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Name the Season

Winters are wishy-washy here; one never knows what we will get. Within hours, bitter cold can be followed by spring-time temperatures. Warm gulf stream air and Canadian cold collide and fight for dominance, and neither wins for long. Plants are sometimes confused, like the people who keep a few summer sleeves in the closet along side heavy woolens.

And so it is in my garden, as 2011 comes to a close. We have had some frosts, but mild afternoons have persuaded some plants to start new growth. I hate to see it, for those tender shoots are doomed. Go back to sleep I say. You've hardly had a nap. But plants listen to rhythms other than my voice.

The garden is not colorless. In many ways it still looks like late fall. Crinkly piles of leaves are everywhere. A few colored ones cling to branches here and there, and evergreens brighten the landscape with various shades of green, sometimes tinted with gold, purple or red.Top photo above looks across the patio, while the middle photo is taken from the same spot, with the camera turned to look over the lady garden. Lower left is a portion of the drive, and lower right is the upper end of the hydrangea walk.

More color comes from rose hips and berries:Top photo is a rose hip. Berries shown clockwise from middle left: Ilex vomitoria (yaupon holly); Symphoricarpus doorenbosii 'Kordes' (Amethyst coralberry); Cornus florida (flowering dogwood); Ilex verticillata (common winterberry)On a cold, gray day I found bare branches, empty seed pods, and other signs of winter, but an orange pumpkin, three months old, still brightens the landscape where I set it after taking it and other parts of an autumn display out of the front planter. Its colors are striking, and I'm not willing to put it in the compost while it remains in good shape. I found signs of spring, too, as early daffodils push up from the earth.


Winter blooming camellias provide spots of color. There is beauty even in the fallen ones, I think.I am pleased with my fall vegetable garden, and I have discovered that growing food this time of year is easier than struggling to keep vegetables alive through a bug infested, disease ridden, hot and dry summer. But I am not a vegetable gardener, as the broccoli in the collage below testifies. Lou told me days ago that we had broccoli to pick, but in the busyness of the season, I forgot about it. Today I was horrified to discover that some of it had started to flower! Fortunately, there was plenty still good to pick, but I felt bad that I had neglected it.Top photo is decorative cabbage which borders the vegetable patch. Non edible, but I want even this utilitarian area to be pretty! Lower shots are of my neglected broccoli and swiss chard, which has flourished in spring, early summer, fall, and now early winter. Frost has not bothered it.What season are you in? Here is whatever you name it. My garden has a little of it all, with surely some surprises waiting around the corner in 2012.

Happy winter gardening!


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Reader Comments (18)

Well, you could be describing my garden. I have things blooming already that shouldn't until at least February. It makes me wonder what January will bring. Nice to see your winter garden. It looks beautiful. I am going to try my hand at some winter sowing. It would be wonderful not to battle the bugs for the veggies! All the best for 2012. May your garden bring you many wonderful surprises!

December 29, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterKarin/Southern Meadows

Your winter garden really is rich with color and interesting things going on! It is much browner and all over gray up here, although I can find branch and bark interest, and dried things like seedheads, and they are neat to look at. But your garden still has that riot of growth and exuberance going on, just a little more muted. I like it.

December 29, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterLaurrie

We had one of the mildest Christmases on record interspersed with awesome winds so the the early Spring signs have appeared here too. I trust the plants are wise enough to know what they are doing and meanwhile enjoy all the textrures and subtle hues in your wonderful woodland garden Deb. Happy New Year

December 29, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterLaura@PatioPatch

Hi Deb,

Our season here is more typical of recent years, it's cool but also mixed with mild weather; today has been very gloomy, rainy and windy but in a few days we know temperatures will creep up again and further confuse the plants which are already emerging. Yesterday I even found fresh growth on a late-flowering Clematis which can be added to the crocus, iris, daffodis, tulips, snowdrops and bluebells which are emerging.

I hope your plants which are growing aren't doomed, and that the weather continues to be relatively mild.

December 29, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterLiz

Deb what a beautiful garden and veggies...it is definitely winter here...cold, and a few inches of snow although they will melt this weekend and I will be looking around the very wet garden for signs of life...very cold weather coming next week...plants are glad for it...

December 29, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterDonna@Gardens Eye View

A nice retrospective; for me 2011 has been a hit and miss year with a lot of withering and decay. In 2012 I intend to destroy my plants in a different way!

December 29, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterThe Idiot

Your garden looks very gentle in whatever season it is now. I'm so pleased you added a subscription link, now I won't miss any of your posts. Have a very happy new year and good gardening for 2012, Christina

December 29, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterChristina

Well we had that dusting of snow (on the mountain tops!) mid-December, but now we are in the mid-thirties C which is as it should be.

December 29, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterElephant's Eye

Deb, you really do have a garden of many seasons there. Color is all around that mingles in with the buffs of those past. Many beautiful images, I love your view of the pumpkin. I too have a small pumpkin that is in too good a shape to send to the compost, but as soon as it hits the bin, the squirrels will be in there trying to muscle it out and up to the tree.

December 29, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterDonna

It hasn't been very wintery here and many of my plants have growth at their base. But most of my garden is brown and boring. I have a summer garden and I'm ok with that. I love your photos. They definitely show the beauty of a winter garden.

December 29, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterCasa Mariposa

What a wonderful selection of photos, so much still going on in your garden. I think plants are mixed up the world over with the unseasonal weather, but they manage to cope somehow. Must try more winter veggies, like you, instead of having that area bare earth over the winter, maybe that will be my New Years Resolution! Wishing you all a very Happy New Year and happy gardening for 2012 !

December 30, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterPauline Mulligan

What a wonderful array of photographs! The winter trees just make me want to shiver. I am having a great time reading blogs today they are full of great photos and reminders of the year gone by. Wishing you a very happy 2012 Ronnie@hurtledto60

December 30, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterRonnie@hurtledto60

As always I've enjoyed this stroll around your garden. I think special seating nooks such as your swinging bench under the arbor look even more inviting in the fall and winter months when we would otherwise not linger.

Here in Seattle it is much milder than usual too although our leaves are now a nasty, soggy mess on the ground making their removal more of a chore! My main concern is that the bugs haven't died off with the cold so next spring could be interesting.

December 30, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterKaren Chapman

What wonderful photographs of your garden and the textures all around it. There is beauty in every season in the garden. Wishing you a Happy, Healthy and Blessed New Year.

December 30, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterLona

We have confusing weather here in the UK too - we have only had one frost whereas last year we had thick snow.

But I do think that this is what makes gardening so interesting

December 30, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterHelen

I love the way late fall and winter narrow our view to really look and appreciate the more subtle aspects of our garden. You still have a lot to admire. Happy New Year.

Deb - as always, it's a treat to take a walk around your gardens. I was just reading an article about 'winter structure' in the garden (current issue of "Garden Design" magazine); that is one of the many strengths in your gardens. Even in the 'quiet' of the winter season - the eye travels through your gardens, landing on organic or inorganic structure.

Happy New Year!
(2012 - wow, it came up fast!)

January 1, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterShyrlene

I love your Amethyst Coralberry. You have so much interest in your garden, even this late in the year. We have had a very mild winter so far too (except for today, wind with highs in the 30s), and dry.

Winter is a back and forth season too here. I'm glad it doesn't usually stay stuck on cold for too long! lol

Happy New Year!

January 3, 2012 | Unregistered Commentersweetbay
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