Winter Whaaaat??

So, as many of you know, the Buffalo area, particularly the south of the city and its surrounding communities, are digging out from 7 feet of snow and now dealing with possible flooding that comes with temperatures rising to 65 degrees like they did today. This week has been a roller coaster ride, all starting with this incredible lake effect front that left an indelible impression on us all:


So, even though Winter is still just under a month away, the subject at hand is SNOW. I figured this would be a perfect time to discuss a little garden concept called Winter Interest. 

I know, you are saying, “Winter What?!” When I said this in front of my friends, the puzzled, contorted look on their faces pretty much summed it up.

So, what the heck is Winter Interest?!

Winter Interest is another way you can keep some sort of aesthetics in your garden, even though the growing season is long over. It gives “interest” to empty snow-covered flower beds.

So, how do you “do” this Winter Interest?

Simple. It can be anything. Whether it’s a bird house in your garden, or some exotic grasses that have passed their prime, anything can create an amazing silhouette under a blanket of snow.

Examples of Winter Interest:

  • Trees- any, but the best are any kind of spruce for winter
  • Garden decorations– bird houses, bottle trees, bowling balls, wheelbarrows, ANYTHING
  • Grasses–reed grasses, zebra grasses, etc. Don’t trim these down– they look spectacular in the snow!
  • Evergreen and woody shrubs-mountain laurel, holly bushes, rhododendrons, arborvitae, boxwood–just to name a few.

Basically, anything that has some sort of character in the off-season that will pique the interest of passersby can be Winter Interest!

Here are a few pictures from my back yard last November 2013. The few inches I did get this year did not stay on the ground long enough to allow for any photo documentation.

My bluebird house that does not get any bluebirds, but it's from my childhood home and I love it.

My bluebird house that does not get any bluebirds, but it’s from my childhood home and I love it.


My old childhood tricycle that has seen better days is now a planter and part of the Winter Interest around my house.

My old childhood tricycle that has seen better days is now a planter and part of the Winter Interest around my house.


Snowmen are the best example of Winter Interest yet!

Snowmen are the best example of Winter Interest yet!

When Winter finally arrives, I will be doing some “Winter Interest” features from time to time when I venture out on my snowshoes or cross-country skis.

Think about what you would like to use as Winter Interest in your gardens. Giving a quiet garden a little attention is sometimes the thing you need to keep in the gardening spirit all year round!

A Natural Pause

While western New York is getting pummeled with more than 7 feet of snow in some areas, that’s not happening at my house, and I’m just a few miles away! I have maybe an inch or two of snow at my house if I am lucky. Even though the pictures coming out of our great Lake Effect storm are amazing and beautiful, I want to show some pictures I took last week from Late Autumn, and just how different the colors are when nearing Winter.

I want to give a shout out to my mother who is truly the crafty one in the family! She made this cute little turkey set for me:

Thanks to my mom for making this cute wooden turkey set that can be inserted in a pumpkin.

Thanks to my mom for making this cute wooden turkey set that can be inserted into a pumpkin.

Late Autumn brings out even deeper colors in trees. I never noticed this tree any other time, and I walk that same route almost every day:

I love the contrast on what I believe is a birch tree. It was snowing big snowflakes that day I took my "lunch break" walk.

I love the contrast on what I believe is a birch tree. It was snowing big snowflakes that day I took my “lunch break” walk.

My last picture is of the Buffalo Lighthouse. I love taking pictures of this lighthouse. This isn’t the greatest picture, but I tried to get one so you could actually see the snowflakes coming down around it. I have several different pictures of this lighthouse at different times of the year.

The Buffalo Lighthouse. My favorite subject on my  "lunch break" workout every day.

The Buffalo Lighthouse. My favorite subject on my “lunch break” workout every day.

Say it ain’t “snow”! Now what do I do?

What a week! Western New York got its first real accumulation of snow this week! My parents have over 6 inches on the ground already, while at my house in North Tonawanda, we had only a dusting.

This was on Wednesday night of this past week. I just had arrived home from work and snapped this pic of our first "snow" in my backyard. It looked pretty to me.

This was on Wednesday night of this past week. I just had arrived home from work and snapped this pic of our first “snow” in my backyard. It looked pretty to me.

This coming week is forecasting to dump some major snow on us, all in thanks to the Lake Effect machine we call Lake Erie. Great Lakes living at its finest! No need to worry, my car is stocked with blankets, shovels, boots and I just purchased a new pair of YakTrax for my boots and shoes. The last pair I purchased was over six years ago and they have seen better days.

I am prepared for the weather to come!

