Monday
Dec212009

A Spring Tease

Yesterday was the last day of fall, and I went for a walk in my garden. What did I find? Come with me, and I'll show you.

Enter the woodlands with the mossy paths.

Garden, the cat will greet you. She's not my cat! But she's always there, and I've finally named her. Maybe her family calls her Tootsie or something like that, but she and I know her real name is Garden.

Fall is passing away. There is the last geranium leaf.

Hydrangea blossoms are crinkly and dry.

Goldmound spirea leaves, colors flaming before the end.

Japanese maple leaves litter the ground.

I found these signs of fading fall. 

But don't stop! Follow the path. There's more to see.

Mahonia buds soon will be blooming.

And there are flowers! We see the last roses,

 The first camellia blooms, 

And daffodils!

Is it spring? No, it's only a tease. Winter is coming to Alabama, sharp and cold, but just enough to give me frosty toes and an excuse to buy a new coat. It won't last long, a couple of months, and then it will be - Spring!

This post is dedicated to friends whose gardens will a spend long winter napping under blankets of snow. Just think, while you are resting with your hot chocolate, it will be time for me to get out the hoe, shovel, and trowel and get to work!

You might also like "My garden friend, the cat" or "Moss path in the woodland garden".

Saturday
Dec192009

A topiary tale

"If I dry, I die."

It was Christmas time, about a decade ago. I considered the handwritten sign propped in front of some dwarf alberta spruces for sale at a local nursery. I was searching for some greenery to place on each end of the fireplace mantel in my living room. These Christmas tree shaped plants, each about a foot tall, seemed just right. I visualized how they would look in gold pots. I studied the tag. Acid soil, sun, zones 3 to 8. That's pushing it. I am zone 7b, but I usually look for plants that will go to zone 9, to make sure they will make it through our hot summers. However, I reasoned that although the alberta spruces might not like our heat, with enough water they could survive.This dwarf alberta spruce is a recent purchase. The originals were smaller, but looked like this.

I purchased two of them and took them home to their gold pots.

The living room fireplace doesn't get much sun, so the plan was to keep the plants on the mantel through the Christmas season, then transplant them to larger outdoor pots. I would put them on the patio in a sunny spot near the water hydrant, so I could keep them watered easily. That was the plan.

The dwarf alberta spruces were perfect for the fireplace mantel. They were the perfect size, and they were the perfect accent to the oil painting that hung between them. I postponed moving them. I thought about getting some artificial ones to take their place, but I don't like fake plants. No plastic or silk for me. No way.

Six months later the dwarf alberta spruces were still in my living room. I was watering them one day when I was horrified to find brown needles throughout the center of each plant. I get emotionally attached to my plants, and these little guys had stuck to a spot right close to my heart. I felt guilty. I had kept them inside way, way too long. I took them outside to examine them in the bright light. It was bad. If I cut off all the dead branches, the spruces would look terrible.

Or maybe not.

As I studied the plants, I had an idea. I got my pruners. Snip, snip, snip. Snip, snip, snip. Voila! I now had two matched topiary trees, each with a large ball at the bottom and a smaller ball at the top. Why, people pay money for things that look like that. I smiled as I repotted them and put them in their permanent location.

I maintained the double ball look until recently. By now the dwarf alberta spruces had outgrown their pots, and the lower balls were looking scruffy, so in November I transplanted them to larger pots and completely trimmed off the lower balls. I planted pansies at the base of each plant, and I am happy with the new grown-up look.

This is what the dwarf alberta spruces look like now.

By the way, I eventually bought two small artificial Christmas trees to go on the mantel for the holidays. They look fine, and I don't have to water them at all.

You might also like "We are survivors" and How Not to Kill a Dwarf Alberta Spruce.