November 2012
How's Your Garden?

How's Your Garden?

Adding Flowers for Winter


Keep the beauty of flowers in the off season by painting a garden on your shed doors.

Here is a happy idea from a garden center in Maine, where the flowering season is rather short. Add your own flowers to the garden with paints. When the doors of this garden shed swing open in the off-season, they serve as a cheerful reminder of the beauty to come. Looks like a great way to use paint left over from your projects or those of family and friends.

Fall Greens Need Moisture

When the weather is cool, it can be easy to forget to water, but remember your fall greens such as lettuce, cabbage, collards, spinach, kale, mustard, turnips and others need a steady supply of water to grow quickly so their leaves are tender. Cool nights make the leaves sweeter and those that are frost tolerant such as spinach, collards and kale get even better after frost. A good layer of pine straw mulch along the rows will help keep the ground from drying out quickly, too.

Starting Asparagus

If you have any extra garden room and you like to eat asparagus, now is a good time to prepare a bed. Asparagus roots generally come in bundles of 25, which is enough to provide plenty of asparagus for two adults through the spring harvest season. Plants need to be about a foot apart to begin with, but eventually the roots spread underground and fill the spaces in between. It takes some work to prepare a deep, enriched soil for asparagus, but it will produce for years. The biggest challenge is keeping it reasonably weeded. If you are a gardener who finds weed pulling to be therapeutic, this is a good crop for you. Start digging your bed now and order roots from a company that will ship in the fall, if possible.

Surprisingly cold hardy, parsley will recover from short-lived freezes and snow.


Parsley Is Surprisingly Winter-Proof

Mix parsley with pansies in flowerbeds and the bed will have a presence all winter. Curly parsley is beautiful in window boxes and containers. You can also mix in many types of kale, either the colorful ornamental type or dark, blue-green edible leaves of Lacinato or Winterbor kales.

Cilantro is Best in the Fall

In the fall, cilantro plants are prone to making a lot more leaves than in the spring when they like to stretch and make flowers. So, if you like this aromatic herb for Mexican and Asian dishes, now is a good time to plant. The plants grow during cool weather and tolerate a surprising amount of cold, often surviving freezes once they are well established in the garden. Even though a bunch of cut cilantro is relatively inexpensive to buy at the grocery store, it’s often way more than I need, so much goes to waste. A few plants in my garden are always "on call" to yield a sprig or two in time to chop and add to my dishes.

Plant Pansies Now

Pansies planted in the fall will grow to twice the size and produce more flowers than those planted in the spring. Get them in the ground now so they will grow before the weather gets too cold. The plants are surprisingly cold hardy, easily tolerating temperatures of 15 degrees, but they don’t grow bigger during this time. They will take off at the first sign of warmth in the spring. Along the coast where winter days are generally mild, you may need to give some varieties a trim to keep them neat. Remember the smaller-flowered violas and Johnny Jump Ups, which are pansy relatives, fall into this category, too. They are also especially well-suited to containers. Some pansies are fragrant, so sniff before you buy!

Add fall pansies to a container featuring an evergreen shrub to give green color to your winter garden.


Whole branches of peppers left in your garden at the end of the season make a beautiful and simple arrangement.

Great Shrubs for Containers

Fall is a good time to select evergreen shrubs for large containers to give the pots a presence in the garden through winter. Some good choices include boxwood, junipers and dwarf conifers. Containers are a good way to add certain shrubs to the garden by way of the pot. After the plant outgrows the pot, transplant it to a designated space in the garden. Many years ago, White Flower Farm sold an assortment of evergreens with various leaf colors and textures marketed as living tapestry. The variety was like a living quilt. I saw it planted in a garden on Monte Sano Mountain in Huntsville and it left such an impression that it is still on my wish list.

Peppers in a Vase

By this time of year any peppers left in our garden often end up as decoration. Whole branches in a sturdy vase make a beautiful and simple arrangement. Add a few stems of fall flowers such as salvia, too, for a little more color and a spike form. They make beautiful and appropriate table decorations at Thanksgiving.

Lois Trigg Chaplin is the author of The Southern Garderner's Book of Lists and former Garden Editor of Southern Living Magazine.