Sunday Morning Garden Chat: Winter Solstice Prep


From talented garden commentor Marvel:

I’m sending along a photo I used for our 2015 Christmas card — the older I get, the harder it is to remember to assemble SOMETHING from the garden mid-Summer for Christmas & Solstice greetings later in the year.

For this purpose this year I rescued dozens of shucked corn cobs, arranged ’em in a pointy tree shape, adorned with plenty of colorful flowers…sadly, as I look at the photos now, it resembles nothing so much as an assemblage of crisp, clean feminine hygiene products with a garden-clipping wrap. I’ll be digging through old photos tomorrow, u-bet.

Stay warm!

We’ve been a bit snowy & freeze-y hereabouts for several days. Snow’s not as deep as depicted here (circa 2013), but it’s accumulated & hanging around, u-bet.


What’s going on in your gardens — or your year-end-holiday prep — this week?

Sunday Morning Garden-Gift Chat


However one chooses to celebrate the winter solstice, ’tis the season… for buying gifts. For many of us Garden Chat regulars, it’s the season for resting / planning / stocking up for next year’s gardening.

Back in the summer (at the height of garden-photo season), Hillary sent me a Guardian link on the “Top 10 books about gardens“. The choices by Vivian Swift, the author of the article and of Gardens of Awe and Folly: A Traveler’s Journal on the Meaning of Life and Gardening, are a little bit precious for my taste, but then books about gardening do tend to be either overly technical (usually about a very limited subject) or slightly too lyrical. But books are always a ‘safe’ gift, and if you know your gardener presumably you can judge their tolerance for instruction and/or poesy…

What do you give as gifts, to the gardeners in your life?

Sunday Morning Garden Chat: A Burst of ‘Wildflowers’ in December


From gifted garden photographer and commentor Ozark Hillbilly:

Walked out of my house yestermorn and found myself standing in a field of flowers that had bloomed during the 24 degree night temps. They were soon gone with the touch of the suns first rays. For those who don’t know, these are called “frost flowers”. From Wikipedia:

“The formation of frost flowers is dependent on a freezing weather condition occurring when the ground is not already frozen. The sap in the stem of the plants will expand (water expands when frozen), causing long, thin cracks to form along the length of the stem. Water is then drawn through these cracks via capillary action and freezes upon contact with the air. As more water is drawn through the cracks it pushes the thin ice layers further from the stem, causing a thin “petal” to form.

“The petals of frost flowers are very delicate and will break when touched. They usually melt or sublimate when exposed to sunlight and are usually visible in the early morning or in shaded areas.”

This is a phenomenon that, as far as I know, occurs only once a year, if at all. The process that forms them seems to destroy the physical structures necessary. I could be wrong. I have seen much more extravagant frost flowers but these are what grew Friday morning.

Thanks, OH! Beauty, however evanescent, strengthens our souls.

What’s going on — if only planning for next spring — in your garden(s) this week?






Sunday Morning Garden Chat: Report from the Left Coast


From stalwart commentor Mary G:

Some photos of phase 1 of my front yard rehab. Spent some money on the big and unusually colored plants, but most were grown from babies (cuttings, leaves, $1.99 2 inch pots from Lowe’s, and from sales of the OC Cactus and Succulent Society) by me.


The design and installation was done by my housemate B with very little input from me except pictures before he started.


The wood is from a ficus tree right next to the house that was chopped six years ago and never gotten rid of. I wanted to buy a big hunk of driftwood, but since California’s rivers and creeks are lined with concrete now, it costs between $150-$500, so it’s out of reach.


The cactus and stapelia in the pots on the bricks are my babies – the only survivors of hundreds of seeds I started and didn’t take good enough care of. The strawberry under the table planted itself from a runner – it gets no sun at all, but grows anyway.


Next phase is rehab of the front entry (it had to fall to the jackhammer to get rid of the Orangeburg pipe) as well as a new concrete pathway across the yard so I can get to the side gate in my wheelchair. Then to the building supply for more rocks.



What’s going on in your garden(s) this week?

Sunday Morning Garden Chat: Respite


More photos from commentor Watergirl (see last Sunday’s post for backstory).

My own never-very-kempt garden has suffered badly this year, not least because I’ve been so distracted by politics. Trickster meteorological gods willing, I’m planning to start rectifying that neglect later today — at least to the point of breaking down the tomato ladders and moving the planters out of the way of this winter’s projected snowpiles…

What’s going on in your garden(s) this week?





Sunday Morning Garden Chat: Revival


From faithful commentor Watergirl:

Growing up, we lived in a double apartment above the local tavern my parents owned. If you walked a block in one direction you were at the Burlington Northern train station, with blocks of small retail stores; if you walked a block in the other direction there was a huge parking lot, and the residential neighborhood started on the other side of that. Houses with back yards, small yards and big yards and trees!

We played on the sidewalks in front of the tavern and on our roof, playing jump rope and dancing to the soundtrack from West Side Story. I remember cool summer nights where we would get in our little shortie pajamas and our dad would bring out our little portable TV and plug it in through the window in the den, and we would watch baseball or movies and snuggle up under our little blankies.

How does this fit into a garden chat? My mom loved flowers and we had flower boxes on the roof, petunias mostly. But once we all went away to school, my mom got the gardening bug for real – maybe it’s because there were no kids playing on the roof anymore – and my mom turned the whole rooftop into a glorious rooftop garden.

The flower bug didn’t hit me until I was 30, so I didn’t really appreciate what my mom did, but whenever we came home from college the first thing she wanted to do was show us the flower garden. We would sigh and roll our eyes while my mom took us around the roof and showed us everything she had going on.

They featured her garden in a big spread in the local paper – the headline read: Blossom flowers the rooftop. (My mom’s name was Blossom, but you probably figured that out already.) I found myself thinking about that this morning, wishing I had been more appreciative of her beautiful garden.


Some of you may recall that my huge silver maple tree fell 3 years ago. It did a ton of damage to my house, wiped out more than half of my yard, and suddenly turned my previously shady backyard into a blazingly sunny area with brutal sun all day long.

That happened on May 31, 2013. Three and a half years ago. It sounded like the world was ending when the tree crashed. At first I thought it must be a tornado because it sounded so loud. Then I thought it was an earthquake because the entire house was shaking. Finally I heard the sound of rushing water, went to the back of the house and saw the tree limb impaled straight down over my bed.

Then another tree in the back yard caught fire because my tree had hit the transformer, and I worried much of the night that my house would go up in flames.


The fire fighters wouldn’t let me go into the back yard, so I couldn’t see any damage until the sun came up the next morning. In the first light of dawn, I went from window to window, looking out to survey the damage. ‘Holy fuck’ I said at the first window. ‘Holy fuck’ I said at the second window. ‘Holy fuck’ I whispered at the sliding door where the bulk of the huge tree was inches away from me, on my deck.


I spent the first summer just trying to keep everything alive in the brutal sun while I dealt with all the house repairs. I worked so hard that next summer (2014) to move the things that had to be moved and to start to fill in the areas that had been destroyed. I redoubled my efforts the following year (2015) because I really wanted to have a (sort of) finished back yard again by the 2 year anniversary. hah! That wasn’t happening.


So we finally come to this year and the back yard finally feels like it’s mine again. There only reminder of that summer of disaster and the beautiful tree I lost is the tree ring that sits at the front of my house. The tree that the arborist had called “the matriarch of the neighborhood”; there when the house was built, watching over the house for all those years, now sheltered under the carport where the house now looks over the ring from my tree. We’ve come full circle, and it makes me happy to see it there.

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Sunday Morning Garden Chat: Fall Growth


From ever-loyal garden commentor Marvel:

Over thisaway, we’re enjoying the few sunny days that punctuate our otherwise dank Pacific Northwest Fall. The trees have so far hung on to much of their colorful leaves (sorta) and we’ve been able to spend a day or two of sunny (sorta) days as we rest and marshal our strength for the final (and fairly strenuous) stretch of our yearly outside chores.

I often think of Fall as being a time of death & decay, but in truth, the changes that many of the plants up here go through this time of year sing of a sweet (if late) kind of life.


Most evenings, Jack & I like to sit in our garden shed, enjoying a glass of wine & recollecting our day. When we do, we look out at a fairly tame part of the back yard. There’s a lawn, a maple, an apple tree, some blueberries & a greenhouse. Leaves change color and come & go, but for the most part, the view changes little over time. It’s still lovely, the way the colors soften and everything seems to take on a soft glow in Fall.

Out front there’s a ground-hugging Japanese maple [top pic]. Its colors are extreme and seem a little backwards: early on, the leaves unfurl a deep mahogany purple and stay that way all through Spring and Summer. Come September, the leaves do a quick change from purple to a delicate green. Then just before they’re ready to drop in the middle of Fall, they turn a breathtaking coral.


We’ve got several big old rocks around the grounds, some situated in artistic spots, but most just sitting here and there. This time of year, after the first few rains, they spring to life with extravagant coats and fringes of moss. Come Spring, the moss will produce tiny prehistoric flowers.


In a last burst of glory, the asparagus — its airy ferns having spent the Summer gathering sunny sustenance for next year’s growth — transitions from dull green to brilliant gold. It’s an exuberant display before it lays itself down to sleep.


Finally, the ever-present borage just keeps plugging away. Its fuzzy purple blooms are pretty much the first and last flowers we see out there. The polllinators adore these plants (and count on them at the extreme ends of their seasonal activities here), so we treat them with care and forgive their invasive nature.

I hope we have a very, very Democratic time of it in coming days. VERY Democratic.

What’s going on in your garden(s) this week?