Joys of Winter Gardening
With few winter gardening chores, its nice to have a season where the outdoor work is minimal. I’ve just a little bit of clean-up to finish, and the occasional foray into the vegetable garden for winter vegetables. But even in winter months there are things to enjoy and marvel at in the garden.
Here on the west coast we have gone through the wettest October in years. The rains brought floods to several parts of our valley, but it also built up the aquifers that were strained after a dry spring and summer. It also gave gardens a good deep watering to get them back on track. Now in early November we are experiencing cloudy days, with temperatures about ten degrees, and even a few sunny mornings.
Vegetables for the winter garden
In my vegetable gardens, I’ve just dug up the last carrots to store for the winter. The Swiss chard and kale – stalwarts of winter gardening – seem to thrive quite well in this weather, and we have been enjoying their fresh greens quite frequently. The parsley also loved that rain, and I’m sure I have enough to keep a restaurant stocked with it all winter!
My perennial herbs – thyme, rosemary, oregano and sage – are still green and producing enough for my winter soups and stews. I’m not sure how long the oregano will last, but I’ve dried enough to get by until spring. I know the mint will die back, so I’ve also dried lots of it for teas to enjoy all winter long.
Winter flower gardens
The flower gardens look a little barren, aside from the leafy perennials that retain their foliage all year. One bed flaunts several varieties of heucheras, with foliage colours ranging from deep purples through mottled greens and even orangey tones.
The last calendulas have just succumbed, and looked so pitiful I removed most of them today. They have been blooming prolifically, on two foot high bushy plants ever since mid-August. Enough seeds have dropped to fill the bed again next year.
I’ve left on some of the seed heads on the poppies – their round heads with serrated crowns will stand tall all winter. I made sure to collect the seeds so they didn’t overrun the beds next spring.
My pot of nasturtiums is also finding this weather too much, and it was another one I had to cut back and add to the compost today. Like the calendulas, it has been a mass of golds, deep bronze and bright orange blossoms all summer and fall.
Chrysanthemums for late colour
The last bloomer in my gardens is usually the tall late chrysanthemum that my mother-in-law gave me several years ago. Over the spring and summer it grows from the base to at least three or four feet, bushy and green. From one small clump I now have several large ones, great background fillers in the flower garden.
In November the buds that have formed start to open, and for a month or more I enjoy gorgeous bronze-rust flowers, with gold on the underside of the petals. They make a wonderful cut flower, bringing color back into the house when there are no other blooms in the garden.