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Charlie’s Early December Newsletter
It’s December and time for some holiday celebrations. I hope you have some fun holiday plans this years. Our month will be filled with concerts, decorating and gatherings. Of course, this is also the time of year for gift giving. It’s always hard to find just the right gift for the gardeners in your life or for yourself. To help, I’ve put my entire Gardening Webinar Library on sale. I’ve broken up the library into themed groups at different prices. The recorded webinars are a great way to brush up on your gardening knowledge this winter. And once you purchase them, you have them forever. Check out the details of my Garden Webinar Sale in this newsletter.
I really like low growing, colorful, ground cover plants. I think they’re underused in the landscape. They make great ground covers between plants, beautiful rock garden plants and attractive creeping plants right in front of your flower border. I talk about some favorite creepers in this newsletter and how and where to grow them.
Although some areas are experiencing a full dose of winter already, other areas of the country still have thawed, bare ground. Where ever you live, now is a good time to make a hugel mound garden. What’s a hugel mound? It’s a raised bed made from scrap logs and branches and a fun way to make new gardens using what’s around your yard. Learn more about hugel mounds here.
I continue reviewing garden books for winter. The latest one is from a gardening colleague in Puerto Rico. Perla is an avid gardener and loves to help people discover the joys and benefits of gardening. Her book, Verdura!, features gardening activities to do at home, indoors or outdoors, to help make you be a better gardener and enjoy life more. Check out my review of this book in this newsletter.
Until next time, I’ll be seeing you in the garden.
Ct Garden Journal on Ct Public- This week: Amaryllis Bulbs
In the Garden (WCAX-TV CBS) – This week: Living Holiday Trees
WJOY In The Garden Podcast– This week: Protecting Plants in Winter, Amaryllis and more
Where’s Charlie Speaking?Garden Tour of Ireland February 15th – 19th, 2023, Northwest Flower Show, Seattle, WA
Webinars are a fun way to learn new skills. We’ve all become accustomed to webinars after Covid and I’ve been offering gardening webinars long before the pandemic. I’ve recorded 19 different webinars over the last few years on topics ranging from soil building to cottage gardening to organic pest controls. All my webinars are 1 hour long with up to 30 minutes of recorded Q/A afterward.
To help everyone garden better, I’ve put my entire Gardening Webinar library on sale. I’ve grouped the webinars by themes and greatly reduced the prices. These webinar packages are great for personal learning or to give as a gift this holiday season. Here’s the on-sale packages.
If you’re interested in growing food, this Organic Food Gardening Webinar Package is for you! I have bundled together 6 of my webinars into a package that will help you build better soil while growing healthier vegetables, berries and herbs in your garden and yard. It will also help you with organic pest control techniques. The webinars include Soils and Mulches, No-Dig Gardening, Raised Beds, Berry Growing, Organic Pest Controls and Ecological Gardening and Companion planting. This webinar package is loaded with great information to help make you a better food gardener.
If you’re interested in growing flowers, flowering shrubs and vines, this All About Flower Gardening Webinar Package is for you! I have bundled together 9 of my webinars into a package that will help you grow Cottage Gardens, Pollinator Gardens, Bird Friendly Gardens, Bulb Gardens, Summer Bulb Gardens, Lilacs and Hydrangeas and Flowering Vines. I also included webinars on Native and Invasive Plants and Lawn Care including information on Growing a Bee Friendly Lawn. This webinar package is perfect for beginner and experienced flower gardener who are looking to get started or try out some new and different gardens and techniques this spring.
If you can’t decide which package is best for you, why not get them all! The Whole Gardening Library Package includes all 19 gardening webinars. Not only do you get the Food Gardening and Flower Gardening webinars mentioned above, you get the other webinars such as Plants for Problem Places, Container Gardening and All About Houseplants. You can spend the entire winter chipping away at these webinars or just watch them when you’re inspired. That’s because once you purchase the webinars, you have them for life. You can watch them as much as you like, when ever you like.
My Gardening Webinar Sale is just for the month of December! So, have a look and pick a discounted webinar package or even just buy a few individual webinars to check out. You can still purchase them, one at a time, as well.
How to Grow: Creeping Flowers
I think we’re all a little too mulch crazy in our gardens. Instead of piling wood mulch between flowers and around shrubs and trees to stop weeds from growing, preserve moisture and to spruce it up, why not grow creeping perennials? There are many creeping perennial flowers that thrive in sun or shade, have beautiful flowers or leaves and fill in spaces. After all, in nature, creeping plants often fill in around other plants. Let’s mimic what happens in Nature and grow them in our yards, too.
One of my favorite creeping perennials is creeping thyme. Even though thyme plants have small, delicate leaves, it’s a pretty tough plant. It will creep between flowers, stones and rocks filling in spaces and providing greenery and flowers in summer. The classic Creeping Thyme features pink colored flowers on a hardy to zone 5 plant. We grow some of ours around our ninebark shrubs. It appreciates some shade, but also grows fine in full sun. Other thyme to try include ‘Silver King’ creeping thyme with green and white variegated leaves, pink spring flowers and a delightful growth habit that’s hardy in zone 7. ‘Archer’s Gold’ creeping thyme features lemon colored leaves with a lemon scent. It’s hardy to zone 5 and has purple flowers. It can stand some foot traffic and offers a lemon scent to those walking on it. Another scented thyme that can be walked on is ‘Spicey Orange’. It creeps along until someone brushes the leaves. Then a clean citrus scent emerges delighting everyone. This zone 4 hardy thyme grows best in full sun. Thyme is a good example of edible groundcovers, of which there are many.
