Smiling through winter, an update

My hyacinths on the windowsill bring me happiness and joy.

After last week’s post, I implemented my seven ways to smile through winter plan. This quiet season covers at least five months of the year in Oklahoma so smiling through winter is vital. Like Demeter, we gardeners pine for Persephone until she returns from Hades, and green shoots push forth from the earth once again.

A yellow kalanchoe brightens my day as I sit on the sofa and read.
A yellow kalanchoe brightens my day as I sit on the sofa and read.

How did I implement my plan? First, I went to three four local stores–TLC Nursery, Whole Foods, Lowe’s and Under the Sun–and bought four or five six or seven indoor plants including a variegated airplane plant. The 1970s are alive and well my friends.

The airplane/spider plant is in the greenhouse video below. Consider it horticultural retail therapy.

New rugs for the living room and two orchids help too. I move the plants in and out of the windows so that they get light. You can't treat a plant like a piece of furniture.
New rugs for the living room and two orchids help too. I move the plants in and out of the windows so that they get light. You can’t treat a plant like a piece of furniture. It will die.

I returned home and transferred said plants into beautiful pots. Beautiful containers and sparkling glass do a lot to help improve a supermarket plant.

Beautiful containers and sparkling clean glass do a lot to improve a supermarket plant. Click To TweetI always keep decorative containers on hand, and I collect blue and white porcelain including the flow blue platters on the mantel, above. Beautiful containers and sparkling clean glass do a lot to improve a supermarket plant.

Joanna Gaines of Magnolia Market and Fixer Upper fame would agree. If you notice on the show, she cuts a lot twigs and branches and places them in glass vases. She even had cottonwood leaves in last night’s show! I followed her lead with this cotton boll arrangement in my dining room. That reminds me–I think I’ll grow cotton next year. Bustani Plant Farm carries an ornamental pink cotton.

Cotton bolls in a crystal vase ala Joanna Gaines and Fixer Upper. These remind me of stark winter.
Cotton bolls in a crystal vase a la Joanna Gaines and Fixer Upper. Looking at my Oklahoma sign in this photo reminds me I want to hang it above the china cabinet and retire that iron display rack for awhile.

I placed plants in spots where I could see them while I write, read books, clean house, etc. They, along with my forced bulbs, are in every window in my house. If you’d like to see more pictures of my indoor plants follow me on Instagram. I usually post once a day.

Click on the images in the gallery, below, to make them larger and see the captions.

I then decided to go outside and face my greenhouse. I haven’t written much about the greenhouse this winter because we had quite the early season disaster. My greenhouse is composed of wood and three-ply poly, so it swells and contracts depending upon the humidity. We’ve been very dry. Oklahoma is in a drought again. Of course, it is.

A huge cold front came through in December while we were away, and my son went out to check on things. God bless him for caring. If you don’t slam the greenhouse door hard enough, it can pop open especially when the air is very dry, The wind from the front nearly whipped the door off its hinges. We came home to the greenhouse standing wide open in 18-degree F. weather. Everything inside got either nipped by the cold wind, or frozen depending upon where items were inside. It was a scientific experiment in microclimates, and as in our gardens sometimes, there didn’t seem to be any rhyme or reason to the freezing. I lost several plants, and Mother Nature painfully pruned others. I’m grateful I put the coleus cuttings at the back of the greenhouse. They weren’t killed. However, my beautiful ‘Republic of Texas’ orange tree was so injured I lost half of it, the rest of the citrus were also burned, except surprisingly a kumquat on an elevated surface. The heater nearby must have kept that one warm enough.

To say I was sad about all of this would be an understatement. I was heartbroken, and after that first evaluation, I didn’t go outside and assess the damage again. I couldn’t face it, so Bill went out every couple of days and watered giving me reports. The orange tree already had ripening oranges on it when the storm hit. My beautiful dark red mandevilla died too. Maybe I can find a replacement at Under the Sun this spring. They carry the Sun Parasols® brand. Mine was a trial plant I’d overwintered twice. It was quite large.

