The winter shadows are long across the landscape, creating dramatic patterns amongst the fallen leaves. We’ve awakened to ice on the bird fountains many mornings and felt grateful for the warmth of our wood stove at night. Even Puffball Kitty, well-outfitted in her full-puff winter coat, and not put off by a bit of cold and rain, has taken to long naps in the attic.
It’s a natural time for drawing inward, and my focus has been more on meditation retreats than my usual compulsive gardening.
Even so, some hardy vegetables are keeping us in fresh greens for dinner: kale, spinach, tatsoi, chard, and parsley. Even a bit of lettuce is still fresh and growing, though I have been shielding it from the freezes with a frost cover. I just harvested some delicious carrots yesterday, and the beets are ready too.
Our potato harvest was disappointing–we keep trying different methods but the rodents always find them or they are just too dry in summer to do really well. Maybe I’ll try them in another area of the garden where there is less cover for rodents and more patrolled by the cat.
Happily, there was a decent harvest of winter squash and that has featured in many a dinner already. Great thanks to Fred of A French Gardener for suggesting a curried squash soup. Yum! This has become a favorite. And to lisinmayenne of This Simple Life, I look forward to trying some of your many delectable ideas! If you have a link to recipes in your blog, let me know. If any readers want to see how she cooks with winter squash, read her comment at the bottom of my October Garden post.
Soon I will be pondering bare-root season and dormant pruning, as the tree branches are bare now. Leaves are being harvested and used as insulation for the worm bin, and added as mulch to the raspberries and blueberries. Last year’s tree prunings are providing kindling for wood-fires to keep us warm. (My gas heater refuses to work dependably, despite many attempts at servicing. It’s in a difficult-to-access attic space.)
Usually in winter, we cover the citrus trees. But as they are finally fairly large, I think they are providing some insulation for themselves. If we get an unusually low cold snap, we’ll put the covers on. If not, I’ll just prune off any outer cold damage in the spring. We have two lemons, one lime, and what appears to be a pomelo, although it was supposed to be a pink lemon. My spouse enjoys the fruits so I guess we’ll be keeping it. 🙂
Many of the garden veggie beds still need to be cleared of the remains of summer growth, and prepared for early spring planting. I planted out a few flower bulbs of daffodils and ranunculus, but I can’t get too riotous with bulbs because gophers eat most of them. Winter is also for dreaming and planning, and there is a design I’ve fashioned for gradually replacing the conifer privacy hedge along the road with a mostly native hedgerow.
Fall Color and Winter Bones
Some lovely fall color was given by the persimmon trees, blueberry bushes, Parrotia persica tree, and the “Roger’s Red” grape*. Usually the Asian pear trees and Japanese maples also add to the zing, but I don’t remember much of a show this year from them. Perhaps the freezes came too quickly?
*A note about the Roger’s Red grape: it was originally thought to be a red form of the native California grape. DNA testing has determined it to be a hybrid between the California native grape and Vitis vinifera ‘Alicante Bouschet’. (Fascinating info at Pacific Horticulture, UC Master Gardener of SoCo and CalScape).
In the winter garden, it is nice to have some evergreen shrubs and trees as the structural “bones” of the landscape, and for us those are rosemary, Cleveland sages, feijoas, olives, arbutus, rockroses, pittosporum and a handful of escallonia here and there. I’m probably forgetting some others. The rosemary also has some blooms now, which is helpful for the honeybees. If you are local to Sonoma County or other parts of the West Coast and wondering about gophers and these shrubs, see my gopher articles, like this one.
Protected spaces also give some life to the otherwise dormant season. We don’t have a heated greenhouse, but there is a small porch with panels, and that stays just warm enough for a couple of hardy fruiting bananas. We only got fruit set one year, but we gardeners are optimists…yes?…and I hold out hope for more one day. And then there is the indoor garden of houseplants that I’ve fallen in love with. And that reminds me of the new shop I wanted to mention.
The Online Shop Is Now Live–with some hiccups
After much ado, I finally managed to add a little shop to my site for my crocheted, natural fiber houseplant cachepots and baskets–with a few handbags too. Alas, not being a techie, the shop addition seems to have messed up some things on my gardening site and posts, so I hope any of you reading this will tell me if you see anything wonky. My focus is the gardening blog. But I love to create and if anything I make could help to offset the expenses of my garden blogging habit, that would be a dream. 🙂 (I had ads enabled for awhile, but found some of them annoying, so I turned them back off. I never got a cent from them anyway. If any of you more seasoned garden bloggers have advice, please share.)
Cozy wishes from Puffball Kitty and myself. -lisa
Extra: sharing with you a wintery, but altogether enjoyable, day trip that we took to a Northern California beach this week: