It’s “snow” joke, we need winter for spring blooms!

As most of us are sitting inside because the wind chill is sub zero, and the snow keeps coming. We gardeners are daydreaming of spring. I mean, I just received my David Austin® rose catalog, and the 8 degrees that my phone keeps telling me is not making things any better. We are nearing mid-winter, and that means we are ready for it to end!


One day soon the garden will be green and lush again! 


We must keep in mind that cold and snow is an important part of the gardening process. I am not going to ignore the fact that winter can kill a lot of stuff in the garden, and can cause a lot of damage, but when you get right down to it, gardens need winter to get through the growing season.

Here are some quick thoughts to think about on this winter day!


  • Gives the necessary moisture to plants, bulbs and a variety of critters that are tucked away for their winter slumber.
  • Helps big organisms (frogs, earthworms, turtles) in their hibernation/life cycle, and small organisms (bacteria, amoeba, fungi) that are working overtime to make your soil rich and nutritional for your plants and trees.
  • Is a great insulator for all of plants and organisms.

Before you know it, the snowdrops and hellebores will be pointing their little heads to the sky, reminding us all why spring is sweeter because of winter!



Hygge and Gardeners

In a way, I feel I have missed the boat on writing this post tonight. It’s more of a winter post of sorts, and since it certainly does not feel like winter in my part of the world, I feel like the timeliness of this blog post could be questioned. Haha!

However, it still is, technically, winter, so I am going say that I got it in just in time! And it’s really interesting to me that there is an actual word for something that seems to be not a “thing”, but a regular way of life. Boy, was I wrong!

Hygge, (pronounced hue-gah), is the Scandinavian concept of coziness, and taking pleasure in the ordinary, day to day things in life, including:

  • Warm blankets, socks
  • Hot cup of liquid– tea, coffee, hot chocolate
  • Candles burning
  • Enjoying good people around you
  • Bringing the Outdoors In

Hygge originated with the Danish, and it was their way of coping with long, dark winters. Now, I don’t know about you– but I think I have been living the Hygge way all along! Western New York winters can be brutal, and I love my big, warm socks and blankets for sure! And most winter nights, you will find us playing board games, or going bowling with friends or family. When it’s REALLY cold, I am drinking tea like there is no tomorrow!

So, that’s nice, but how does this pertain to gardening? Well, that’s where the “Bringing Outdoors In” comes in to play. Buy some houseplants, try indoor gardening, make a terrarium, you get the point. We as gardeners are constantly thinking about spring and the start of the new growing season. Winter tends to stymie the average gardener, but as I blogged about almost 3 years ago, houseplants can fill that void nicely!


Here are some houseplants that I am “wintering” — some belong on my patio. A fake reindeer pelt makes everything nice and cozy. It almost makes a great cat bed!

So, how do you “hygge”? What little things make you happy?

A little Saturday “Snow”ledge

The temperature at my house currently reads 2 degrees. It is awful, and you can barely step outside. If any of you are worried about your plants being harmed by the snow and cold, have no fear.

Snow is an insulator, a mulch of sorts. It protects your plants from winter’s harshness. It allows water to move efficiently through the root system. Bottom line: you want snow in winter, it does wonders for your garden!


Don’t worry, this little guy is going to be OK!

Have a great President’s weekend!



Winter Gardening: Zone Specific

I hope everyone is having a great week. I just got my seed catalog in the mail the other day, and I am having a blast looking through it! Even though it really hasn’t felt like winter this year at all– no cross country skiing or snowshoeing — I don’t mind– the mild temperatures and actually being able to go outside and walk has been a plus for sure!

I am always looking for and researching topics that are informational and helpful to not only me, but you as a gardener. One of my first few posts I ever wrote was about growing zones. Even though we are on the home stretch and spring is right around the corner, I thought this article about winter gardening and your grow zones would be something to get you thinking about next year.

I would like to thank the people from over at with this great article that explains things a lot better than I could right now!


En”Deer”ing Friends and Your Garden – Winter Version

Another cold, winter week goes by, and I have noticed that hats, gloves, coats, mittens and boots wet with puddles dominate the landscape of my whole house. Scarves in the bedroom and living room, coats hung on the dining room chairs — you get the idea. I love winter, I love the change of scenery, cross-country skiing and snowshoeing. My daughter loves it too, and plays in it with style:

She couldn't help herself when we got back from the doctor's the other day. Had to play on a snowy swingset!

She couldn’t help herself when we got back from the doctor’s the other day. Had to play on a snowy swing set!

The two aspects I don’t like about winter? Driving in it and deer.

How so you say?

Well, in my neighborhood, we have a severe deer problem. Overpopulation at its finest. They are a year round nuisance, (spring/summer versions will be coming), but they have been proving to be the most destructive in winter for my garden.

