Shut Up And Dig

Embracing the ephemeral

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The frosty fern is at left, the wintergreen at right.

During the Western New York growing season, my focus is (mostly) on keeping plants alive and viable for seasons to come. I weed, prune, and nourish perennials and shrubs that I hope will become stalwart landscape features. The idea is to create garden areas that won’t need replacing every few years (thanks to my incompetence).

That’s why it’s kind of a relief to leave all that hopeful maintenance aside when winter comes along. Over the winter, my gardening is focused on the temporary. No, I do not make much of an effort to overwinter spectacular amaryllis/hippeastrum plants (please, plant-namers-in-chief, just change it; no one is using the correct one) like the one shown above. I know people who do it and I know the efforts they make. For a while, I found that a few red ones I had would come back of their own accord if treated like year-round houseplants, but with the more exotic types, I buy new ones each year.

With a tree, you just get one type of evergreen; this way I can have junipers, cedars, firs, pines, and more.

It’s also fun to buy cute little seasonal plants like the frosty fern (selaginella, native to Africa and not a fern) and wintergreen (gaultheria) shown with the amaryllis. I have no expectations of these lasting much longer than the end of February. (We’ll see.) Evergreen branches now draped on the mantlepieces will be discarded next month. After that, it’s time for dozens of forced hyacinths and tulips to take over; these, too will be composted after flowering. My only weakness at this time of year is my tendency to buy a citrus plant that I really do try to keep alive, with varying success.

Even during the summer, I often get comments from visitors about the number of potted annuals I have and questions about whether I “bring in” certain plants, in hopes of saving the $3.99 it would cost to replace them the following season. No. For me, gardening is a somewhat extravagant hobby, and, as extravagant hobbies go, it’s one of the minor ones. Winter is the time I really indulge my most profligate tendencies.

In mid-March, the real work will start all over again; for now, I’m enjoying a changing display of flowers, foliage, and scent. That’s one of the reasons I don’t mind the cold and snow, not when I’m having so much fun with the flowers inside.

Posted by

Elizabeth Licata
on December 12, 2016 at 9:18 am, in the category Designs, Tricks, and Schemes, Shut Up and Dig.

1 Comment

  1. Every couple of years, I get a head start on spring by starting Jelitto seeds in the basement under lights. This winter looks to be a dark one in many ways, and I’m going to be spending a lot of time with my seedlings in the basement.

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