Category Archives: Winter

The Flower Arranger’s Garden

I’m not anywhere near an expert at flower arranging, but I do love bringing greenery and flowers into the house, especially in the dark months when we’re spending so much time inside. That leads me to wonder about the best plants to grow for that purpose.

I recently saw an article on poet’s laurel (Danae racemose). It made me think, in the true manner of the compulsive plant accumulator, that’s something I must have.  It’s a slow growing, elegant, glossy green evergreen, native to Turkey and Iran. Currently Italy supplies most of the branches to the florist trade. Florists love it because it is graceful and long lasting. It’s good for the small garden as it stays petite with a weeping habit, can take deep shade and has orange red berries in the fall. It’s hardy to zone 7. This is the plant the Greeks and Romans used to weave the laurel crown reserved for victorious athletes. Hence the saying, “resting on one’s laurels.”

Another plant I wish to accumulate for indoor arrangements is Harry Lauder’s Walking Stick (Corylus avallena ‘Contorta’). It’s a filbert that has contorted branches making it interesting in winter when its non-descript foliage has fallen. It’s named for an early 20th century Scottish comedian who used a branch as his walking stick.

Of course if you accumulate, like me, there’s Winterberry and Beautyberry, Aucuba and Nandina, Juniper and Boxwood; all useful in winter arrangements. Don’t forget all the other laurels: cherry and mountain and sweet bay.

Walking around the winter garden, when only shy hellebores turn their pretty faces toward the earth and a few brave pansies hang on, eyes are opened to the quiet beauty of bare branches, grasses dancing in the wind and stalwart evergreens. Of course, looking closely, one gets a peek at the stubby tips of bulbs about to flourish in another month or two.

A Grayish Green Thought

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I’m holding on to my front door holiday décor even though Christmas is long gone. The dark still creeps over the land in late afternoon and fog blankets us many mornings. This makes me feel the need for a welcome that only light can give. When someone comes to my door or when I come home I want the welcome of light.

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How lucky we now have lights that don’t put out heat, don’t need to be plugged in and best of all have memories to turn themselves on and off. So I’ve kept the dwarf Alberta spruce in its red pot and little lights at the side of the front door. I’ve also kept the red basket filled with pine cones, greens and one of those candles with a brain. The wreaths can stay too until warm weather calls for springtime décor. A great discovery is that in cold and humidity greens last much longer than inside the house – Valentine’s Day at least.

The growers help perk up January with primroses at the garden centers. The homegrown hellebores are beginning to bloom and pulmonaria is putting out its spotted leaves.

Technology makes the gardener’s life exciting all year long. However, reading directions on each new product is essential, at least for the older brain. I bought an instant read meat thermometer from OXO. One problem – it kept recording 145 degrees whether I turned it on or off. I took out the battery and put it back in. I checked the packaging for a clue. I considered throwing it out. I turned to Google for one last attempt to solve the problem. At a question and answer forum someone said. “Well, you have to pull off the protective plastic film.” Oh my god, why didn’t I figure that out or why didn’t OXO print “peel me off” instead of 145.

winter9So there you have it. Technology is a help and  a headache. The instant read thermometer is great now that I’ve overcome the protective coating puzzle, but planting primroses on a balmy January day brings more joy.