After the post last week, I decided to go out and see what I could salvage. I took clippers in hand and began trimming away the orange tree’s dead limbs. The live video from Facebook, above, shows the results. Don’t you love how videos always catch you at your worst when they stop? Half the tree is gone, but of course, after I pruned the damaged bits, it began to perk up. I also took off the remaining oranges which did ripen but were also pithy from the freeze. As for the other trees, we’ll see if they put on a crop from their damaged blooms. It’s been warm enough this week I set the greenhouse top to open because nearby honeybees love to pollinate the citrus. One lesson I learned is there’s still a lot of good left in my greenhouse.

One lesson I learned is there's still a lot of good left in my greenhouse. Click To Tweet

The same is true about our world. You find truth in whatever you focus upon, good or bad. I choose to stand in the light.

I bought seeds this week. Because we’re having the regional daylily tour in June, I won’t plant the large vegetable/cutting garden this year. It’s too much to care for it, travel, have a wedding, get two children graduated, etc. I just can’t do it all. But, I wanted to show you these seeds from Hudson Valley Seed Company. I love their art packs. They are so beautiful. I bought their calendar too. It’s comprised of the art from the seed packets.

I’ve also kept doing videos for my YouTube channel, and as I wrote above, this is a live video on Facebook. I also read two books last week. If you’d like to know what I’m reading, follow me on Goodreads. I started a bullet journal. I’ll write a post about it another time.

I stepped up my exercise too. Thank goodness! I’m walking most days, but I also contacted a friend who is a trainer and asked her to create a weight training plan for me. I have osteopenia, and I definitely don’t want osteoporosis. Weight bearing exercise is all important.

That’s what I’ve done so far. What are you doing to improve your winter days?

Gifts for Gardeners: The British Book Edition

Rosa 'Carefree Beauty' against an old fence in my back garden.

British garden books are a whole different flavor from American ones. I think the ones below would make great gifts for any gardener on your list.

These books are my current British favorites. Some I was sent through the American arm of their publisher while others I purchased for myself. As I looked over all the books this year, I kept wondering how the British are able to afford to publish such big, beautiful tomes in these days of cutting publishing expenses. Perhaps, it’s because they are a nation of gardeners, and gardening books sell better there. I don’t know, but I will bask in the richness of their photography and page length.

Cover of Virginia Woolf's garden. Gifts for Gardeners
Cover of Virginia Woolf’s garden. Photography © 2013 Caroline Arber

Although my first choice is titled Virginia Woolf’s Garden, (Jacqui Small, LLP 2013), by Caroline Zoob, and photographed by Caroline Arber, it’s really about Virginia’s husband, Leonard, who was the hands-on gardener. At Monk’s House, he made a sanctuary for Virginia where she could lift her spirits and write uninterrupted. As a writer, I wonder what it would be like to have a little cottage at the end of a fragrant path in which to think, plan and dream. I probably wouldn’t ever make to the computer because of all that beautiful distraction.

Virginia Woolf's Garden. Photo used with permission. Photography © 2013 Caroline Arber
Virginia Woolf’s Garden. Photo used with permission. Photography © 2013 Caroline Arber

This book is great for anyone who loves Virginia Woolf’s work. I’m not in that camp, but as a writer and gardener, I appreciate Leonard’s inspired choices. The book is beautifully laid out with panoramic views, garden plans and lovely full-page photographs. It is scrumptious. Here is another review of the book from a Virginia Woolf enthusiast.

Cover of RHS Companion to Scented Plants. Gifts for Gardeners
Cover of RHS Companion to Scented Plants. Photographs copyright © Andrew Lawson 2014.

The Royal Horticultural Society Companion to Scented Plants (Frances Lincoln Limited 2014), by Stephen Lacey and photographed by Andrew Lawson, is a revised and expanded edition. The more you garden, the more you wish for scented plants. As you may know, I’m a huge rose aficionado, and a few years ago, I concentrated on red and yellow roses, along with more highly scented ones. I’m very glad I did. Although my roses have taken a beating from Rose Rosette Disease in the last few years, I still have many, and I don’t know what my garden would be like without their wonderful presence.

