Something a bit different today...

Refreshingly cold as I first stepped out onto the deck, clues that this was a holiday lost behind the sliding glass door to the kitchen, an ordinary winter night surrounding me. Full trash bag in one hand and flashlight in the other, I paused before descending the stairs. The fact that I had slipped on the wrong sort of shoes for this time of year made me focus on the patches of ice remaining on the stair treads before me, and it was in this quiet, still moment that I heard the footsteps.


Happy Thanksgiving!


Pleasant Surprises

Even though temperatures are back to normal now -- even a bit above with high 50's F expected at least one day this holiday weekend -- we had a pretty severe cold spell a week or so ago. Temperatures dropped to a low of 13ºF (-10ºC) one night, and there were a few days in a row where it didn't get above mid-20's F.

So anything that I hadn't brought in for the winter and was not cold-hardy was certainly done for, frozen and reduced to mush after temperatures got back above freezing. Imagine my surprise then when I discovered a few plants that revealed themselves to be much more cold-hardy than I thought!


Overwintering, small scale

I tend to focus on the "big" aspect of overwintering plants: dragging the towering potted papyrus inside, digging up the huge colocasia (elephant ears), mulching the bananas with 250 cubic feet of leaves or more. There's the small side of overwintering too, the little details that might get overlooked.

For instance, the first emergence of the purple fountain grass, the point at which I can relax because I know that those one or two-stem divisions were successful. Plus it's so enjoyable watching their progress every day, like spring indoors.


Overwintering looks better up close

Sun-loving plants indoors under fluorescent lighting does not make the happiest of scenes. These plants want to be basking in the sun's brilliance, not subsistent in the feeble shine of those glassy tubes.

Even so there's a beauty here, emphasized by a too-close eye. The limited view accentuates the natural geometry, magnifies the color, amplifies it all, pulling texture from the smooth.


New evidence: I started early!

I've written about my start in gardening before, where falling trees in my yard created impromptu planting beds, and the bug bit me. That was around 2002, maybe a year or two earlier. So I've been a gardener for about 15 years or so. Or so I thought.

Newly-discovered evidence has proven that my gardening started earlier than the year 2000. Much earlier indeed!


So early, but so nice

Still cold here, and getting colder (tonight's low is forecast to be 13ºF/-10ºC). The big surprise though was snow yesterday.

Not just the dusting that we woke up to either, we got a couple of inches of fluffy stuff. Snow in mid-November in St. Louis is not unprecedented, but is not too common. Checking the records, every 15-20 years or so it happens.


Book Review: Deep-Rooted Wisdom

Suppose I asked you to tell me everything you know about plants and gardening. Not the specific plants themselves -- I don't want you to create a list of plants -- but things in general: how to plant, what tools to use, where to get plants, how to create good soil, pest management, etc. Everything you can think of related to your garden. A daunting task, right? Now suppose that I asked you to include details on how you learned each of these things, especially if you learned it from another gardener.

That's how I can best describe Deep-Rooted Wisdom, "Skills and Stories from Generations of Gardeners" by Augustus Jenkins Farmer (2014, Timber Press). It's "everything" Jenks Farmer knows about gardening plus lots of stories about the people who taught him.



Hello polar vortex! Displaced again, are you? The middle of the country is getting an early taste of what will probably be another harsh winter, and although it made me do a lot of work in a short amount of time, I'm glad to have the cold air come in and take out the mold spores.

Still though, this is a bit too cold, too fast. In St. Louis this morning it was about 22ºF (-5ºC), and it looks like early next week we'll be wishing it were as warm as that, with 15ºF (-9ºC) lows forecast.


Just a second or two...

I've been quite busy recently, not only preparing for the cold air that's now here and is resulting in low temperatures of 25ºF (-4ºC) or less every night this week, but with some work deadlines. So I haven't had much time to think about putting together a post. I did see a few things yesterday that stood out for me though, enough so that I took a couple of minutes off from moving pots and digging up plants to capture some images.

The mixture of grasses in the prairie bed is quite nice right now, the last daylight before everything gets fried by cold. The tall grey grass is Pennisetum 'Vertigo', already sapped of color by earlier freezes. The golden grass in front is Panicum 'Heavy Metal', somehow staying upright this year. To the left is the smaller Pennisetum alopecuroides, a seedling from one of my 'Hameln'. To the far left looking a bit reddish is a Miscanthus, with the background greens and whites provided by various bamboos.


Garden slide puzzles

Do you ever feel like you're trying to solve a giant sliding tile puzzle when working in the garden? You know those puzzles: there's only one tile space available and you need to move all of the others around utilizing that one space until the whole thing is solved.

I have this feeling every so often, when a relatively simple garden task becomes a complicated puzzle. My plan for this past weekend was to remake the bed shown above. I've posted about this before, wanting to turn this struggling mishmash of plants into a unified planting. (It looks quite good now, but one month of beauty doesn't make up for the preceding months of unsatisfactory results.)


Quiet morning


My favorite plant right now: Cyperus papyrus

My friend Loree over at Danger Garden has been encouraging her readers to choose a favorite plant from their gardens every week. She does this in her "favorite plant of the week..." posts, and although I'm not organized enough to pick a favorite every week and post about it, sometimes a plant really shines and I take notice.

Right now in my slowing-down-for-winter garden it's papyrus that is the star. It's usually on the side of the house -- the perfect location during the summer -- but a strong wind blew it over this past weekend, and seeing how it missed crushing one of my cactus by inches, I decided to pull it into the front yard. It blew over there too, but when I picked it back up a day later, well, it's just wonderful!


Take 2: 1977 tillers

Since I've been writing this blog for almost five years now with almost 1600 posts, you'd think that I would repeat myself quite often. It seems inevitable that I'd inadvertently visit at least a few topics more than once, doesn't it? Good gardens change every year though, as do the viewpoints of their gardeners. Throw unpredictable weather, some travel, and pure chance/luck into the mix and you get almost continual variety in post subjects. Repeating myself hasn't been a problem (I hope).

Once in a while though I want to repeat myself, and show you some posts back from the earlier days of this blog that you may have missed or forgotten about. Things that I think are worth a second look. That's what I'm doing today, as I repost an old one. (Yep, a rerun!)


It's allergy season

Well, it is for me. Pollen counts are not very high at this time of year, so what gives? It turns out that pollen doesn't bother me too much. My nemesis in the allergen community is mold spores. The falling leaves bring beauty, but autumn rains -- as we're getting this morning -- trigger a mold spore outbreak.

Anybody care to take a guess where St. Louis is on this map? Yep, right in the "hotspot" for mold.


Review: Conant Weather Station

I've been testing another product this summer, one that is important but not essential in these modern times of connectivity: a thermometer! Is it strange that I've never had a thermometer in my garden until this year? My problem was being spoiled for choice: there are so many different types of thermometers available, how would I choose the right one for me? I knew that I didn't want to go strictly functional, so something plastic or digital wasn't right.

When this spring I was contacted by Conant, an "Annapolis, MD-based manufacturer of high-quality functional home & garden decor", asking if there was something from their catalog that I'd be interested in reviewing, I was only slightly interested -- until I saw that they have a wide selection of weather instruments.


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