December in the garden can be a dreary time. Especially in this year of monumental rain. Fall clean-up, lawn seeding and fertilizing, spring bulb planting – that’s done. About all that’s left is shrub and tree pruning. Time to look around. Many of us have juniper, holly, cedar, pine, cypress, and even magnolia, whose branches are the perfect beginnings of outdoor wreaths, swags and container arrangements.
To get in the mood for a traditional Christmas, our garden club, clippers in hand, traveled to Millsboro, Delaware. The destination for our caravan was East Coast Garden Center on Cordrey Road. They hold garden workshops throughout the year. But in December their demonstrations focus on the holidays. The friendly staff was ready with greens and berries and branches and inspiration. Laid out for the 25 of us on work tables were pots filled with soil. At the beginning, we were told, think “Thriller, filler, spiller.” And as we were getting to the end, did you remember, “Thriller, filler, spiller?” Mostly, we did, but also, looking at my scratched up fingers, I thought “Why didn’t I remember to bring gloves?”
While working on my creation, I talked to Chris Cordrey, an affable young family member in the business. He was eager to share the family story. They have over 70 greenhouses where they grow their own annuals, perennials and shrubs. They really are full service with a design staff, and everything else a gardener needs. The staff took a picture of the happy group and we lugged our arrangements to our caravan. Our creations, whether judged artistic or not, will make us smile until the next growing season.
On the Eastern Shore we don’t get much snow but we do often get fog blankets. They drift over us from the sea when the temperature pushes into the 50’s. On those days our mornings are shadowy and surreal, dawn arriving late and dusk early. The darkness and stillness are as good a reason as any to spend the month preparing for celebration on December 25th. Gardeners do have something to celebrate. The winter solstice has passed a few days earlier. We have made it to the other side and are on the way to ordering seeds and dreaming of spring mornings. It’s time to get out the garden catalogs, pour a glass of wine, break out the good chocolate, sit by the fire and read an inspiring garden book.