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Category: winter garden

  • Garden Herbs for Stovetop Humidifiers

    December 03, 2012
    Snoqualmie Falls Frozen in December 2009

    Cold winter weather like the snap that caused much of powerful Snoqualmie Falls to freeze solid briefly in 2009 can also dry out your skin. Humidifiers help abate the dry!

    Try picking aromatherapy herbs directly from the garden to avoid winter dryness and to add safe, non-toxic fragrances to your home. We simmer pots of water filled with freshly-picked sprigs, spices and fruits on the stove. This is a fantastic way to keep your house smelling great, your skin from chapping, and you can do it without spending a penny. All it takes is a quick trip to the garden, a few cups of water, and a heat source.

    From Christmas-y fragrances to clarifying and calming blends, we’ve put together a few mixture ideas to get you started.

    Read on for more from our post from Decembers-past…

    (Original post from December 19, 2008 follows)

    As my friend Kim wrote elsewhere, I’m preparing for day 4 of my captivity. Between a nasty head cold, frigid temps, and frozen icy roads, I’m pretty well home bound these days. And with outdoor temps staying well below freezing as dry, cold arctic winds rage in from the north, our furnace is running nearly non-stop. Result: indoor humidity is dropping, which doesn’t help my sinuses (or skin or hair or lips or attitude) at all. And, the Christmas tree seems to dry out just a little faster when the indoor air humidity is low despite how full we keep the water reservoir.

    Frosty Enjoying Frigid Temps

    Frosty Enjoying Frigid Temps

    I spent many of my growing-up years in a woodstove-heated farmhouse in Virginia. The heat was toasty, but we always battled dry heat. To remedy this we kept a heavy kettle filled with water on each of the stoves. The kettle produced steam that helped humidify the air. We had to be vigilant about refilling the kettle regularly, but depending on how high the stove was running, we generally only had to refill it a couple of times a day.

    These days I don’t have a wood stove, but I do have a kitchen stove where I keep a small pot of water going all winter. I have tried commercial humidifiers in the past, but I’m not sold on them. To add interest and fragrance to the house, there are a few things we add to our makeshift humidifier. Spice blends add holiday aromas. Herb blends add relaxing and healing fragrances that help keep a closed up, stale house a bit more fresh. Consider trying out a blend one of the following blends in your own home. If you’re missing one of the ingredients, try the remaining ones or mix-it-up yourself. The worst thing that can happen is you dump it out in the compost and start over.

    Christmas Spice Blend

    • 1 T whole cloves
    • 1 tangerine, orange or other citrus peel
    • 1-2 cinnamon sticks
    • 1 slice fresh or candied ginger

    Garden Herb Blends: Even if your plants are frozen, dust off the snow and ice to take a few cuttings. They don’t need to look lovely to do the trick. Keep in mind, some herb combos like rosemary + sage may make it smell like you’re cooking dinner. Recipes follow. (more…)

  • Camellia Sasanqua: When Will it Really Bloom?

    February 27, 2012
    Camellia sasanqua 'Yuletide'

    Camellia sasanqua 'Yuletide' Blooming for Valentine's Day

    Camellia sasanqua is known as a fall or winter-blooming Camellia. But, mine seems to want to wait until closer to spring to strut its stuff.

    Years ago, I was given a tiny but beautiful Yuletide camellia as a Christmas gift. When I received it, it had a few lingering blooms still on it.

    That’s the thing, growers push these young’ns all to bloom in fall. This gets them looking their best just in time for those doing last autumn installations to snap them up and pop them into the garden before everything comes to a screeching halt for winter. And with a name like Yuletide, we’re all expecting these gorgeous evergreens to bloom in time for Christmas, right?


    After that first year, my potted Camellia continued to bloom sometime in winter — usually right after Christmas. Never at Christmas. So much for being a entry decoration for the holidays.

    Then, the time came to plant it in the ground. And guess what happened then?

    Freeze blasted & ruined: This Camellia blossom will never open

    Freeze blasted & ruined Camellia bud

    Yes, it grew larger. But, it also began to bloom later and later each year.

    That is, if it bloomed at all.

    Those tough blossoms definitely don’t care for a hard winter freeze, and if they get hit hard enough. They turn black & fall off the bush. Last year that happened to mine, and I got only a measly handful of pretty blooms.

    This year was mild. We did have one icy blast that hit just as the Camellia was getting ready to bloom. I assumed it would drop its buds, but despite getting frozen and a late start opening, it is putting on its showiest display ever.

    I’m reminded that these shrubs are definitely worth growing in the Pacific Northwest. Evergreen. Colorful. And kinda consistently bloom during the “off season”.

    But guess what? These beautiful 2012 blooms started opening right around Valentine’s day.

    So who’s with me? I propose we rename this one: Camellia sasanqua ‘Valentine’.

    It sure as hell isn’t opening any gifts for us during the Yuletide anymore.

  • Waking Up in the New Year Garden

    January 03, 2012
    Witch Hazel on 2012 New Year Day

    Hamamelis awakening with me in the 2012 January Garden

    I’m ready to grow again. And thank goodness for that!

    2011 will not be remembered as one of my favorite years, and I’m glad to have recycled that calender and moved on to a new one.

