The Gardening Life
If you're looking for a great gift for a gardener in your life, or perhaps you've been asked for candidates for your own Christmas list, let me suggest Our Life in Gardens, a collection of essays on everything from agapanthus and annuals to willows and wisteria by the renowned New England gardeners Joe Eck and Wayne Winterrowd (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2009, $30). (Sadly, Mr. Winterrowd passed away earlier this fall.) For more than three decades, the pair developed North Hill, their garden in southern Vermont, and experimented with growing a vast array of plants. Whether as familiar as vegetables and lilacs or as unusual to our climate as bananas and camellias, all were cultivated with enthusiasm, curiosity and a discerning eye for their design value in the landscape. Reading the book is like sitting down for a chat with two gardening friends, albeit witty, articulate, horticulturally expert ones. Beautifully illustrated with line drawings by fellow Vermonter Bobbi Angel, dipping into its pages is the perfect way to "garden" on a snowy winter afternoon.
Clever Gardening Technique
Green Up Window Boxes
Don't leave your window boxes standing empty in cold weather. Make them a winter focal point with evergreen trimmings and other plant material from your garden. If your boxes are still full of now-frozen soil, bring them inside for a few days to thaw or pour boiling water over the soil in the boxes if they can't be moved. Cut short stems of evergreens such as spruce and boxwood after freezing weather so they don't dry out. Trim off the side twigs at their bases to create a six-inch "stem" to push into the soil in the box. Position some evergreens to cascade out of the box to soften its edges; cedar and pine work well for this. Liven up the evergreens with other garden finds, such as red- and yellow-twig dogwood stems, branches of winterberry and crabapple, dried hydrangea flowerheads, rose hips and coneflower seedheads. When your plant material is arranged, water the soil. When it freezes, it will lock the plant material in place, safe from the winter winds.