Central Virginia Organic Gardener

"And 'tis my faith that every flower enjoys the air it breathes." - William Wordsworth, 1798

Sunday, December 25, 2011

A "Chistmas Tree?"

Continuing on my weird, warm weather theme of a few days ago, here is a photo from near the James River snapped by a friend today, Christmas Day. It is an ornamental cherry in full bloom, a few months early!

Happy Christmas!

Not a traditional Christmas plant, this lovely strawberry is sending out Holiday Cheer in my garden!
See you in 2012! Happy Gardening! Happy Holidays!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Solistice and Weird, Warm Fall

What a weird, warm fall it has been. It has been nice to go outside, but it has been a problem for some plants. Weeds are rampantly growing, just loving these cooler temps: I need to do some December weeding, a rarity! And, the photo above is from my front yard on the last full day of Autumn, Dec. 21. These daffodils will probably survive, but they will not bloom again come spring, and, if it gets too cold and icy, the green part may die back. In that case, the bulb may be too spent to ever come up again, as it will not have stored enough energy from photosynthesis. I'm keeping my fingers crossed for cooler weather and no more sprouting bulbs!

The solstice happens twice per year: the Winter Solstice is the longest night of the year and the Summer Solstice the longest day of the year. Today is the Day of the Winter Solstice, and 12:32 AM EST marked the entry into winter. The sun rides low in the sky in the northern hemisphere, though it is high in the sky in the south, hence the southern hemisphere enters summer today (and is often called the December Solstice there). Our Winter Solstice happens close to Christmas and has been associated with this holiday. Indeed, the focus on lights in the Christmas season may hark back to the craving for light during the darkest days of winter and the hope that light brings. The Winter Solstice is an important day for gardeners, it reminds us that the seasons are turning, that spring is on the long march back to us. Look for each day to be a bit brighter and a bit longer!

Happy Solstice!

Happy Gardening!

Sunday, December 18, 2011

The Mustards

There are many greens that you can grow through the winter in Virginia: kale, chard, lettuces, and arugula to name a few, but none are as reliable as the mustards, in my humble opinion. Mustards, like the Green Wave and India Red Giant pictured here, reliably sprout, need little care, and can take freezing temperatures (though if freezing temps are to be prolonged, I do cover them with a row cover or cold frame). They are nutritional powerhouses which will easily self sow if you allow a few to flower and set seed. I like to do a simple treatment with mustard greens: young leaves can be eaten raw in salads and they can be simply sauteed or braised in olive oil, with onions, garlic (can you have too much garlic?), and a dash of red wine or balsamic vinegar. You can get creative and caramelize carrots, parsnips and or onions in the pan before adding the garlic and greens- this gives a sweet contrast to the earthiness of the greens. I have sauteed chopped mustard greens and used them to top pizza, baked potatoes and pasta- YUM!
Happy gardening!

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Gifts for the gardener of gifts from the gardener?

I have read several posts lately about gifts for the gardener in you life and, sure, what gardener could not use a new pair of gloves, pruners, a trowel, a hoe, a water barrel or composter? Gardeners are among the easiest of people to buy for, just make it practical. Then I turned the idea of giving to the gardener on its head. I prefer giving to receiving (and that is not just posturing: sure, I like a gift here and there, but mostly I prefer to give). I thought about the gifts a gardener gives to family, friends and to all of us (at the risk of sounding a wee bit pompous). Gardeners give us beauty: think of the beauty of your neighbors flowers, fruits and vegetables. Gardeners often give the gift of food or flowers to family and friends. Gardeners give gifts to nature: a home to the squirrel, bird and frog. Gardeners (and organic gardeners even more so) give a gift to everyone and to the earth: plants that purify our air and water, cool the earth, and provide shade. Gardeners give us gifts all around the year, so I say thank you to my gardening friends!
Happy gardening!

Monday, December 5, 2011

Not your mother's poinsettias!

There are so many new varieties of poinsettias, that I offer this, a cool video on the poinsettia trials at the University of Florida:

The two pictured above were at the US Botanic Gardens in Washington, DC, a place all "plantophiles" must visit! My pod cast this week is on poinsettia care and how to get that poinsettia to re-bloom next year. Just click on the podbean button on the left.
Happy gardening!

Sunday, December 4, 2011

My 2011 Holiday Door Swag

I like making these holiday door swags from whatever I find around the garden. This year, loblolly pine, holly, rosemary, crab apple, eucalyptus and beauty berry branches, tied with a reused bow, went into it. I like this homemade swag for many reasons, despite (or maybe because of) its imperfections: it does not look like any other, standard, purchased door decoration, it is from my garden and I made it. And it costs nothing, but 15 minutes of my time having fun making it! Plus I can easily replace any parts that begin to look "tired." See what you can round up from your yard and garden!
Happy Gardening!