    As I look back at the last year, I’m glad for many things.¬† I had the great fortune to work with the Growing a Greener World TV team writing, researching and brainstorming a number of season two episodes. I took an amazing road trip in late summer with friends to the first annual Heirloom Expo in Petaluma, California. I cheered on my amazing clients as they grew in their gardens. I planted seeds and watched them grow — some little things truly were great.

    But, too many of my loved ones struggled with serious injury and illness. Neighbors I count as family moved away. The summer weather could barely be counted as summery. And, as the year progressed, I began to distance myself from my own garden in anticipation of leaving it for new ground. And, as we raced toward this change, my own health took a downturn in early winter, probably due to overwhelming stress I found myself unable to properly manage. My sister pointed out how it seemed my body — or perhaps the universe — was signaling “stop & stay put”. We did stop, and for now we are staying. And my garden is where I will find peace and balance in the coming year.

    Sarcococca Bloom

    Sarcococca Blooming on New Year Day

    But here I am today — healthy again — and I’m vitalized by the exciting garden year ahead. I’m diving into a bevy of new articles for Fiskars, scheduling exuberant clients, organizing my 2012 Northwest Flower & Garden Show presentation, and making new garden plans for myself in the year ahead.

    My garden planning for 2012 began last night as a dream in which my fractured relationship with my own garden was mended. In the dream, I thrust my bare, clinched fists deep into the cold, moist soil, reuniting me with the heart of my garden. My hands opened underground, and my fingers spread and grew like the pancake root-ball of a tree with carrot-like tap root fingertips, connecting me to the soil and back into my garden where I felt I again belonged.

    In my haste to move and later overwhelmed by illness, I had strayed from my garden — abandoning my truest self — in the waning months of 2011. Now it’s time for me to awaken, dig in and be one with my beloved garden again — even if changes may come later. If the early bloomers and persistent weeds are hinting at anything, it’s that the garden and the seasons and time itself won’t pause forever.

  • Blasted! That Camellia’s Not Going to Bloom

    January 13, 2011
    Sarcococca provides Glossy Evergreen Leaves & Powerfully Fragrant Tiny White Blooms in January

    Sarcococca provides Glossy Evergreen Leaves & Powerfully Fragrant Tiny White Blooms in January

    Winter Bloomers are a salvation this time of year when everything else seems to be some shade of dreary gray. In addition to injecting color back into our worlds, they attract colorful birds and bees and quite often pack a powerfully fragrant punch. So when they don’t, well winter’s just that much more of a bummer. Wondering why your winter bloomers are failing to please this year or looking for ways to remedy future problems?

    Read on:


  • How Can I Tell if My Shrub Survived the Freeze?

    November 29, 2010
    Apples Blooming at the Getty Villa as my Seattle Garden Froze

    Apples Blooming at the Getty Villa as my Seattle Garden Froze

    Last week Seattle came to a frigid halt. I managed to fly away to sunny Los Angeles just as Seattle was icing up. Alas, my garden and yours stayed put — out in the icy cold — fending for itself in record cold, ice and wind. Did all of our plants survive?

    Like Dara in Seattle, you may be asking:

    “(It snowed) on my potted lavendar!! It is too big to move, so it got snowed on… it is now brown and wilty looking. Is it dead for good?? “

    Until spring comes our plants likely won’t put on much new top growth, which quickly lets us know if they’re still alive. Truly, we don’t want them to leaf out now – let alone put on lovely blossoms like this apple tree in the kitchen garden at the Getty Villa in Malibu, CA. There its running around 60-70F during the day. Here, we’re lucky to reach 45F for daytime high temperatures, and it’s probably going to get even chillier if the weather people are on target this year.

    It’s just the end of November, so winter hasn’t even really started yet — at least according to the calender. So, here’s a quick trick to help you determine if your plants are still alive even if they look dead — and you can do this now! (more…)

  • Winter Garden Anticipation

    November 03, 2010

    There’s nothing like a plant that blooms in the dead of winter, and that’s what I’m excited about today. It’s crystal clear outside and in the mid-60s – a perfect Seattle November day.

    Garrya prepares to bloom in Winter as Japanese Maple Goes Dormant 'til Spring

    Garrya prepares to bloom in Winter as Japanese Maple Goes Dormant 'til Spring

    I can see the Olympic Mountain Range from my office desk, and the fall colors still hanging onto nearby trees are stunning in today’s brilliant sunlight. But, as I wandered around the garden to inhale the last sugary scent of our defoliated Katsura, to bumble along with the bees gathering pollen in the precious hours of sunlight, I found myself overwhelmed by the potential for an amazing winter bloom season ahead.

    Here’s the thing: there’s maybe two weeks out of the year when nothing is in bloom in my garden. So, when I see my Camellia sasanqua laden with flower buds, my Hamamelis mollis buds draped in crisped, yellow leaves,¬† and my Garrya elliptica dripping with chains ready to burst, I get excited. I get over the fact that much of my fall color has already blown away. I see beyond the ugly reveal of my neighbor’s tin-roof shed now visible beyond my now-bare vine maple. I see potential. I envision a winter filled with floriferous beauty that will feed the bees and hummingbirds, and I get excited for those dark, drippy, cold days ahead. Its the backdrop of those dreary days that ensures these specimen winter garden stars shine bright.

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