Bucks County Herald

Elizabeth Ludlow Bowman: Tips for the Compleat Gardener

Now what?

Cyclamen is at its peak in winter.

The garden is moving into winter in whatever level of tidiness appeals to the gardener.

Some people really need the landscape to be practically leafless, pristine, lifeless in winter for their own peace of mind. The natural chaos of browning, falling plants is disconcerting to those who prefer order, they can’t help it so their gardens are necessarily neat.

Other people’s environments are supremely wild with nothing cut back or raked up, that would be my house and most gardeners fall somewhere between those extremes. I say leave what has winter interest and remove anything that bothers you.

It is really so interesting when you think about the constant state of transformation that happens all around us, a tree buds, flowers, leafs out, fruits. Leaves work hard making energy for the plant then they let green drip away, emerge in beautiful color and fly away, landing on the ground where, left alone, they decompose, become a rain of elements to feed the tree and the biosystem that sustains the tree. It will send sap blood into the branches and nourish the waiting bud. This is the natural cycle of everything.

Put away the tools, clean and ready for spring in (an ideal world) and make sure any unplanted plants that linger near the garden shed are protected somewhat from winter, clustered or better yet, healed-in, dig a hole the size of the pot and put it in there for winter. I have found that many plants survive left in pots outside over winter when I, overwhelmed by the changing seasons, wander off to the next thing, writing.

The time of gift giving is upon us and I feel an urge to give you some hints. One really thoughtful gift is a membership to Bowman’s Hill Wildflower Preserve on River Road in Solebury Township, or even a family membership, supporting BHWP and giving the freedom to wander around the preserve without a fee for a year and get discounts off programs and items from the amazing gift shop. People of all ages can find interesting items and books there.

You can give a membership to the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society which provides a ticket for the Philadelphia Flower Show and information through the year. I give Horticulture Magazine, which has changed its format to one I personally like better and I have been enjoying Fine Gardening.

I love gift certificates to places I love to shop like The Living Earth where they have wonderful indoor plants that bloom in winter such as Cyclamen and Christmas Cactus and orchids.

Recently a friend told me that he had tried cyclamen but it always died. He was unaware that cyclamen is a tuber that sprouts into leaf and flower as days get shorter, blooms profusely for four months, then goes into hibernation and looks dead. The appropriate thing to do is leave it alone in a cool area or sitting among the houseplants you have moved outside for summer and usually when you are bringing things back in, the tuber is sprouting. So water it regularly.

I have a reader who has an abundance of red canna rhizomes he is willing to share and if you email me if you are interested I will pass along his number.

If you are considering a live tree this year, dig the hole now, before the ground is frozen, cover the hole with a board and put the soil to the side also covered. When you get the tree, keep it inside only a few days, less than a week, before taking it out and planting.

Water well three times weekly until the ground freezes. Enjoy the moment.




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