I am prepared for the weather to come!

This is always the time of year that nobody looks forward to. That icky transition from Fall to Winter, even though Winter is officially a little over a month away, this time brings unpredictable, icky weather that really doesn’t allow for much time outside. In between it getting dark at 5 at night, and the icky cold, windy weather that isn’t easy to do anything in, it’s easy to see how many people get the “Winter Blahs.” I took my daughter on a nature walk last week through a wildlife sanctuary, and it was so windy and cold, thank goodness it wasn’t a long trail!

She loves being outside, but I don't think she was loving the wind on our marsh walk!

She loves being outside, but I don’t think she was loving the wind on our marsh walk!

Now that your garden is buttoned up for the Winter, you are probably thinking, “Now what do I do?” This is the time to capitalize on the time you have to start planning your gardens for the next growing season. I like to call it the “off-season”, and here are some really great things you can do to while you are cooped up inside for the Winter:

  • Research, Research, Research — utilize the down time you have to start planning for next year’s growing season. Pick up some magazines such as Fine Gardening, Garden Gate or English Garden to get inspired and get some great ideas for your gardens. All of these periodicals happened to be my favorites. Start making a list of what you would like to do next season and write down the seeds and bulbs you would like to purchase. The research phase of the “off-season” is something I have always enjoyed, and you will too!
  • Get Educated — Take a look at some horticulture classes that are available near you, or take a class online. There are also some free classes and webinars out there, as I have taken a free landscape design class at my leisure. It’s always important to understand how gardening and growing works, and if you learn the “ins and outs” of it, the better you will be able to enhance your own little gardening spot!
  • Take It Inside — Just because you can’t play with your outside plants doesn’t mean you can’t purchase and work with an inside garden! Houseplants are just as interesting, and I started really adding to my collection last Winter, so I have some really cool houseplants that I will be sharing with you for the duration of the Winter. Different houseplants require different care. That keeps you busy in itself!
  • Get Back to Nature — Embrace the season. I am a very active person and outdoor enthusiast, I like to exercise and take advantage of all the weather Western New York has to offer, which includes all four seasons–some longer than others. When Winter rolls around, I am usually sledding with my daughter or snow shoeing and cross-country skiing. I am known to walk and run during the Winter, but have limited my exercise outside to just walking anymore. Just enjoy what Mother Nature has to offer. You will come across some pretty cool things.

So Winter Blahs no more! Enjoy and grasp the season for all it is worth! It could be the down time you need to come up with something spectacular for your garden next season!

Fall Preparation Part 2 – I’ve Got You Covered.

As the weather turns even more unfavorable as the weeks progress, I am reminded I still have stuff that needs to be done in the yard before the ground freezes and the snow starts sticking to the ground. It’s really hard to do so when it starts getting dark at 5:00 at night. I used to be able to get quite a few things accomplished after work, but it just doesn’t happen anymore! I did, however, manage to help some of my plants take cover yesterday, and also started cutting some of my hostas down.

  • One thing I have not done yet is rake the yard. I have A LOT of trees in my neighborhood, and I would like to wait another week before I get the leaf blower out. The trees still have a lot of leaves on them, and I don’t want to have to keep going out and raking when I could just wait when most of the leaves are off the trees instead of another futile attempt. Haha!

Well, this is finally the second phase of my Fall preparation in the garden. It took a little longer to do it than I would have liked, but I finally got it done. Covering and cutting– it’s that simple. And I used only a couple of things:

For this garden session, I used some burlap and large garden shears.

For this garden session, I used some burlap and large garden shears.

Burlap is a nice, heavy-duty covering for any shrubs, trees or plants that you would like to protect from the weather or animals. It’s fairly inexpensive, and you can get it at hardware and home improvement stores. You can also purchase covers that go right over shrubs and trees to make things easier. I just happen to have burlap leftover and figure I will use this up before I buy anything more.

Large gardening shears or clippers, happened to be my favorite gardening tool. They are so versatile, and can be used for most of your landscaping needs. They pulled double duty for me when it came to cutting my burlap and cutting down my plants.

I have a couple of small emerald-green arborvitae out in front of my house. I started wrapping them first with burlap.


I wrapped the burlap around the arborvitae until it was completely covered. You can use anything to tie or clip the burlap on. There are ties that you can use, and I have known people to staple it and I myself have used metal ornament hooks to keep the burlap closed!


The next item on my “To-do” list for cleaning up was cutting down my hostas. I cut the old stuff down so the new can grow up next season.

