Because I hate having to empty my beds and containers too early of still-performing summer flowers, I start the fall and winter by lightly working the pockets of soil between the old ones; By digging in the old mulch with a little compost and a tablespoon of fertilizer, inserting some early fall blooms and covering some of the flowers with it, I’ll have something already flowering when the faded summer stuff finally gets pulled out.
Although my main pressings for winter color include pansies, violas, and panola hybrids, I have introduced a few sweet Williams and other dianthus, emerald green parsley, a few clumps of snapdragons, colorful kale, and pale, dusty gray moss. . Some pots of colorful lettuce, and maybe another venture on burgundy mustard. There are other programs of course, but these are all fairly easily available everywhere in the state.
Cabbage, on top of being a superfood and a hardy superfood, is my biggest enjoyment. The different types of large bulbous plants can be smooth, wrinkled, ruffled, with sharply serrated edges, solid green, burgundy, almost black purple, and my all-time favorite – the almost blue type called lacinato, which is often called Tuscan blue or dinosaur cabbage Because of its bumpy texture.
And by the way, being a lazy, cheap person who wants to get the most out of my money and effort, I don’t grow a lot of this stuff in one place; Instead, in both my front and back garden I have three small beds and two sets of larger containers, which when planted alike work together visually to make the flowers look more three-dimensional, without the extra costs and maintenance.
To ease the difficult transition from summer to winter, I keep six medium-sized containers in my potting shed, which I will plant now and when the faded summer stuff finally needs moving to the compost pile, I already have full pots of winter flowers ready to rotate into place.
But here are some important words about our heavy duty winter and spring lights. After more than half a century of tending to trusted heirlooms, tinkering with new, lesser-known treasures, and adding a handful of well-known one-time wonders (tulips come to mind), I have a simple system: keep unreliable items in containers or in designated areas. Small for accent, but mostly we plant what we know will thrive for years with little to no care.
The biggest mistake I see novice gardeners make is planting big bags full of varieties that may not be suitable for our climate. After helping my great-grandmother plant 350 or so different daffodils or daffodils, and growing dozens of them myself, I can assure you that only a few of them will bloom reliably for years to come.
These are the ones you see around old home sites and along highways, which we can name and purchase accordingly with the help of other lamp enthusiasts. I’m talking about the paperwhite variegated varieties that can bloom in late December, the fragrant jellyfish, the white tulip, the campanile, the carleton, titi-a-titti, twin sisters (the newest bloomers), and dozens of others that flower for decades without any care.
Add Spanish bluebell, elephant garlic, snowflake (Leucojum, mistakenly called snowdrop), asters (Ipheion), amaryllis, grape hyacinth… I have a list of them all, if you want to email me for them. Order some soon, which is a good start. Winter will be here before you know it.
Fielder Rushing is an author, columnist, and host of MPB’s “Gestalt Gardener” from Mississippi.
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