Peony 'Sarah Bernhardt'

Peony 'Sarah Bernhardt'

Monday, January 16, 2017

Garden Dreaming....

Good afternoon gardening friends!

Here in Portland we received 10-12 inches of snow last week and with daily temperatures below freezing all that snow is persistently and stubbornly sticking around. Snow days can be a writer's dream come true! Initially I was poetically writing about this unprecedented snowfall in Portland.

Day 1: "Fat fluffy white snowflakes magically dancing like soft whispers from the cold dark sky. Layers and layers of puffy glittery white snow weighing heavily on trees, shrubs, pots, hanging baskets, and the fence, all blanketed by mother nature. I love this weather. Thank you for this beautiful winter gift."

Day 2: "Mother Nature is just showing off this morning. Not a cloud in the sky, the brilliant bright sunrise is magically turning the blankets of snow into glistening pink cotton candy. I love this weather."

Day 3: "The sunshine and blue skies contrast brilliantly with the blinding white snow. I have cleaned the entire house, organized my dresser, closet, and all the kitchen & bathroom drawers. Thanks for another snow day."

Day 4: "Why am I only the only person in our neighborhood who actually shoveled their sidewalk? I slipped and slided trying to walk 4 blocks to the grocery store. It's slim pickings in our refrigerator and I am hangry. The store is mobbed and of course out of what I walked over for. Dumb snow."

Day 6: "With windchill it is 9 degrees outside this morning. Will I ever drive my car or go to work again?"

Portlanders, I am sure that you can relate! I usually am not affected by seasonal depression. I enjoy all the seasons of the year, even the restful winter season. However, this is the 4th snow/ice inclement weather event in Portland since the beginning of December.

A funny drawing by Joseph Tychonievich of Green Sparrow Gardens is floating around the Internet. He says, "The short dark winter days cause me to suffer from S.A.D. Seed Acquisition Disorder.” Gardening friends, I’m sure you can all relate to this! During the intensity of the holiday season we are happy to have a rest from our gardens.

At the beginning of every year the new seed catalogs arrive in my mailbox. Thankfully this year several arrived just in time for the long snow days spent indoors. I spend hours excitedly pouring over each catalog, wrapped in a blanket, drinking pots of my favorite tea and devouring every detail of the new and old favorite varieties of vegetables, herbs, and flowers. Usually in January I find myself in pajamas and boots, clipboard in hand patrolling my puddle-filled, mostly dormant garden. Typically I gaze at the lush fall-sown cover crops and I ponder what worked and didn't work last year. This week my garden is still coated in a 10 inch blanket of stubborn snow.

That's a photo of my raised beds!

Winter is an excellent time for me to make list after list of garden plans. Dreaming and fantasizing about peonies, dahlias, sunflowers, and lilies I mark up my seed catalogs and make online wish lists. I eat, drink, breath all the endless potential and promise my garden holds in the coming year, especially this cold snowed in January.

My unchecked gardening enthusiasm for heirlooms can also promise the emptying of my bank account if I do not practice some restraint. I could easily see that happening this week as I drooled over the 2017 Swan Island Dahlias catalog.

Heirloom seeds offer a diversity of old-fashioned quality, and are rich in taste, color and history. Heirlooms are commonly defined as open-pollinated varieties that have resulted from natural selection rather than a controlled hybridization process and were grown prior to 1950. Some excellent sources for heirloom seeds are Seed Savers Exchange, Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds, Botanical Interest, and Renee’s Garden.

When purchasing seeds you will see many terms like heirloom, cultivar, GE, GMO, open pollinated, hybrid, organic and treated. All of these can be confusing and are often misinterpreted by the gardener consumer. I found a handy online resource from Renee’s Garden called Seed Buying 101: A Seed Gardener’s Glossary.

If you are concerned about GMOs, signers of the safe seed pledge do not knowingly buy or sell genetically engineered seeds. A list of companies that have signed the pledge is maintained by the Council for Responsible Genetics, a non-profit with a stated mission of educating the public about and advocating for socially responsible use of new genetic technologies.

With so many seed choices, where does a gardener begin? First, make a list of all the things you are interested in growing, their growth habits and size at maturity. Take measurements of your garden and draw out where you might place things. You are invited to join me for the organic gardening workshops I am teaching this February, March, and April.

Winter is the perfect season to explore gardening books like: The Maritime Northwest Garden Guide, Growing Vegetables West of the Cascades, and The Timber Press Guide to Growing Vegetables in the Pacific Northwest. Enjoy every moment of the garden dreaming season before the hard work of spring begins!

In Health,