Saturday, January 25, 2014

How a Gardener Survives Winter

It's been a tough winter throughout much of the country. We've had record cold, and record snowfalls. It's enough to make a gardener crazy! I find winters difficult to tolerate anyway, but the extra, extra cold temperatures have made it all the worse.
Normally I can tolerate winter with some coping techniques I've perfected. First, I find that I do better if I go right out into the snowy weather and take pictures. Not this year, the arctic cold keeps me inside.
 I also make sure to visit Franklin Park Conservatory to see the greenery. Haven't done that yet, still too frigid and the roads are too icy. Sigh...
Another thing to make winter more tolerable is to visit the floral departments at big box stores. They have blooming plants of all kind, and bringing one home is a sure fire spirit lifter. I did purchase one tiny grocery store primrose plant, but I need more to overcome this spell of bad weather.
One of my favorite sanity savers is to go through the seed catalogs that bombard our mailboxes this time of year. This is my chance to plan my garden for the year. Not sure why I haven't started this project yet. Maybe I need to have complete cabin fever before I do.

But my favorite way to make the winter go by more quickly is to simply go through my picture files from last summer.
Just by looking at them, I know that winter will eventually end. It will be warm again, someday.
I find myself smiling the whole time I'm looking at them.
Now I know that summer comes every year. Winter always ends, followed by spring, then summer. This we all know is true. It's just a little hard to believe with a winter like this.

Looks like I'd better use all my best tricks to survive this kind of winter with my sanity intact. Guess it's time to get out those seed catalogs and start planning!

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Some Survivors

The polar vortex did not stay very long, thank goodness. It got down to ten below zero here, but within a week it was in the 50's. Sixty degree rise in one week! The day before the cold arrived found blizzard conditions nearby in Indiana and Michigan. Honestly, I was hoping the snow would come here too, to protect my garden from the upcoming frigid temps. But no such luck. And I doubted that the snow dust on the ground would provide one bit of protection. I went out today to check on things. Imagine my surprise to find Miss Ladybug moving around. She's a tough one!
Now I know that many of the plants won't come up till spring, or even begin to show life for months. But many of the cold lovers obviously shrugged off the recent cold snap. Looks like I'll have plenty of foxgloves to enjoy.
I'm pretty sure these are my Starry Night violas. I think they laughed at the cold.
Heucheras are another plant that shrugs off the cold. For the most part, these remain green and vital all winter. They will occasionally droop when snow flattens them, but they just pop right back up afterwards. The first one is the original plain green, often called coral bells. It never flinches. The second is a new-to-me variety called Circus, and even though it's a bit squashed, I see new growth in the middle. I just planted it last summer, so I don't yet know its habits.
 I was surprised to see the cold weather hellebores didn't hold up as well as I had hoped. You can see in the lower left that the foliage browned a bit, but I always trim off the old leaves anyway at the end of winter. Even though there is a lot of winter brown foliage in this corner, for the most part, it's a good example of how to plan for winter interest. There are various colors and textures here, including the pine roping I used to cover my empty window boxes. I'll leave them in place till it's time to plant pansies, which should be in late March.
Funny how the arborviteas and ajuga lining the front walk look little different than they did in the fall. Again, the ajuga is flattened a bit, but still interesting to look at even in winter. The fall coloring holds till spring when everything greens.
Since the weather has softened slightly, many of the spring bulbs have decided to peek out. Slow down little guys, spring is a long way off!
I always know I'll see little rosettes at the base of the Sedum Autumn Joy. It's one of my favorite signs of the upcoming spring. To me, these little "cabbages" symbolize a gardeners hope for spring.
Moonshadow euonymus is another plant that looks good year round. It can grow a little crazy if you don't rein it in now and then, but it's easily done with a few snips. Obviously, it didn't mind the cold a bit.
Ornamental grasses are one of my favorite ways to leave something to look at in winter. Technically, the foliage is already "dead" so I knew the cold wouldn't affect them a bit. The Karly Rose pennisetum is pretty beat up from the winter winds, but I still like how it looks. The miscanthus looks lovely, even in the winds. I had flowers in my patio urns during the summer, but I thought I'd sub in these small grasses for winter. I've lost the name tag for them, but they have held up quite well.

But the main attraction for me in winter is the sedum Angelina that I have scattered about everywhere. If you live in a cold, but low snow cover area like I do, it's just the thing for winter interest. It looks nice and green in summer, and might even bloom a little. But the best part is the glow it provides once it gets cold. Even after the polar vortex, it still shines all around my patio.
Glad to see some survivors out there, but we'll see what happens when spring arrives. I hope the rest of my plants do as well as these.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Need a Little Color?

While the polar vortex may be making our days cold and gray, I'm never at a loss for color at my house. As a matter of fact, there are those who think it's a little too colorful around here, especially a designer. I don't care. It's my house, and I like it this way. Besides, I try to tone it down by using neutral furniture with a wide expanse of hardwood floors. I also like to include spots of black and white to balance all the color.

The wine bottles over the stove are just leftover decorations from my wine party. I thought they turned out cute, so they get to stay a little while. I do love my orange tea kettle, and the butterfly collage over the stove. They are my own photos from my own garden, so it reminds me that summer will eventually return.

See, here's the thing. I like using things in my decor that mean something to me. If I hired a decorator, it might look fabulous, but they'd use generic items without heart and soul. So I'll go right ahead and use this corny little stitchery that I made so long ago. I can tell by the initials in the corner that I made it before I was even married.
Would I change anything? Of course! That rippled wood over the kitchen window has got to go! We still haven't installed the granite counters that we want, and I'm considering painting the cabinetry white, while adding a microwave stove hood. And when the appliances start to fade, I'll have to decide whether I'll get stainless steel, or will that already be on its way out? But it won't stop me from displaying my apron just because it's cute...

or a darling teapot.
I try not to worry too much about what others think about it. Someone actually said "Holy $%^&!" when they saw my paint choice, but I just laughed. You see, when I look, I see the picture we bought at a lovely winery, the candle holder I made with pebbles from my hometown beach, or the Indian vase we bought in Sedona Arizona.
I can look at this picture and remember the rainy, rainy day when I visited my hometown and there was nothing to do but go through the gift shops, searching for a memento. 
It might not be the most comfy throw pillow, but knowing I got this on a special trip to Mexico is reason enough to put it in my favorite chair.
 Some spots are just plain colorful, with no special memories involved. Are you overloaded with color yet?

And when I get to missing my garden, I have enough houseplants to hold me till it comes back.
Even the half bath downstairs is the same bright asparagus green. But I added some sepia toned prints I took of my hometown lighthouse to give it my own touch. And I really like the cabinet we found that turned the pedestal sink into a vessel style set up. 

 Now my whole house is not this colorful. I actually have toned it down in the rest of the house. The dining room has colorful accessories, but is otherwise sedate, at least in my book. 

I have a traditional china cabinet in here, but it's contents are anything but traditional. This is also where I keep my child sized tea set, so that I'll be ready to hold lollipop tea parties with my grandchildren when they get old enough. 

All the colors in my house make it hard to be down hearted, even in the middle of winter. But don't worry, the master bedroom is quite restful in blue and white. Maybe someday I'll show it to you. Since my garden is sound asleep this time of year, I decided to do a few more homemaker type posts in the meantime. After all, my profession these days is Domestic Goddess. That's what my Facebook page says anyway!