“HOW On Earth” – Published in Pink Magazine – November 2011


Pansies, Vinca Vine, and Heuchera Mix

“Even if something is left undone, everyone must take time to sit still and watch the leaves turn.”
–   Elizabeth Lawrence

November is a great month for gardening. The weather is officially cooler with low humidity and intense blue skies. It simply feels wonderful to be outside again working in our gardens. This is the perfect time of year for transplanting and planting, establishing new beds, and dividing perennials. During the cooler months, plants establish themselves by growing their root structures. This makes them much more prepared to handle the heat of our summers. The holidays are fast approaching and decorating this time of year is a favorite of mine. There are annuals we can plant, bulbs to force, and vegetables to grow and harvest. This is a time of year that is diverse in gardening activities.

I completely ignored my vegetable garden this summer. The weeds had outgrown the Lemon grass which is impressive standing at about seven feet. An entire family of rabbits had moved in along with their predators. I had allowed it to decline to the point that it prompted a phone call from the farm board requesting an immediate clean up. Oh well, I have always said my own gardens are more like the shoemaker’s children’s shoes. I do however, now have the ultimate list of fruits and vegetables that can survive complete neglect. The Asparagus, Pomegranate, Blueberry, Raspberry, Blackberry, Orange, Kumquat, and all of my Herbs (Rosemary, Thyme, Oregano, Chives, Basil, Mint, Sage, Lemongrass) survived my torturous “survival of the fittest” technique. The Tithonia reseeded as always and bloomed all summer, along with the Rudbeckia and Hyssop. Even the Shrub Rose decided to stick it out. I’m a little late to get the Broccoli, Carrots, Cauliflower, Beets and Turnips started, but I’m going to put them in anyway. Who knows, maybe they can’t read the calendar. The real stars of this month though are the greens. The varieties of gourmet greens available these days are astounding. I picked up some beautiful deep red Romaine, Baby Bok Choy, and a frilly Mustard along with Buttercrunch to plant. Collards, Kales, Cabbages,  Swiss Chard, and Spinach love this time of year and will go through our winter. They are equally beautiful in pots and I invite you to incorporate them in a mixed flower pot. This is also the time to put in onions and garlic.

November is the perfect month to plant what I believe is the happiest winter flower of all time…Pansies. Pansies love full sun and their smaller cousin the Viola can handle a little shade. They come in an array of colors and mixes. Citrus mix with yellow, orange, and white is a personal favorite of mine. The bright yellow tends to be the most consistent bloomer of all. Panolas are somewhat in between a pansy and a viola and perform well. A word of caution, Pansies is one of deer’s favorite foods!

If you would like to have Amaryliss and Paperwhites in bloom for the holidays, now is the time to pot them.

1. Select a container and put a little gravel or other material in the bottom to encourage drainage. Then fill the container part way with potting soil. Next, place the bulb or bulbs, and fill with soil so that the top third of the bulb is above the soil line.

2. Adding sheet moss is a very pretty way to dress up the pot. I also have planted ivy and mosses which are equally lovely. Paperwhites look especially pretty with Ryegrass Seed. Water in well, only on the side, and don’t let the water remain in the saucer.

3. Care instructions: Water whenever the surface soil dries out and rotate the pot periodically to ensure even growth. A stake may be necessary when the stem gets heavy. 4. Blooms will generally appear in 4-6 weeks. Cut flowers off as they fade and the entire stem when it has completed its bloom cycle. Amaryllis may be planted outside in a partially sunny to sunny site. They will bloom in May but will skip the first spring due to being forced. Paperwhites can also be planted outdoors and make a great splash of color for the winter garden.

Decorating is so much fun for the holidays, and yet can seem overwhelming and expensive at times. I like to keep it simple and combine it with incorporating the wealth of materials that can be found in our backyards. One of my favorite pastimes is going for a walk and collecting pieces of found treasures. Cut branches of Red Maple, Sweet Gum, Nandina, and Bradford Pear can be stunning in a vase. Baskets filled with acorns and nuts are symbolic of the fall season. Finding interesting seed pods such as Wisteria, Magnolia, even Okra, add texture to the autumn potpourri. Pyracantha has glorious orange red berries that make wonderful additions to a bouquet. Grapevines are abundant here. It’s easy to wrap them around vases for added embellishment or turned into a wreath.  Hurricane vases make great instant color decorations. Fill them with cranberries, small gourds or pumpkins, and berries. Then place sprays of branches and flowers for a dramatic effect.