In the Garden:
Mid-Atlantic
December, 2007
Regional Report

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Holiday-style rosemary trees are fun to decorate, and the trimmings are delish on potatoes, chicken, and lamb chops.

Tuning Into Winter's Rhythm

Not one for crowds or intense holiday shopping, I'm drawn to quiet projects, the greener the better. Or anything involving dark chocolate and blueberries. Last week in 55-degree temperatures, I wrapped up outdoor gardening loose ends in anticipation of holiday decorating.

I pulled out dead annuals and emptied soil from large plastic, glazed, and terra cotta containers, tossed the organics on the compost pile, and turned the pots over on bricks. With luck and time, I'll wash them before storing in the barn before winter deep freeze; we'll see.

Spiky-leafed New Zealand phormiums are a $$ investment so I replanted those elegant green, rose, and cream-striped tropicals side-by-side in threes in shallow, oval pots for the plastic greenhouse. Though marginal in Zone 6, about a half dozen small, compact crepe myrtles -- 'Razzle Dazzle Raspberry', 'Razzle Dazzle Cherry,' and 'Pokomoke' -- are two years old. I've tucked them beside the phormiums for a winter's nap.

'Kent Beauty' oregano, with grey-blue, heart-shaped leaves hugging cascading stems, is a keeper. From summer through fall, pink-petaled flowers peek from soft purple bracts at the stem tips. This tender perennial, recipient of the Royal Botanical Society's Award of Garden Merit, is back for another winter in my lamp-heated greenhouse.

The spring mix and Swiss chard in window boxes were small and old but alive. They're now turning into compost. I'll start new seed indoors come February. Two glazed pots with pitcher plants need a nest of hot manure to keep from freezing, which means a trip to a stable with a shovel and several buckets.

Though there'll be a winter battle with grazing deer, I huddled about 30 containerized perennials, shrubs, and grasses in a sunny spot beside the cottage. For now, they're protected (I hope!) by a hodge-podge of hardware cloth -- wavy, prickly-edged rectangles of gridded wire.

Holiday Cheer
The 'Grosso' lavenders were so lush in one Media, Pennsylvania, garden that they needed to be cut back from the entrance path. The homeowner mused about being Martha Stewart as she cradled an armful of newly cut, long, fragrant stems. I took home enough to fill four vases and to craft seven bunches with lace bows for gifts.

In holiday spirit, I was enticed by 1-foot-tall, green rosemary trees for $8 each at a local produce outlet. I bought six to deck out in shiny gold and red balls, starry garland, and other festive fancies. Friend and garden writer Liz Ball cautioned that they were root-bound, dry, and needed immediate replanting. So I watered thoroughly, I thought. They sat outside for a few days and nights while I hunted for decorations. When I looked again, three were black from frost, the fourth was half-brown/half-green. Two were still green but their stem tips were droopy from dehydration.

I replanted the three trees in larger plastic pots after slicing away the outer roots. The middle roots were desert dry; no water had reached them. Two will find appreciative homes with friends. The half-green, half-brown rosemary will be my winter experiment.


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