Another great creeper is phlox. This spring bloomer dazzles gardeners with its display of white, pink or red flowers blooming en mass. These hardy, tough plants bounce back from winter quickly to put on a spring flower show. ‘Emerald Blue’ creeping phlox is a beauty with sky blue flowers. ‘Amazing Grace’ creeping phlox has clear white flowers with magenta centers. ‘Scarlet Flame’ creeping phlox has bright red flowers and ‘Candy Stripe’ creeping phlox has white and pink bi-colored flowers. Most creeping phlox love full sun on well-drained soil. Grow them in front of other taller flowers, around trees, on a slope, or even in a container. They only grow 6 inches tall, spread quickly and are deer and rabbit resistant.
There are some unusual creepers as well. Creeping aronia or chokeberry is a dwarf, low growing version of this favorite, native shrub. ‘Low Scape® Mounding’ chokeberry only grows 1 foot tall, spreads with woody, horizontal, branches, has white flowers in spring and black berries in fall and is heat, drought, cold and wet tolerant. Talk about a tough plant!
Finally, for shade, try the creeping wintergreen, Redwood™. This native has glossy, evergreen leaves, grows only 6 inches tall, very hardy and produces bright red berries in fall. It’s a favorite of birds and wildlife and great in shady spots under trees and shrubs.
So, skip the mulch this spring and consider planting some creeping perennials. They might need some help with weeding and watering in the first year or so to get established, but once growing, they should take over and give you color and variety when paired with your other flowers, shrubs and trees in your landscape.
I’m always looking for ways to make a new garden bed. First, it was raised beds made with wood, stone or other materials. Then, it was straw bale gardens with bales of hay and straw. Finally, I tried mound gardening. Hugelkultur means “mound” in German. This style of gardening originated in that part of the world.
The story goes that in Eastern Europe when people were clearing the forests to open land for farming, building or making roads, there would be lots of scrap logs, large branches and wood debris left around. It wasn’t good for building or making firewood, so the workers got creative. They experimented by making piles of logs, covering them with soil, leaves, sod and plant debris and added soil and planted in them. Or they dug holes and buried the wood. Low and behold, these “mounds” turned into productive gardens!
A hugel mound is made from logs and scrap wood from various trees. The best trees for hugel making are deciduous, such as alder, oak, maple, poplar and birch. You can use evergreen trees, such as fir and spruce, but you’ll need to let the wood age before stacking it. Avoid trees with growth inhibiting chemicals in the wood such as walnut. The larger diameter the logs and bigger the pile, the longer the mound lasts. Most gardener stack logs about 3- to 6-feet tall and then cover the pile with soil, sod and grass and plant on top. Other folks, dig trenches and bury the wood, again covering it up. The result is the same.
As the wood rots it absorbs moisture and releases nutrients. This combination is perfect for plant growing. The first year grow annuals and vegetables such as vining winter squash, sweet potatoes, morning glories and cucumbers. These vines cover the mound preventing erosion. After the first year, the mound starts to settle. Now the fun begins. You can plant a garden on the flattening top of the mound and even plant perennial plants such as blueberries and fruit trees. As the mound settles it releases water keeping the plant roots moist and food to grow healthy plants. Mounds made from large diameter logs can last years before dissolving into the Earth.
So, if you’re clearing land, or just have some logs and large branches around, mound them up, cover them up and see what grows in your hugel mound.
In Our Garden: Verdura! Book
We all garden for different reasons. Some for growing food, some for growing flowers, some just to be outside in Nature. There’s no wrong answer. Perla Sofia Curbelo-Santiago gardens for all of these reasons and for joy. Her new book, Verdura!, highlights her life long love of plants in her native Puerto Rico.
The book is mostly composed of gardening projects that are straight forward and simple for many gardeners to do around and in their homes. Perla’s projects come from her life. From creating a 13 year olds garden, remembering the plants she loved as a teenager, to creating an herb cocktail and mocktail bar as an adult, Perla loves seeing her life through her relationship with plants. Some of her garden projects include setting up an outdoor meditation space, creating a houseplant propagation station, using your garden as a social outlet and making a “swinging” planter.
Most of the 30 projects are perfect for small space gardeners and folks who just do indoor gardening. Perla has helpful photos to show the process, materials lists and step by step instructions for doing each project. She even includes a Self Assessment Worksheet with some of the projects helping the newbie gardener understand their passion for gardening and where it fits in their life.
Verdura! means “greenery”, but also is about creating a gardening lifestyle, where plants are central to your home and yard. Just doing some of Perla’s projects with plants helps soothe the soul and calm the mind. It allows you to create a healthy lifestyle living with plants. Verdura! book will be available starting January 2, 2024.