Out of the Darkness and Into the Light…

Onions skins very thin, mild winter moving in.

I read this expression in The Old Farmer’s Almanac website. Do any of you grow onions? Can you give us a local report? I have a penchant for Vidalia’s therefore I have no comment since I’m importing onions from Georgia where there are almost always mild winters. Well, milder than here. I am hoping, though, that we do have a mild winter. And it is now just that–Winter with a capital “W”– as of about 5 AM (writing on Wednesday, December 21). With this we are moving out of the darkness and into the light; it is worth celebrating garden-style (just in case you don’t have enough celebrating planned this week already):

1.Treat yourself to a visit to one of many public gardens or arboretums and have a nice walk at the same time. Don your “gay apparel,” especially your Wellies, and get a move-on. Remember: there is no such thing as wrong weather; just wrong clothing. With appropriate dress and motion you should find yourself quite comfortable for a walk around Longwood Gardens (and they have wonderful conservatory gardens when you want to warm up.) If you are troubled by crowds, you might want to wait until after the holiday display is over. Or, enjoy the festive mood and head over before January 1. According to their website you will need to buy tickets in advance and the conservatory component will be timed. I have wanted to see the National Arboretum’s Conifer Garden for years so I plan on going this winter. Watch for my review of this trip as well;  Or, there is also the United States Botanic Gardens if you plan on being Washington, DC -motivated. There are scores of classes at USBC scheduled for January to tempt anyone with even a sort of green thumb. (I’m back. But you didn’t know I just took a break. I went for a wine re-fill and to have some cookies. ‘Tis the season for a little indulging. My friend Suzy brought over a collection of her handiwork last Friday and I adore these tiny chocolate-covered shortbread cookie stars and crescent moon shapes all dressed up with white nonpareils. I actually just ate the last of them. That’s ok; hot yoga tomorrow.)
2. Build a terrarium or dish garden. These are super fun and a way to scratch in the soil over the winter. You might want to scout for interesting containers at antique stores or thrift shops. Think outside the pot. My artist friend Maria has the windowsill of her studio lined with orchids and succulents in small, old baking tins. Here’s “recipe:” stones at the bottom of the container. The type of stone you use depends on the visibility through your container: if you have a glass container you might want to choose something more decorative or even colored glass; otherwise, a plain river pebble will work just fine. Good-quality organic soil mix is very important. My most important tip is this: don’t mix succulents with ferns in the same container. Both plants are wonderful but have very different moisture and light needs. Be mindful of color and textures of foliages: choose a mix of fine and spiky with broad and thick. A soil moisture meter is a great idea to keep from under or over-watering;
3. Dive in to a good picture book about gardens. One filled with luscious photographs. Maybe you have a gift card to use? Here is one you might like: Outstanding American Gardens, Page Dickey, Editor or The Art of Gardening: Design Inspiration and Innovative Planting Techniques at Chanticleer Gardens by R. Williams Thomas;
4. Winter pruning. This is for deciduous flowering shrubs only–excluding hydrangeas. Winter is a great time for this because you can see what you are doing with the foliage absent and it will get you outdoors tackling a few garden chores before spring.  Not sure how? Check back for a subsequent blog on pruning;
5. Are still thinking about yoga since I mentioned in step one? Winter is also an excellent time to establish some new fitness habits that give a whole bunch of health benefits for improved mobility–in and out of the garden. You will be grateful for this come spring.

Finally, Happy Hanukkah and Merry Christmas to all…

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