Ok, so I was pretty suspicious of the “let’s put down a blankie” idea for the garden before winter. If you have met me, you know that I am not the type of person who makes my own crackers. I buy them. In the garden, I will do fussy things but only if there is a good reason to do it. I resist babying plants and I resist doing things in the garden that make humans feel better rather than make an actual difference in the garden.
As I read studies about using winter mulch, I realized that the reason for mulch is not the COLD per se – the problem is temperature fluctuation, often from the sun’s rays. Cold is cold. The goal of bed covering in winter is not to stop freezing – it is to minimize the top layer of soil from warming up and cooling down. This freeze-thaw action forces smaller plants up and dislodges them from the soil surface. Now vulnerable and stranded, the plant’s roots dry out. (Ok, so I feel a little sympathy now …) Warming soil during midwinter thaws can also encourage plants to come out of dormancy in addition to being popped out of the soil surface by plummeting temperatures.
To assist your perennials (or more recently planted small shrubs) this winter, shade the soil around them to protect against the sun heating up the soil. Snow cover is the best winter insulator but is undependable – once we get snow, lightly push snow back onto beds when you can. Before the snow comes, we recommend adding 2-4 inches of chopped leaves, pine needles, salt marsh hay or sterile straw over the crown of the perennials and around the root zone after you have cut the perennials back and after temperatures are staying consistently in the 50-40F range.
More than just a comfort object, your garden’s ‘blankie’ of winter mulch will help keep it snug and minimize winter damage. Let us help you put your garden beds to sleep before the snow flies!
Every year around this time we send kids back to school, dodge increased traffic and get the feel of shorter days, cooler nights, and hints of the crisp scents of autumn. Our gardens and seasonal containers also start showing their age but that’s no reason to despair. Fall offers a whole other season to enjoy some of our favorite fall flowers and plants in our beds or spicing up containers. We can steer toward the traditional seasonal choices of golds, reds, yellows and oranges that are sure to warm us up, or cooler colors in blues, whites & purples too if that is our thing.
Some favorite annuals include, as you’d expect, asters, mums, pansies & marigolds. But don’t stop with flowering plants. Adding ornamental grasses, peppers, kale, cabbage & millet adds texture and seasonal interest. Vegetables are not just for cooking anymore! We can also use perennials in containers that do double duty – just pop them into the ground before the first major frost and enjoy them next spring and summer. Heuchera, Euphorbia x martini, Sedums, Lavender and Sage are some great choices. We like the multitude of unusual gourds, colorful pumpkins and Indian corn that becomes available as well!
So just like you buy the kids their school clothes, consider sprucing up your seasonal containers. We have 3 months of Fall ahead of us. Give us a call or email: Containers@christiedustman.com
For many of us, when we think of the contents of a garden we often think of plants – our favorite perennials, trees or shrubs. Perhaps an arbor, wall, bench or chair, maybe even a hammock. Some of us may think of sculptural elements like water, art, gazing balls or a bird bath. But let’s look at another element that humans have been working with and around since time began: rock.
From an early perspective, rocks were the byproduct of gardening, moved to the side of the field for easier cultivation. Think of those iconic fieldstone walls running through the New England woods. We’ve all come across plenty of rocks, perhaps more than we care to think about. Just how many times has our planting progress been thwarted by that all too familiar jarring feeling and corresponding metal-on-stone audible clank? Many of us would be happy to never see another stone in our gardens again! But I suggest taking another look at stone.
Rocks can be used as sculptural elements in the garden to satisfy a need for form, function or both. Smaller stones can provide a path to, or edge along, our favorite perennial bed. Larger rocks can be an enduring four season focal point or act as a seat to catch a moment’s rest. A jagged rock protruding from the earth creates a sense of drama whereas a rounded stone nestled among ground covers can be soothing and look natural. Rocks can be the backdrop to show off one of our favorite plants. Rocks with crags or a depression can collect water and attract wildlife. And if your “thumb” errs on the brown side rather than green, you’ll never have to worry about watering, killing or overwintering rocks.
Let us help you look at rocks in a positive light!