Rosa 'Grace' has a strong and complex perfume according to the RHS Companion to Scented Plants. Photo used with permission from publisher. Photographs copyright © Andrew Lawson 2014.
Rosa ‘Grace’ has a strong and complex perfume according to the RHS Companion to Scented Plants. Photo used with permission from publisher. Photographs copyright © Andrew Lawson 2014.

Roses, however, aren’t the only plants in a scented garden’s repertoire. Our olfactory sense is our oldest and most long-lasting so a book like this would be helpful in planning for more fragrance. This is a great and extensive guide with beautiful photographs. I was glad they explored scented tulips and narcissus too. There are plenty of scented options here. Note, however, if you live in a hot climate, some of the suggestions may not work for you. Check out the growing conditions, and if they say partly shaded, you’ll need to grow them in shade.

Cover of The Writer's Garden. Gifts for Gardeners
Cover of The Writer’s Garden. Photograph copyright © Richard Hanson 2014.

The Writer’s Garden: How Gardens Inspired our Best-loved Authors (Frances Lincoln Limited 2014), by Jackie Bennett and photographed by Richard Hanson. Of all the garden books I read this year, this one touched me the most. Seeing the landscapes that were muses to many of the greatest British writers, was simply fab. The photographs are gorgeous.

Bateman's, Rudyard Kipling's home and garden.  Photographs copyright © Richard Hanson 2014.
Bateman’s, Rudyard Kipling’s home and garden. Photograph copyright © Richard Hanson 2014.

The information in the book is wonderful, and there’s even a section on favorites, Jane Austen and Roald Dahl. Buy this book for your garden-loving, loved one. They will thank you. Rock Rose did a review on this book too. I now think we need a similar book with American authors as its focus. What a grand book that would be.

Cover of Sissinghurst. Gifts for Gardeners
Cover of Sissinghurst.

Sissinghurst: Vita Sackville-West and the Creation of a Garden (St. Martin’s Press 2014), by Vita Sackville-West and Sarah Raven. You might wonder how Vita could co-author a book since she’s been dead since 1962. For fifteen years, she wrote a column for the Observer about plants. She also wrote some introductions to books and articles for Country Life and the RHS magazine. Who better to pull together Vita’s observations than her granddaughter-in-law, Sarah Raven. You may be familiar with Sarah’s online videos and her books. I’ve written about her book, The Bold and Brilliant Garden, which is one of my favorites, here before. Sarah gives a brief history of Sissinghurst Castle and then arranges the chapters around themes in the garden. Vita’s sparkling wit is sprinkled throughout. This is a book to read by the fire where you can make notes on what to plant next year and beyond. It is easy and fun to read. There are photos, but not that many. It is not a coffee table book like some of the others, above.

Cover of Beatrix Potter's Gardening Life. Gifts for Gardeners
Cover of Beatrix Potter’s Gardening Life.

Okay, this last one isn’t a British publisher or author, but its subject is British. As of this posting, Beatrix Potter’s Gardening Life: The Plants and Places That Inspired the Classic Children’s Tales (Timber Press 2013), by Marta McDowell, is only $16.96 at Amazon. I paid far more for my copy, and it won the Garden Writers Association’s Gold Award for Best Writing in 2014. I love this book. It’s the next best thing to traveling in The Lake District of Great Britain. One day, I will get to Hill Top Farm–I think I can. I think I can. The author, Marta McDowell, is a garden historian and horticulturist. Unlike many gardening books, her writing is in narrative style, and very readable. I can’t say enough nice things about this book.

Let me know if you’ve bought any of these British and American gardening books and what you thought of them. Sorry I’m so late with this British version of the gardener’s gift book list. Here is my American gift books guide. Merry Christmas Everyone.