Winter Interest

Look outside and what do you see? Fog, gray skies and a few recognizable twigs that may be dead or may have survived the recent cold spell. We will know about that by June. Many folks are in holiday overdrive right now but I prefer the quietness that winter brings. In zone 8, Western Washington, I have Pampas grass waving, Heather blooming and Euphorbia looking good after a week with lows near 20* F. Look closely and enjoy the plants that have winter interest. If you don’t find any, make a plan for your viewing pleasure for December 2014.

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Cold enough for you?

The weather forecasters are showing a huge Arctic cold mass descending through Canada into the Northern USA this week. So cold, I can hardly believe that will happen in my garden, not more than 25 ft above sea level but very near the Sound. But zone 8b officially can get down to 10 to 20 degrees F. I just have not experienced that here, yet. Today I went into panic mode and decided that my beloved roses needed some protection, so I bought two 3.2 cubic ft. bales of Black Gold (the regional organic soil amendment) and just got in from mounding three mini/miniflora beds, four standard tree roses plus about four other roses that have only been in the ground since October. I really could have used two more bales but while everyone else was scurrying around Fred Myers with Christmas gifts, I was wrestling with putting two bales of Black Gold in my cart. We all have our priorities.

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Late Bloomers During a Welcome Dry Spell

The weather here in the Pacific Northwest USA never ceases to amaze me. Statistically, November is the rainiest month but we are currently in a very welcome dry period. Dry but rather cold at night (26* F so far in my garden.) I am amazed at the plants that are still healthy and blooming!
Camelias naturally bloom at this time of year, but it is still fun to share. Recently I moved the tiny chrysanthemum into the greenhouse. I thought Bacopa was an annual but it is still hanging on. The hardy fuchsias are the stars. I have only known the annual fuchsias in my previous gardens.

Fresh air, sun breaks and slug patrol

“Rain shadow of the Olympic Mountains” is what is happening today in my weather, so I just could not stay indoors. Yes, even the raised beds are muddy. I went through two pairs of “waterproof” mud gloves before I realized it is just too cool to be enjoyable any longer. But I get a few photos of things growing other than weeds.

Lacino "Dinosaur" kale

Flamingo “Flamingo kale

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Lettuce and chard planted Sept 20.

Lettuce and chard planted Sept 20.

Greenhouse problem solving

I keep what is referred to as a “”cool greenhouse,” meaning no winter heating. That works and is common in this maritime climate of the Pacific Northwest, but is not without potential problems. Last winter I had some stored, potted plants and a few winter vegetables slowly growing, for winter harvest. I also had a fungal attack within the greenhouse, probably something that came in with the potted plants and bloomed in the humid air of our rainy season. This is where the book I referred to yesterday became enormously helpful. Since the greenhouse is such a small in closed space, there is generally no air movement, making a prime environment for insects and fungi. One of the early chapters in “Greenhouse Gardener’s Companion” showed a simple fan set up to provide circulation needed for two reasons: first to foil insects and dry out the area and second to move around CO2 and O2 for improved plant health. Last summer as part of purchasing supplies to repair the greenhouse roof, I did a trip to Charlie’s Greenhouse in Mount Vernon, WA and saw a small fan for $37.00 for greenhouse use. I have been running it for a few hours during the day.

Fan.

Fan.

There is a chill in the air

Like it or not, it’s time here. The Hood Canal area of the peninsula had a freeze last night. I think my area near Puget Sound got down to 34* or 36*F. Today I started loading my unheated greenhouse with tender plants I want to save. During the past two years The lowest low in January was 26*F on one or two overnights. Plants inside have been safe. I hope we have another of those average winters ahead.
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