Today I noticed the first subtle stirrings of spring. Though slight, the breeze had a different scent, the sun is a mite stronger, and the song birds sounded happier. March is a month of change and patience in the garden. We are restless to get our gardens back. The graceful white mounds are slowly starting to shrink, dissolving into the earth to provide a deep drink for awaiting roots. In celebration of pending spring, here are some bouquets - from a single rose to fragrant phlox to puffy hydrangea and sweet pea, or splashy nasturtium and calendula - all harvested from the garden last season…
I cannot recall a gardener that doesn’t love watering cans. Vessels that disperse life giving water supplement the garden in function and in form. Many of my functional watering cans start out doing big work, and then over the years retire to my rusted and vintage collection, to perch in quiet vignettes accompanying a birdhouse or some pots. The famous steadfast Haws watering can above (in red) may stay functionally elegant forever. Some vintage cans I picked up at auction were never operative in my garden, but they add richness, character, and interest, carrying spirits of gardens past, and they deserve a restful home! Of course watering cans can also add a splash of colour, or a quaint message. The copper ‘goddess pitcher’ as I call it, is included above as a non-traditional watering can - how peaceful and poetic to dip it into the rain barrel and wander about the garden offering drinks here and there.
This rustic barn board birdhouse, picked up at a local art show, is mounted on a spindle leg with a spike for anchoring. Garden art that is easy to move about the garden is a helpful tool. Over the season it gets repositioned through different beds to fill holes, to support blooms, or to change things up. As above, whether accompanying coreopsis, nasturtiums or snow, this fetching birdhouse is another contrasting contributor for adding whimsy, delight and variety in the garden. And despite the early snow photo above, I do tuck this little fave away for the thick of winter as I want it to last. Read more about garden art by clicking here.
We did get that dump of fluffy snow, transforming the garden, bringing peaceful white to cushion, calm and cover. Smooth mounds mark undercover stones, spiky brown reaches through fleecy white, and tucked in pots pouf with vanilla muffin tops. The arbour in rough grey stands guard over hibernating inhabitants. The winter bouquets are iced like cakes. The garden lies sleeping under its downy warm blanket.
I feel lacking in my snow photos this winter. Usually we have had several deep, fluffy dumps of snow to provide much fodder for pretty pictures. This year we are light on the snow – the garden is white, but with no depth. And we have had cold temps, so hang in there dear garden that I know prefers a protective thick blanket. I always leave a good amount of standing perennials for interest. Their structure gives the snow a place to settle; their colour gives contrast to stark, cold white; their height adds dimension and interest. Not to mention being great bird perches and food sources. This year’s fine crystal snow has sifted and sprinkled through the garden. The grey disc bloom of yarrow holds snow like a palm. A spiky coneflower seed head stands to attention with its pearly cap. Autumn Joy sedum still puts on a show with textured cinnamon brown capturing icy white. The skeleton of a Chinese lantern hides its orange fruit beneath white frosting. And thank goodness for our evergreens like this nest spruce, adding green even if it is decorated with lacy white.
Certainly plants are the best part of the garden, but ornamentation adds interest, surprise, texture, contrast to make the experience even richer. Above are some of my cherished ornamental additions. My gentle mama bird in quiet cream nestles in a part shade bed, often with some rounded stone eggs nearby. Each season she adopts a bit more green smudge from the garden. The romantic dancing couple in rugged concrete seem to twirl amongst the hostas (both of these sculptures are by the amazing Paul Chester, www.paulchester.com). Any fairy that rides a turtle and blows kisses has a home in my garden. And this rusty red sprite has traveled from ground to post to terra cotta pot depending on the year (from another awesome artist, Jean Pierre Schoss, www.dogbitesteel.com). So much personality in crazy hair, dancing arms and curly toes, always makes me smile – and that is the key to garden decoration! Check out more ideas here and here.
Yes, I love many colours, but today I just needed a BIG dose of pink! Perky pink in the cheerful faces of creeping phlox or dianthus. Voluptuous, frothy pink of annual geraniums. Elegant pink trumpets of dappled foxgloves. Classic, crisp pink of cosmos, or fresh, pastel pink of painted daisies. Tactile, fuzzy-bunny pink of spirea. Ruffled, soft pink surrounded by vivid, candy pink that is a Cora Stubbs peony. Glowing-in-the-sun, saturated pink of a hardy geranium. Pink, pink, pink…
The bland, yellow, winter sun rises into blue-grey clouds, and it feels mid-morning before sunlight arrives. The frozen frigid earth is unyielding but for a scatter place for snow. And so I imagine the wonderful plants that will be breaking that crust of soil come spring. Anything pushing out of the ground is miraculous and full of hope, but the stately tubes of hostas trumpet the arrival of spring. Resounding in growth, newness, and full of potential, these verdant upright tubes spiral towards the sun. The broad ridged leaves unfurling to lush and varied swirls of green, so extravagant to our winter souls. Images of spring can at least warm our hearts if not the soil!
A new year unfolds like a fresh bud - full of opportunity, new beginnings.
