It’s Finally Winter

daffodils peak throughIt snowed yesterday for the first time this winter, just a couple of inches (I’m leaving out the freak white stuff just before Halloween). So while we’ve had a few really cold days, this is the first time it really feels like winter. Not that it will last long — it is supposed to hit 50 on Monday and Tuesday (and maybe that’s why the township didn’t bother plowing neighborhood streets).

I’m trying to decide if these wild swings between cold and unseasonably mild that we’ve had for the last two months are a good thing or not for the garden. Some of our daffodils have been peaking out for the better part of a month, and I keep scurrying over to the pile of leftover mulch to cover them up, wanting to protect them from when the next change in the weather. But the Brit tells me Mike McGrath (his garden guru, from You Bet Your Garden on NPR) says it’s no problem and they won’t suffer from all this.

I hope so because I spent some time in September/October creating yet another flower bed, linking two small beds along the driveway. A couple of the neighborhood kids came over, intrigued, as I was spreading newspaper as weed killer and then topping it with mulch to keep the paper from blowing away. Naturally I put them to work. Not that it lasted long.

Then my favorite bulb sale happened at Van Engelen. The beetroot red/purple Woodstock hyacinths were on sale for 25% off and I knew I couldn’t wait to see if there would be a second, 4o% off sale a week later and if they would still be around (there was and they were). I bought two packs of 25. And since I was paying for shipping anyway, I kept going. I ended up with 100 blue allium azureum, 100 tear-dropped allium bulgaricum and 50 Professor Einstein daffodils (in honor of being so close to Princeton, plus they’re white with a flat reddish-orange crown–good contrast to the yellow that dominates) and three rose-pink peony plants from there, plus a bag of 10 white daffodils with a bright orange trumpet called multiflowering Narcissus Tazetta. Whew! Only 310 bulbs, not the 325 I thought there were!

I swore I would share some, but of course I didn’t. They’re all in the ground, many of them in this new bed that still needs plants for the remaining bloom time. (I can see that being lots of black-eyed Susans and rose campions because that is what I have in abundance, though am grateful for other suggestions, preferably flowers that can survive deer and groundhogs. Looks like I will miss my favorite master gardeners’ plant sale for a nephew’s first communion.) I’m hoping the azureum will add a wrinkle to the purple that dominates in May, though they apparently really bloom in June. In that case, they’ll just be part of the riot of color that is our cottage garden. Same goes with the greenish-white (and touch of purple) bulgaricum, a May/June bloomer. The hyacinths should pop among all the daffodils in April; I just hope that I found the right balance of scattering them and concentrating them so they don’t look lost among all the yellow.

The Brit started talking about the vegetable garden yesterday … that’s next.

How I created the new flower bed: Step one is to mow the grass–scalp it, really– with the mower’s lowest height setting. That left a nub of grass (and weeds) that’s frankly too much work to pull out, especially given the size of this bed (random guess: 10 feet by four feet). The trick is to smother everything with cardboard and/or several layers of newspaper. They will rot down (newspaper is faster, but I’ve got all winter), and you get a blank loose canvas.

creating a new flower bed
I mowed with the lowest setting on the mower, then started covering to kill whatever's left
I then piled on the mulch to keep the newspaper from blowing everywhere. Plus it'll rot down too.

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