To Every Thing, There is a Season … Preparing Garden & Shed for Winter Part One: Bulbs & Tubers

November 4th, 2011 § 6 comments § permalink

Cleaning and Preparing Pots & Tools for Winter Storage

Most years, by the time sleet and snow begin to fall, both my garden and home are well prepared for winter. By mid-November, my firewood is stacked, dahlias are boxed up, spring-blooming bulbs are planted and vegetable beds are neatly mulched with chopped leaves and clean straw. But this season’s early snow really took me by surprise. Even in New England, where we’re known for our unpredictable weather, who expects two feet of snow before Halloween? And now —with white drifts covering much of the garden— even though I’m actually well ahead of schedule, it suddenly feels as if I’ve fallen far behind. It’s only the first week of November, and I still have many chores to finish up! Fortunately —with frost-free ground and daytime temperatures in the high 50s— the snow is quickly receding!

Out go the bulbs (I’m planting extra Tulips this year — including long-standing favorites: Queen of the Night & Apricot Beauty— just for cutting)

I plant a large number of bulbs every fall, both for myself and for my garden design clients. Some early bloomers, like Galanthus, Eranthus and Erythronium for example, need extra time to settle in and are planted in late summer or very early autumn (or even better, in the case of Galanthus, transplanted in-the-green, after blooming). But I find that other springtime favorites —especially tulips and daffodils— perform best when planted in cooler soil, after a hard frost. Of course for some of us in the northeast, the first killing frost came in the form of a snow storm this year. That really threw a monkey wrench in my schedule! But no matter, there’s still plenty of time. In the next few weeks I’ll be digging more holes than my resident squirrels; planting daffodils, tulips and anything else I find on sale, until the ground freezes! In small spaces —or for dramatic effect— I often plant bulbs in layers (click here to see how), and I also buy extra bulbs to chill and force later on in winter (click here for tutorial).

And in come the Dahlias. Sweet dreams, my beauties …

In my cold climate, another unfinished garden chore, lifting and boxing up tender Dahlia tubers, needs to be completed over the next couple of weeks. Usually, I pull Dahlias two weeks after the frost, when their foliage has completely withered. But this season, my Dahlias were still blooming in late October, right up until the first snow (and if they could, I’m sure the Dahlias would be telling you that this year’s weather was all very strange and confusing). Yesterday I cut away the blackened remains of my beloved Karma Choc, Ferncliff Illusion, and other favorite Dahlias, and began lifting them (gently now, with fingertips and a bit of assistance from a trowel) from their pots. After shaking soil from Dahlias, I rinse and air dry the tubers for a day before nestling them into newspaper-lined cardboard boxes, filled with damp cedar shavings (I’ve stopped using peat moss for enviromental reasons). Once boxed up, I put my Dahlias to sleep on shelves in a cool, but not freezing part of my cellar (somewhere around 45 degrees is good).

And so now, I’m off to plant spring-blooming bulbs for my clients. Have you ever known a gardener to say that they planted too many? Impossible!

Although I’m Sad to See Many Things Go, There’s an Undeniable Beauty to Stark and Skeletal Winter

Canadian Geese on Departure

A Confetti Display of Leaves and Seeds in Melting Snow

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A Year in the Life of a Gardener: Celebrating Our First Anniversary and Giving Thanks to All of You…

April 1st, 2010 § 4 comments § permalink

Snowdrop I © 2010 Michaela at TGE – all rights reserved

One year ago this month, I started keeping an online journal -somewhat sporadically at first- and I named it The Gardener’s Eden. What began as a labor of love, and a way to share information with my gardening friends and clients, has quickly blossomed into a beautiful web of friendship across many time zones and continents. Most of you know me simply as Michaela, a somewhat quirky gardener living on a mountaintop in Vermont. Some of you have met me in person and we have become friends; maybe we met in a meeting, or perhaps we were briefly acquainted at one of my gardening seminars or workshops. A great number of you have never met me at all. It’s possible that you first heard about this online journal from a gardening friend, or you may have found me through another blog. Many readers have connected to The Gardener’s Eden through social networking sites, where you have encouraged my writing and photography with thoughtful comments, and propelled me forward with article suggestions and challenging, thought-provoking questions. And dear readers, in only a year, you have grown from a small handful of devoted followers to a relatively large audience numbering in the thousands. Some of you chime in regularly through blog comments, or on Facebook or Twitter, but the vast majority of you follow along quietly. It’s nice knowing that you are out there, and I am so grateful for your company…

Crocus © 2010 Michaela at TGE – all rights reserved

Snowdrop II © 2010 Michaela at TGE

If you have been following along for awhile, then you are likely aware that in addition to creating and maintaining Ferncliff -the garden I often feature here- I also work professionally as both a gardener and garden designer. My line of work is seasonal in New England, and although I do a bit of ornamental pruning work in late winter, there is a long, quiet period from November through March. In years past, I have found that the winters pass very slowly -but that has changed. This year was less lonely, with all of you keeping me company…

Melting Ice on the Frog Pond © 2010 Michaela at TGE

And now that spring has finally arrived -ice melting and bulbs blooming- I have returned to my seasonal gardening work. Today, as I headed out for my first day of spring clean up at a client’s garden, I found myself thinking about all of you. As I clipped back ornamental grasses, and dodged emerging narcissus and blooming hellebores, I wondered about how I will find the time to share everything with you in the coming weeks. This is a busy time of the year – and it is a beautiful time of the year. Things happen so quickly in early spring. I always feel a bit breathless trying to keep up.

Today at my garden, Ferncliff, the first ‘Tommies’, (Crocus tommasinianus), opened in the bright sunshine; all puffy, golden pollen and silky lavender petals. And after all of the heavy rain and today’s warm temperatures, the vernal pools sprang to life beyond the vegetable garden. I thought I was being sneaky, tip-toeing down the hillside with my camera -but I was wrong. As soon as my shadow extended across the sparkling melt-water, dozens of frogs and salamanders squiggled, hopped and wiggled into the muck and mire below the surface. But I waited. And I waited. And slowly the frogs rose to the surface for air…

Seasonal Pool © 2010 Michaela at TGE

Frog in the Melting Pond Water © 2010 Michaela at TGE

Seasonal Pool II © 2010 Michaela at TGE

Frog Swimming Away © 2010 Michaela at TGE

Welcome sweet April. Doesn’t it finally feel like spring now? A new year is just beginning; filled with hope and promise. But, who really knows what the future will bring. I like to breathe in the fresh air of the moment. We are all just passing through, and… isn’t it a lovely ride?  Thank you for joining me. I hope you will find beauty here in The Gardener’s Eden. Sharing my little slice of paradise with you gives me great joy…

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Words and Pictures copyright 2010 Michaela at The Gardener’s Eden. All Rights Reserved.

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