As everyone looks for inspiration, at this time of year in particular, take note of the featured quote on the bottom of my homepage, which changes out every week or two (http://www.purplepottingshed.com/). The first quote was from a magnificent gardener, Christopher Lloyd, “The limitations imposed by rules are a safe haven, but the adventurous gardener will want to try something different.” My all-time favourite garden quote. And now you will find words from Mother Teresa.
I wish you great adventures, in gardening and otherwise, in this year to come!
I don’t often remember to take seasonal photos of the same scene, and this one was by chance, but it is curious to compare. Brilliant colour contrasts to crunchy brown. When I complain about winter my mother comments, “It would be so boring without the change of seasons.” Of course she is right. Gardens, and gardeners, need their season of rest, and there is certainly beauty in every season.
Chunks of wood in the garden add texture, contrast and height with a natural, gnarled flare! I am always sad to see an old tree come down, but do my best to recycle the rough and rugged pieces into the garden - be it as stools, tables, or sturdy bases to display treasures like the birdbath or large birdhouse above. Tucked into garden beds, chunks of wood make effective raised pedestals for pots of annuals, and the extra height is perfect for pots of trailing lobelia or fuchsia. They can take a beating, getting richer with weather and age. And the additional adornment of lichen, just melds them into the garden even more.
This birdbath was a wonderful gift over 10 years ago. It is made of concrete, and concrete that stays out over winter is a spectacular thing – no need to haul it in, and your garden gains instant ‘bones’. It is solid, grounded, weighty, enduring as the garden ever changes around it. It weathers to earn an aged patina that whispers of ancient, hidden gardens. Glazed ice encapsulates and enriches the pattern. I absorb all the garden detail I can before it is shrouded by big snow.
A single bloom can take my breath away. It can stop me in my tracks, to be still for several moments, entranced by the exquisite detail. Such a glorious display can recharge my faith, my sense of hope. Then I sigh and smile softly before moving on. When the above lily blooms, and I only get one or two blooms per season from this particular lily, it holds that magic over me. Cheers to magic in the garden!
Read more about Asiatic lilies here.
Much as we have had a few dumps of snow, only traces remain. This snow is scattered in little pockets of crystal jewels strewn through the garden, hugged amongst the chilled plants. Nests of tiny diamonds sparkle on knotty wood, are held fast in the fuzz of lamb’s ears, and sugar still green moss. Wee star gems highlight the copper of fallen cedar, and dot the evergreen foliage of rock cress. The birdbath is dusted in crystalline…it just takes a moment to notice the hidden beauty.
Winter arrangements are now popping up everywhere! If your time and budget don’t allow for an ornate, detailed approach, don’t be put off – a simple winter bouquet can be just as effective and gorgeous. The key is lots of greens. Whatever the size, your container wants to be overflowing and lush. Varying shades of green offer layers in texture and scent. Consider cedar, pine, spruce, juniper, boxwood, cotoneaster and more. This burst of green will warm your entrance with natural, simple elegance!
My arrangement above includes cedar, spruce, pine, cotoneaster, hydrangea, pinecones, russian sage for a little silver, and european snowball berries for a dash of red. The garden and nature are full of enchanting additions if you venture beyond simple green!
Natural elements are always my first choice for winter or holiday decorating, with pine cones being a favourite. Of course having a pine forest gives me a bias and no short supply! I have a nephew that loves pine cones. When he walks in our forest he dutifully collects all that he can carry (which doesn’t take long!), leaving them in precious piles when he can hold no more. This adoration makes me stop to really appreciate a pine cone. It is a miraculous little bundle with row upon row of wooden tongues that start green and tight as a pineapple, ripening to nutmeg brown to then spread and splay and release their papery seeds. Pine cones are perfect for collecting, decorating, or just admiring the masterfulness of nature.
Note – Canada has several cone producing trees, or conifers, not just pines! Spruce, fir, juniper, cedar, hemlock, cypress, tamarack and yews all produce cones. Pine cones are just the most popular for decorating and crafts.
Sometimes I ignore the post I have scheduled, and just take a walk in the garden with my camera to see what inspires me. Always, always there is some treasure, some bloom, some colour or texture that must be captured. This morning it was this steadfast ‘johnny jump up’ as my Mom called them, or viola as the proper name. This remarkably tough self-seeder is one of the early blooms in the spring and here it is in November, after two snows, still turning its cheery face to the light of the day. I adore these exquisite wee blooms of lemon yellow and velvety purple. Makes me feel guilty for how many of them I pull from the veggie garden!
This fall the burning bushes are a riot of flaming berries, such that the slathered branches glow on despite losing their leaves. Rows of glittering cerise are beaded along the barberries. European snowballs are laden with ripe clusters of juicy red. Yews are speckled with tender red bells, especially festive against lively green needles. Plump and jolly berries nestle amongst the sprawling branches of cotoneaster. And for a change from red, lustrous lavender-mauve bejewels the bare branches of beautyberry. Note to self – next year I would like to add the vivacious orange of bittersweet berries, and the gentle white berry clumps of snow berry.