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Message from Anne

Fall 2008 / Winter 2009

The fall was a busy time for the Marsh & Fear home garden as it is the main time that we can catch-up on outdoor chores that we do not have time to do during the main gardening season. Nature gifted us with a relatively dry fall so the deck was scrubbed and refinished, deck furniture cleaned and coated with oil to protect it next year, the cherry tree received the pruning it has needed for more than two years and the photinia hedge received an early pruning. Wow – do we feel ahead of ourselves for next spring’s work! We hope you’re able to come by and visit during our open garden season in 2009 to see the results.

winterAs I get back to my writing winter has arrived with a bang even before it is officially here by the calendar. The temperature outside was a high of 27 degrees here in Portland, OR as I write on December 15th and we have about 3 inches of snow on the ground. Snow is always a beautiful sight here as we receive it less and less often. But somehow the week before a big holiday and with freezing temps to remain for 7 days or so and more snow on the way, it will probably end up feeling like an imposition. In the days leading up to the cold, there was much to do with specific plants that may not like being below freezing for 7 days or more.

The most tender plants that will not survive below 32 degrees went into our neighbor’s greenhouse (they are so generous with the space) or into our front entry hall that is not heated but stays warm enough. Some of the smaller potted plants were nestled amongst piles of leaves to give insulation to the pots. Another grouping of larger potted plants sits just outside the back door but under cover, with the pots wrapped in old rugs and covered from the top and sides with old mattress covers that I save precisely for this use. Gary often complains of all the ‘stuff’ I have in the basement but some of this ‘stuff’ comes in real handy to help the plants through an unwelcome cold snap.

I think we will be finding out which southern hemisphere plants will prove to be the hardiest this winter. I know the 6 ft. purple Cordyline, that is a focal point in our stream garden, has never had to endure this long of a freeze in the 8 years I’ve had it in the ground. I’m a little nervous about the winter212 ft. Azara microphylla that is to grow up and screen our deck from the large house built above us last year. It will take at least 5 years to get one up to that size and we are looking for screening in the next year or two so I will keep my fingers crossed. I think I remember someone saying that they may frost back but not die completely.

Now I will turn my attention to thinking of the blooms that will arrive in January or February whether we have wintry weather or not. The first that come to mind are the hellebores and I actually have a purple one that already has a bloom stem fully open. That one will most probably die with this active cold weather but more will emerge once we’re into January. They just seem to love to slowly push out of the ground and open their blooms no matter what the weather once it is their time. I planted a few on our rock bank about 3 years ago and each year they grow larger and put on a great show when nothing else is in bloom! I also have 3 clumps of Trillium sessile that add drama to the entry borders through March. Right now they are just pushing out of the ground and they will not emerge much more until those rainy days of 38-45 degrees return. Once they fully emerge they just take your breathe away and everyone wants to know what they are. Interestly enough, they are native to our forests of the west coast.

winter1Enough of dreaming of blooms in January, February and early March….I hope that you have time to curl up with your gardening books, catalogs and other resources over these short winter months. May you come up with lists of plants you want and maybe even some new design ideas you’d love to try in your landscape next year.