In the Garden:
Mid-Atlantic
December, 2009
Regional Report

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Early winter garden beauties in bouquet - Pink Knock Out roses, a handful of rosemary, with the 'Lady In Red' hydrangea flowers.

Improv In Early Winter

It can't be mid-December. Too much color and green in the gardens. Not enough browns and grays. The coral-pink 'Lady Elsie May' roses in Marilyn's Chestnut Hill garden are still blooming. No rust or mildew on the leaves, even though we've had more rain than blue skies.

Golden swathes of creeping Jenny (Lysimachia nummularia 'Aurea') spread like a chartreuse carpet through the beds and into the gravel path.

There IS one green I'd rather not see. Daffodils, tulips, and crocuses are pushing skyward, teased by the unusually warm, damp weather. We had to step carefully between those plump, green-yellow sprouts when cutting back the dead Astilbe, monkshood, and peony stalks. I thought we'd finish winter cleanup in one day, but it looks like we'll be returning soon with wheelbarrows of leaf compost to protect the tender bulb sprouts.

Garden #2- Cheltenham
From the sidewalk, rosy-pink AND softer pink flowers in Maureen's front porch garden catch the eye. The huge Pink Knock Out shrub rose has a handful of rosy buds and flowers -- at the tip-top (5 feet plus). The 'Winter's Dream' camellia is outdoing expectations. Its pink, semi-double blossoms with golden yellow centers glow in the shrub's leathery, glossy green leaves.

Her single rosemary plant is shrub size -- thriving for four years on a sunny, well-drained corner, mini-slope. Clipping away stems encroaching on the driveway is heavenly work. Rosemary, with its essential oils in needle-like leaves, is so fragrant. Besides, it makes me think of lamb chops, roasted and crusted with rosemary.

What to do with so many foot- and 2-foot-long rosemary stems? I pile them on the brick steps.

I cut back lanky stems of the 'Rozanne' geranium. I leave several stems that still hold violet-blue flowers. The single lavender plant left (of three) has dwindled to a hunk of twisted, rotting, wood-like stem. A few green sprigs struggle near the bottom. No hope here, despite adding lime. The clay soil is too wet for this Mediterranean herb. Lavender thrives in gravel, sand, on sun-scalded, rocky cliffs. We tried it because we like it, but it didn't like living here. So out comes what little is left.

On the other hand, the 'Lady in Red' hydrangea at the opposite corner is lush, full in sun to part-shade, tending-toward-moist soil. Its lace-cap heads have dried to crisp, delicate, three-petal flowers. So many shades of tan, brown, beige. Hummmm.

I can't neglect clipping the 'Biokovo' geranium (Geranium x cantabrigiense) a little -- even if it doesn't need it. No flowers now BUT the ruffled foliage always smells so good -- citrus-rose-spicy..

The rosemary branches haven't moved from the steps. I start fussing with them, sorting them by size in piles on the lawn. I gather a few large and medium stems and look up. Three Pink Knock Out roses call my name. I cut them, tuck them into the handful of rosemary. The 'Lady In Red' flowers nod in approval. I clip two, three of them. And add them to the bouquet. Voila! Early winter's garden gifts.


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