seems to sell these days are the Encore azaleas, or the really short gumpos. I’m so happy to have found replacements! We have a large hedge of them on both side of our front walk, and now I can fill the gap with ones that match. Do you have any cherished plants that are now hard to replace?
In last Friday’s Perfume Chat Room, I posted this: Perfume Chat Room, March 11. Despite this weekend’s sudden freeze, the flowers that were already blooming have survived nicely, except (of course) the camellia blossoms. I rescued several of the pink “Debutante” blooms yesterday to bring indoors before the frost got them.
My garden is about to enter its most glorious season, when the Coral Bells azaleas burst forth, the hellebores are still in bloom, and the dogwoods begin to flower. It is also before the weeds get going, and I can still imagine myself as having some control over them!
My replanted winter vegetable garden! Some of you may recall that I had high ambitions, last summer, of posting regular snapshots of my summer vegetable garden in the new raised beds I had built for my garden last spring. Alas! Between summer trips to see family, and a long, hot, wet summer, plus planting too many bean vines, my summer vegetable garden turned into a veritable jungle, complete with aggressive mosquitoes.
So this fall, we cleared the whole thing out, pulled hyacinth bean vines off everything (seriously, they went everywhere!), and started over with cool season vegetables and flowers. I have beets with gorgeous maroon leaves; Swiss chard with brightly colored stems; red mustard; curly kale; broccoli; cauliflower; parsley; and, of course, pansies.
Among my containers, I still have lots of herbs that are flourishing; and several roses that have decided to embark on a third or even fourth flush of bloom. Yes, we’ve had unseasonably warm weather; and on Boxing Day, yesterday, it was in the mid-70s! No wonder my poor roses are confused. But the warm weather will help my vegetables get a good start rooting, I think, before it turns cold as expected in January and February.
Are you able to garden at this time of year? What will you grow? Happy New Year to all, and may 2022 bring us increases in health and happiness.
I haven’t posted here in a while because I have been traveling in the UK with my family. We visited many beautiful gardens, but one of my favorites was The Lost Gardens of Heligan.
Heligan is an old estate that once had hundreds of acres of formal, informal and tropical gardens, maintained by a staff of twenty-two. After World War I, when many of the workers did not return from the war, the estate slowly declined. The gardens were abandoned by the 1970s, while the main house was sold and divided into private apartments.
In 1990, a man named Tim Smit (who later created the Eden Project) was shown the property by one of its owners, a descendant of the Tremayne family that had owned Heligan for 400 years. The property was held in a trust for him and his sister. They hacked their way through brambles and old hedges to find the remaining original garden structures and landscaping. The work they did over decades to restore the gardens, install sculptures and make Heligan a unique destination for visitors is described in Tim Smit’s book, The Lost Gardens of Heligan. This week’s Saturday Snippet is taken from that book:
We had cut our way through dense clumps of invasive bamboo, drawn towards a perfectly formed palm that stood sentinel at the entrance to what was obviously a walled garden. John Nelson and I were on another of our explorations, venturing deeper into the gardens each time. Today we were excited; somehow we knew it was going to be a special day. You can feel these things.
Once inside, we paused for a moment. There was a sense that we were trespassing, that we had come upon a secret shrine. In the gloaming we could see dozens of trees growing thickly together, woven into a solid mass by an extremely vigorous climbing plant that covered everything like a furry blanket. We had never seen anything like this before. Under the trees we could make out shapes at once familiar and other-worldly. This was clearly the area of the garden where the real work had taken place.
I don’t own the book pictured but I plan to engage in a lot of “garden tourism” soon. We will be traveling to Devon, Cornwall and Ireland this summer! I am so excited to see these beautiful parts of the world for the first time. We will actually start in Glastonbury then work our way down the coast counterclockwise, ending up near Torquay for a family wedding. What gardens in the Southwest of England are not to be missed, in your opinion?
After the wedding, we will go to Northern Ireland and Dublin for a few days. I am excited to see the Giants’ Causeway and Trinity College, which my grandmother attended briefly many years ago. I know there will be many beautiful gardens to see in Ireland — which would you recommend? Thanks!
I spent the whole month of May posting about lily of the valley-based fragrances on my other blog, Serenity Now, in a series I called “May Muguet Marathon.” While I was doing that and reading a lot online about lilies of the valley, I came across a variety I have long wanted to try in my own garden, Convallaria majalis “Bordeaux.” It was on sale, so of course I bought 40 pips! My teenaged son helped me create a new planting bed for them by spreading many cubic feet of mushroom compost on top of the clayish soil between several old azaleas and the base of our house’s front terrace, a partly shaded area that is well-watered by our in-ground sprinkler system. He turned it in for me; I hope this will provide a suitable habitat! Lilies of the valley do not become invasive here in the South as they do further north; in fact, sometimes they struggle. Fingers crossed that “Bordeaux” finds a happy home here!
I also bought some pips of Convallaria majalis “Prolificans”, which many sellers describe as “double-flowered”, but it is not a true double flower, as can be seen in this photo:
Rather, it has clusters of tiny, single flowers that dangle together from the main stalk, creating the look of double flowers. The true double-flowered lily of the valley is “Flore Pleno”:
I hope my new lilies of the valley find themselves happy in their new home and spread profusely! I would welcome what plant-hunter Reginald Farrer described as “the worst of all delicious weeds when it thrives.”
GRACE KELLY, PARIS IN THE SPRING TIME AND THE “WORST OF ALL DELICIOUS” WEEDS
Convallaria majalis var. rosea after the rain
On the wooden table outside our kitchen door I have a terracotta pot of the most elegant pink lily of the valley, Convallaria majalis var. rosea. The pot was given to me as a precious container of newly planted bulbs by my friend the painter, Charlotte Verity . The gift was important as it was a memento of an extraordinary year Charlotte spent as Artist in Residence at The Garden Museum in London in 2010. Here in the shadow of the ruddy castellated walls of neighbouring Lambeth Palace, Charlotte spent a year painting in Tradescant’s Garden – the knot garden created in 1981 by the Dowager Marchioness of Salisbury around the important tomb of the Seventeenth Century plant hunters.