Garden Bloggers’ Bloom Day: January in Connecticut

With no blooms in my outdoor gardens eyes are drawn to the subtle colors of a so-far snowless winter. I bundled up for a winter morning photo stroll to see what winter color might reveal itself for this first Garden Bloggers’ Bloom Day, kindly hosted by Carol at May Dreams Gardens, of 2012.

Temperatures fell below 10 degrees Fahrenheit this morning in south-central Connecticut causing mountain laurel and rhododendron shrubs to curl their leaves in response to the cold.

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I think the rhodos jealously eyed my winter garb as I walked by.

Holly, boxwood and pieris of different shapes and sizes add to the green contrast brought by native-growing mountain laurels and gardener-planted rhododendron. Young junipers and spruce will add their blue-gray tones to the landscape as they mature. But now the gardens are dressed in shades of brown highlighted with small touches of whatever green still survives the cold.

Golden shades ornamental grasses pick up early morning sun …

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA           Hakonechloa Grass On A Snowless Winter Morning Thumb

not to be outdone by copper tones of beech.

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A newly planted Pieris japonica ‘Dorothy Wycoff’ hints at the intense purple shades its larger future-self will bring to the winter landscape,

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while foxglove and carex dot beds with shades of green.

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Winter calls for celebration of even the slightest touch of color. This tiny rose hip could easily be overlooked and that would be a shame.

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Inside, protected from the winter cold, an amaryllis leans toward the light as it’s companion, a holiday cactus, looks on.

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Coleus brighten nighttime views of the window above the kitchen sink.

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Houseplants happily soak up whatever morning sun the weather allows.

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Garden color isn’t always about flowers, or about gardening outdoors. Sometimes we must relish in color, contrast and light during chilly winter walks and from the protected warmth of home.

But flowers do tend to lighten a winter mood so join me as I head over to the Garden Bloggers Bloom Day links posted at May Dreams Gardens. There are always mood-lifting blossoms to enjoy there.

Garden thoughtfully.

Digiprove sealCopyright secured by Digiprove © 2012 Joene Hendry

On The Bookshelf: The Green Garden: A New England Guide

Are you a New England gardener seeking a good gardening book in which to lose yourself during cold winter months? Look no further than Ellen Sousa’s book The Green Garden: A New England Guide to Planning, Planting & Maintaining the Eco-Friendly Habitat Garden.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA Sousa is a fellow garden coach and a natural gardening instructor. She holds a certificate in Native Plant Horticulture & Design from the New England Wild Flower Society and has written about habitat gardening for National Wildlife Federation and other magazines. Sousa writes for a few blogs, including Native Plants & Wildlife Gardens, and the Massachusetts farm she shares with her husband is a Certified Wildlife Habitat and Monarch Waystation.

She walks the walk and talks the talk.

Now she has compiled an extensive and comprehensive guide for other New England landowners interested in making their property more user-friendly for non-human naturally-residing creatures and, ultimately, more enjoyable for human residents as well.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERASousa explains the what, why, and wherefore of habitat gardening in rural, suburban and urban areas in addition to forests, fields, fresh and saltwater shorelines, and wetlands.

She explains how to replace lawns – or most of a lawn – with diverse plantings needing less human input.

She describes how to begin transforming a patch or a property to a wildlife habitat – perhaps as simply as insuring a fresh water source for birds or planting nectar sources for butterflies and moths- and how continue the multi-year process.

Sousa separates plants as:

· New England natives – growing in New England prior to European settlement. Think violets, goldenrod, hemlock and oak;

· naturalized non-natives – plants that native creatures have adapted to and count on. Think Queen Anne’s lace;

· introduced non-natives – cosmos, peonies and nasturtiums – brought to New England as ornamentals or edibles. These provide some nectar, pollen or seed benefits to native wildlife;

· and to be avoided and controlled invasive non-natives like Asiatic bittersweet vines that overpower and destroy trees and the purple loosestrife overtaking many New England wetlands.

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Then, so readers are not left guessing, she offers more than 40 pages of specific tree, shrub and plant recommendations keyed for their habitat value (attractive to birds, butterflies and moths, amphibians or mammals) and growth characteristics (light and water requirements, deer resistance, ease of growth, etc.).

Sousa further provides lists and links to more information, source nurseries, public habitat gardens, and wildlife gardening organizations, just in case readers crave even more guidance and learning.

The Green Garden: A New England Guide to Planning, Planting & Maintaining the Eco-friendly Habitat Garden is a wonderful primer for those just learning about natural habitat gardening, but it’s also a valuable educational resource for seasoned gardeners seeking to hone their habitat gardening knowledge.

It is one of the books I’ll reach for time and again as I care for my property and continue to urge others to garden thoughtfully.

Want to read another great book about habitats and native plant gardening? Check out my review of Bringing Nature Home by Doug Tallamy.

Disclaimer: Ellen Sousa provided this book, free of charge, for me to review. I know Ellen only through her blog and through our mutual membership in a Facebook group. If I did not like her book you would not be reading about it here.

Digiprove sealCopyright secured by Digiprove © 2012 Joene Hendry

A tad early for narcissi in Connecticut

A quick stroll around my Connecticut gardens brought this surprize.

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That’s right … narcissi bulbs already poking their inquisitive heads out of the ground as if to say, “Is it time?”

My response when I first spotted them on January 2?  A resounding, “NO!”

The calendar says January. We should have snow on the ground and be bundled up in front of a roaring fire.

But, outside of a couple of below-freezing days earlier this week it’s been ridiculously warm. Today it’s 50 degrees outside and there is no snow or winter-type cold in the forecast.

Obviously, bulbs don’t follow the calendar. They follow a mysterious internal clock that signals when it’s time to grow.

From their point of view they had snow (it came in October), they had some cold here and there, and now they’re responding to a stretch of spring-like warmth.

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Maybe I should listen to what their presence is suggesting. Maybe … though it’s January … mild temperatures will continue. Maybe narcissi will be blooming in February.

I’m not ready to buy this. I still expect to get slammed with a nasty stretch of winter weather. Of course it will hit when all New Englanders have really let their winter guard down and lost their winter blood. That’s just the way these things work.

So I did what any mother hen gardener would do.

I covered my early risers hoping a conifer blanket will hold the chill in the soil and slow the bulbs’ growth.

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Time will tell if this tactic works.

At the very least it makes me feel that I’ve done my best to fool the young whippersnappers back to sleep.