Every hunter's dream -- to have this big guy in your back yard!

Every hunter’s dream — to have this big guy in your back yard!

Here’s why:

It’s winter, and food sources are scarce. If it’s a particularly cold winter, they will pretty much eat ANYTHING. Even the “deer resistant” plants that you purchase. They are so hungry, they will eat anything, including thorn bushes at times. They have massacred my holly bush, and that is supposed to be “deer resistant”. I even have chicken wire around it!

You have a bird feeder around. Yes, I have a bird feeder, and this is where I found this “deer” friend 5 o’clock at night on Thanksgiving:

This grainy photo is evidence that my "deer" friends eating out of my bird feeder.

This grainy photo is evidence that my “deer” friends like eating out of my bird feeder.

They will eat your bird seed and then start scoping out the rest of your yard.

What I have learned about bird seed and deer. They tend to like the super cheap stuff you can get in the 20lb. bag for $6 bucks at any store. I have the pricier sunflower seed in my feeders now, and they don’t like that as much. They also do not like thistle seed either. I put some in last year to attract more finches.

So, how do you protect your plants against deer in the winter?

Cover up. Burlap or any other full covering is the best protection in my opinion. I have fenced some other plants, including my holly bush, and they will avoid it as long as they can find other food. Once they can’t find anymore food, they will become aggressive and make their way into the wire. Now, fencing works for bigger things such as trees. Lesson Learned for me: burlap all of the smaller plants and bushes!

If all else fails, just deal with it. If you have done everything on your part to keep the deer away, and they still are making problems for you, just worry about it in the spring when you can actually do something about it. The damage will be minimal if you have covered it up for the most part. Winter itself can do serious damage to your plants, so it’s a trade-off at one point or another. It will grow back, and if it doesn’t, you can always get a new one!

Disclaimer: Deer are really wonderful animals, but they are also very destructive when it comes to your landscape. As a gardener, you spend a lot of time and money trying to make your home and yard look beautiful. The intention of this post is to give you tips on how to deal and live with the deer you have in your neighborhood, without harming them.

Houseplants, Part Three: Tropical and Other Unique Plants

I hope everyone had a wonderful week! It was the coldest week yet for this winter in Buffalo. Sub-zero wind chills and single digits for a good portion of the week made the temperature in the teens that we experienced the other day feel down right balmy!

Brrr! Icy cold was everywhere!

Brrr! Icy cold was everywhere!

We had a nasty lake effect band come in the wee hours of Friday morning, dumping 9 inches of snow at my house, and more in some other areas. Work was delayed until noon, so I took advantage of the situation and went snowshoeing in the rare, yet precious powder we get around these parts! There were great examples of winter interest all around me:


The way the snow was on this tree reminded me of zebra stripes!

The way the snow was on this tree reminded me of zebra stripes!

Grateful for this perfect cold and snowy morning!

Grateful for this perfect cold and snowy morning!


I finished up the weekend by cross-country skiing, and sadly, my binding broke on my ski and I wanted to cry. Those were my dad’s skis, and even though the bindings are ancient in technology terms (the skis I am using are close to 30 years old), those have been the only skis I have ever loved and used so much! Hopefully, all I have to do is get new bindings.

While I must say people thought I was crazy because I went out this weekend, the wind was really bad, at times visibility was zero — yea, they were probably right. But when I got back in the house, I was in for good. I thought I better do my weekly watering of my plants. And then I saw this:

My cat Leo has supernatural leaping abilities, and way too close for comfort to my amaryllis!

My cat Leo has supernatural leaping abilities, and way too close for comfort to my Amaryllis!

This reminded me of the time my beautiful, unique plant called the oxalis was nearly destroyed by my other kitten, Teddy. I was horrified to see it in such awful condition after coming home from work one warm and sunny summer afternoon.


What is an oxalis?

  • It is part of the clover family, or false shamrocks.  They refer to this particular plant as the “three-leaf purple shamrock.” My daughter calls it the “butterfly plant” because of the petals looking exactly like a butterfly. I was first introduced to this interesting plant by a co-worker. I had asked her what it was, and she said she didn’t know, but it looked like butterflies to her.
  • There are over 900 different species of this plant. You can actually plant this one outside, too!

A couple of months later, I am perusing the Farmer’s Market in downtown Buffalo, and lo and behold, there it was! I asked the fellow working at this particular tent what it was, and he told me. I just had to get it! It was in a lot better condition than it is now, but I am happy to report that I have nursed it back to life. Little by little, just by watering it on a regular basis, it is starting to get bushy again.

This is a great addition to your houseplant collection because not only is it different, but it gives a burst of color to the sea of green that is common among your houseplants. It’s a talking piece, which is something I definitely like. I love looking at the expression on everybody’s faces when they see something and ask, “WHAT is that?”