For anyone who doesn’t know, hostas are a gardener’s dream plant. They are a hardy, shade loving perennial that will pretty much grow anywhere you put them. So, if you have a spot in your yard that you can’t seem to grow anything, chances are a hosta will do the job for you! And because they are so prolific and they grow so big, they can be separated, and people will give them to you just because they have so many.

There are several types of hostas, and I have quite a few. They grow HUGE and can be separated.

There are several types of hostas, and I have quite a few. They grow HUGE and can be separated.

Now my hostas have turned a beautiful yellow, and I need to shear them.


I really want to thank the Deer, for they have helped me out tremendously with my fall cleanup. (Future post will be coming!)

Deer LOVE hostas.

Deer LOVE hostas.

I just cut them as close to the ground as possible.


Voila! All done.


And I take the “garden rubbish” and dispose of it properly.


There you have it! Fall cleanup is a cinch! Lots of work no doubt, but very important if you want to start your next growing season out the right way!

A Natural Pause

So, my target was to get this out on Wednesday, but unfortunately life got in the way and I was unable to. For this week’s “Natural Pause”, I would like to show you pictures of some of the plants I purchased for my new garden bed I had created in early Spring. I did get lucky and find many different varieties of ferns, because they are my favorite. And for next year, I plan to add more! Whatever you decide to plant next year, I hope you enjoy a few of the plants that I have in my gardens.



Two-Row Stonecrop Sedum

Two-Row Stonecrop

Lamb's ears

Lamb’s ears

Coral Bells

Coral Bells

Japanese Painted Fern

Japanese Painted Fern

Ghost Fern

Ghost Fern

Ostrich Fern

Ostrich Fern

Lady Fern

Lady Fern



Mountain Laurel

Mountain Laurel

Blue Princess Holly

Blue Princess Holly



One to Grow On: Lessons Learned in the Garden this Year

Oh boy, it’s been a busy week! With Halloween and my parents coming to visit, and some Christmas shopping accomplished, I had a full weekend!  The weather was less than desirable, we ended up getting some snow on Saturday! Last weekend was absolutely beautiful, and I was ready to accomplish the second phase of my fall preparation for my garden, but I guess that was not meant to be. I pulled muscles in my lower back yet again, and I was sidelined for the whole weekend. So, in between snowflakes that are forecasted for next weekend, I need to start cleaning up the gardens! I figured while I have some down time allowing my back to rest and heal, I thought this would be the perfect time to reflect on this past growing season and evaluate what I did well with what I did not do so well.


This was actually a very hard growing season for Western New York. We came off an unusually cold Winter that included two blizzards that shut down the city of Buffalo. We were in the single digits for most of the Winter; no thaw came at all! And because of this brutal cold, the ground stayed cold right into June. Unfortunately, I lost a few plants due to the Winter, and I had a really hard time growing anything I had planted. In fact, most of my plants didn’t really start “growing” until August and bloomed right into September!


– The new bed I had my husband roto-till in early spring was just the right size for my yard and my lifestyle. As the old saying goes, “don’t bite off more than you can chew”. I was a little nervous that I might have gone in over my head,that I wouldn’t be able to maintain it. It actually turned out to be just right.

My brand new flower bed--it has changed so much since this picture!

My brand new flower bed–it has changed so much since this picture!

– I added MANY new plants this year. It was pretty much an addiction. I kept buying plants right up until August when all the spring nursery stock was marked down 50%! Spring nursery stock is just a term used to describe plants, shrubs, trees and flowers available for the new growing season.

– This was the first year I was able to enjoy my garden. After six years of planting, transplanting and expanding, my back yard is finally looking like the beautiful, lush, oasis I wanted it to. I bought a few Adirondack chairs and would sit out in the backyard early in the morning listening to the birds and drinking a cup of coffee, all before my daughter woke up. It was the best feeling in the world.



– I did not water enough. Water, Water, WATER. Even though, I must say that I was a lot better this year with watering all of my new plants, I could have done better. Plants you purchase and put into the ground need a ton of water to establish, or as I like to say, “make themselves at home”. Then, once they are established, you don’t have to water as much.

– I need to mulch a little more than I did. This would have helped out with my water situation! It’s amazing how much of a difference mulch does make for beds, such as the ones I have in the far back of my yard, when you can’t get the hose to reach out that far! I have also been interested in making a compost pile.

– I didn’t fertilize as much as I should. I usually fertilize with the Miracle-Gro liquifeed for maybe the first 4-6 weeks of the season. I probably only did it two times this year. I think this would have aided in earlier blooms in my garden.

All in all, progress was made this year, I am happy with that. I have big plans for next year, so that makes me all the more anxious to get out there and get “growing”!