Gardening in December is not impossible
By Doreen Trudel
December is not a very inviting month in the garden. It’s cold, wet and dark. It’s time to relax and regenerate, to celebrate and reflect upon the accomplishments and events of the previous eleven months.
This is a busy month but at least once a day as you pass by a window in your home take a moment to appreciate the sculptural qualities of leaf-less trees and perennial seed heads, the red, brown, green or gold stems of deciduous shrubs or the variety of the greens and golds of the evergreen trees and shrubs.
If you want to take a break from the seasonal activities I highly recommend a winter visit to Butchart Gardens on Vancouver Island. Although their high season is spring to summer, I enjoyed the garden in November even more than during my visit in May.
Not only are the crowds gone but the structure of the garden is the feature. The visitor is not distracted by the voluptuous blooms of earlier seasons. The enormity of the task to turn one woman’s vision of beautifying an old quarry is clearly visible at this time of year.
You can stay for tea or lunch in the garden or continue onto Victoria to view the holiday decorations and return home on the late afternoon or evening ferry.
Although not native to our climate I cannot think of a plant in North America that shouts Merry Christmas louder than a poinsettia. There are many legends surrounding the poinsettia but my favorite tells of how on Christmas Eve a bouquet of humble weeds sprouted spectacular red blooms when laid at the manger of a village church in Mexico.
Most of us are familiar with the story of Queen Victoria’s consort Prince Albert introducing the German custom of bringing an evergreen indoors on Christmas Eve but I recently read that ancient pagan Romans decorated an evergreen tree with pieces of metal during their winter festival and later added apples to the decorations to symbolize the story of Adam and Eve.
If the gardener in your life has all of the spades and trowels and hoes they can use then perhaps a good book would be a much appreciated gift.
a plethora of garden titles were introduced. Here are a
few of my favorites to encourage dreams of the garden on
a winter’s evening.
The Authentic Garden, by Claire E. Sawyers, the subtitle Five Principles for Cultivating a Sense of Place is enticing. The Self-Sustaining Garden by Peter Thompson illustrates the idea that through proper planting even an established garden can become a low maintenance, self-sustaining garden.
Rain Gardens by Nigel Dunnett and Andy Clayden introduces innovations in the collection and use of rain and snow runoff, protecting our precious water resource not only during times of drought but for our future.
In Fallscaping; Extending Your Garden Season into Autumn by Nancy J. Ondra. the author introduces some new ideas to enhance what sometimes feels like our longest season.
If your loved one enjoys reading about other people’s gardens here are two books which beautifully celebrate their owner’s passionate gardening vision.
The Intimate Garden; Twenty Years and Four Seasons in Our Garden by Gordon Hayward is the story of a Vermont garden lovingly nurtured over time by the author and his wife who are willing to share their mistakes along with their successes.
The final book is Down to Earth by Helen Dillon. It is a delightful and informative book written in Ms. Dillon’s typically witty style which entertains and educates both the beginner and seasoned garden enthusiast.
Nielson’s Building Supply has cut Christmas trees available but if you want a live tree Sunnyside Nursery in Tsawwassen has a variety of potted evergreens but remember to allow plenty of time for inspection for that phyto certificate.
This winter my favorite plants are Cedrus deodora, a medium sized very architectural evergreen tree, Euonymus europaeus, a deciduous Euonymus with fluorescent pink berries which are dazzling in the winter light and Clerodendrum trichotomum which also loses its leaves in winter but its bluish berries are surrounded by red sepals forming clusters of star shaped pseudo-flowers.
These three plants are very dramatic additions to the winter garden. Don’t forget our little feathered friends. The birds need our help in winter so keep those bird feeders full and bird baths ice-free.