Just like when I show people this plant:

The pitcher plant is a carnivorous plant.

The pitcher plant is a carnivorous plant.


This a Pitcher Plant. I squeed with joy when I went into my local supermarket (that boasts a great selection of houseplants, I must say) over the summer to find the exact plant I was going to purchase online because I couldn’t find it anywhere!

The Pitcher Plant:

  • Is a carnivorous plant just like the venus fly trap, meaning, they eat flies and other insects.
  • They “trap”insects in the “pitchers”, the leaves which are commonly known as “pitfall traps” filled with liquid.
  • There are several different kinds of pitcher plants.
  • This particular pitcher plant is tropical. They need warmth and need to always have moist soil.  I put my pitcher plant out on my enclosed patio for the summer, and bring it in to my bedroom the cooler months.

I have to admit, this has been much easier to take care of than I thought it would. Just watering it regularly and keeping the soil moist seems to be the trick. That, and because my bedroom is one of the warmer rooms in the house, it may think it’s in its native tropical setting.

*Not all species are tropical. You can find some of these in bogs in North America!

This is a GREAT plant to add to your collection. It is so unique and adds some real jazz to your home decor!

Here are just a couple of good examples of some different plants that add great value to your house. I have a few more that I am going to single out in future posts, but for now, hopefully these will give you some ideas on trying something different to keep the long winter days full of color and excitement!

“Spruce” up your Winter Decorating!

I can’t believe the first week of December is already over! Unfortunately, it’s going to go much faster than I would like it to go. My work schedule is crushing me this month, so I thought I better prioritize my responsibilties a little better. I have to go out-of-town this coming week for work, so this meant I must try to get my Christmas shopping and decorations up as soon as I could, or it wasn’t going to happen at all! I am happy to say that I feel good about both tasks, so now, all I have to do is concentrate on my up coming schedule. I should be in the clear by week’s end (hopefully).

As I was running into Walmart to pick up some Christmas presents I ordered online this past Tuesday, I was very surprised, and actually a bit relieved in regards to what I had found. It was two bundles of evergreens, and it truly had made my day.


By the way, yes, it was Walmart I found these in. Normally, I would go to my farm store, but with time and schedule restraints, the supercenter that is less than five minutes from my house trumped all other options this week. I was pleasantly surprised to see they were even selling them. Thanksgiving weekend had me frantically hiking through the woods around my neighborhood to find some spruce branches, but unfortunately, there were very little for me to get.

Spruce, Fir and Pine trees are all conifers. Conifers are trees or shrubs, mostly evergreen, that have needle-like or scale-like leaves. Conifers are the quintessential Winter decoration. I love them. I decorate with them up right up until Spring. I love the look of Spruce/Pine branches with pinecones.

So, how do you tell the difference between them?

Pines— have long smooth needles that come in bundles of 2,3 or 5


Spruce– single needles are smooth and roll around in your hand

Fir– have single needles that are flat so you can’t roll them


I learned a lot about trees, especially Pine, from my father, who could tell you every different kind of tree. As a boy, he planted over 3,000+ trees for a 4-H project. Those are the woods I grew up playing in.

20140511_145953     20140511_150103

So now, I can finish decorating my urns out front of my house.

I got some huge ornaments that are supposed to go in a tree in your front yard, but instead I used them for my urns.

My hands were freezing! It was 29 degrees!

My hands were freezing! It was 29 degrees!


I inserted the hook part into the dirt in my urns to secure them from the wind. As you can see, I still had some spike plants from summer in there. I actually had to get my trowel out to get them out! The root systems were enormous!

My spike plants that I will talk more about in future posts.

My spike plants that I will talk more about in future posts.

I took my evergreen “bouquets” and inserted them in the urn for a “quick and dirty” holiday decoration.


I want to emphasize that creative decorating does NOT have to be expensive. Really cool decorations can be created with different items just hanging around your house! And nature, of course! I purchased these evergreen bundles for $4.87 a piece. So, I did not spend much at all.

Yes, I will be foraging for more spruce twigs as winter goes on, like I did last year while snowshoeing.

My snowshoe excursion in search of spruce and fir branches.

My snowshoe excursion in search of spruce and fir branches.

You can also decorate with them inside.

  • When decorating with spruce, pine or fir in your home, please make sure you WATER them often, or the needles will fall all over. They create quite a mess. Lesson learned from last winter!

I hope you get a chance to decorate with conifers this holiday/winter season. Just taking a walk on a snowy path through the woods to find them can be wonderful. Who doesn’t love the smell of spruce or pine in the winter? It’s very inviting and homey-feeling. Consider planting a smaller or dwarf version in your yard if you do not have a big backyard. They are an excellent example of winter interest as well!

So, quit “pining” for summer when winter has its perks as well!

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!