by Charlene Burgi
“Ordinary folks watch football. Gardeners go on frost watch.” These lines, found in Fine Gardening magazine, got me thinking about the approaching winter season. The article rang true for me. Prior to reading the magazine, I had just called my son and interrupted him watching the Packers and Vikings. (Note: I am not saying my son is ordinary, but a gardener he is not.) I had also noted a light frost as I gazed out the kitchen window earlier that morning. November, I realized, is only a few days away.
This is the time of year when our gardens can cry out for color. Dormancy can mean dreary in a few months unless we plan to plant now to avoid the doldrums of winter gardens. With a bit of effort, our gardens will continue to delight us through the long wet winters.
Perennial cyclamen is one of my favorite plants that carry through the winter and into spring. Large drifts of red, white or pink borders can capture your attention and brighten anyone’s day. This plant also thrives in containers and can stay in a brightly lit part of the house for short periods of time. Helleborus is another winter winner. It is known as the Christmas rose. This shade-loving beauty comes in colors of white, red, purple and the palest of green flowers. Set a combination of these perennials in front of a winter daphne for the treat of your life. The bonus is all of these mentioned perennials are low water-users and work well together in a hydrozone in your garden.
Annual color should not be forgotten this time of year. Pansies offer delicate painted faces to cheer you when the sun is hidden by winter cloud cover. Calendula, known as the “Herb of the Sun,” tracks the progress of the winter sun during the day and thrives in the winter cold. Its bright yellow and orange flowers add the illusion of warmth to an otherwise chilly day.
For fragrance, include some dianthus, stock and snap dragons. Throw the seeds of bachelor buttons in this mix for a cut garden to carry you over through spring. And, don’t forget sweet peas. I have been told that sweet peas are to be planted by seed on Thanksgiving Day. Now there is an exercise to consider for working off the big turkey dinner!
And speaking of Thanksgiving, think about capturing some of that fall color for your dining room table as the trees begin to turn glorious reds, oranges and yellows. There are several methods found on the internet for preserving these colors. Here is one website that I thought you might find as interesting as I.
And lastly, the best part of winter is that you rarely need to go outside and water, even for the oft-thought thirsty annuals. Mother Nature has taken care of that chore for you! Now is the time to relax by the fire with a good book and a cup of your favorite warm beverage.