Kate Stephenson is a retired writer who can’t seem to keep her thoughts to herself. She is clearly obsessed with growing all manner of plants, especially vegetables and other edibles. See for yourself if her enthusiasm for gardening is contagious!
Let me say right at the beginning that I have no funny chicken story this month. Everybody in Cluckingham Palace is in a bad mood, because they’re all molting. They look ugly and they know it, so they’re keeping to themselves until their pretty feathers grow back. Meanwhile, egg production is down, too. Apparently, laying eggs is hard work and so is growing feathers, so the two don’t mix all that well. Of course, the nasty cold weather doesn’t help. What’s the deal with snow the first week in November? Out in the woods where we live, several inches of snow stayed around for days. It’s finally gone now, but it was a winter wonderland at the ol’ homestead for a while. Speaking of snow, I certainly hope you got your “delicates” under cover in time. We did, but only barely. Orchids, succulents, not to mention baskets and baskets and more baskets of hanging fuchsias were moved into the warm. Boy oh boy is my greenhouse full! I have had to cut back the tomato vines to make more room. They are still flowering, setting fruit and pumping out tomatoes, though, so I don’t want to pull them. As you already know, I am, as a rule, more interested in growing edibles than decoratives. But this time of year, however, my thoughts always turn to: “What plant is that?” when I see something that shows great color or form, or even blooms in the cold, dark days of late fall/winter. Lately I have begun to covet plants which will bring oranges, reds or purples to the garden. Since I am also smitten with propagating new plants from snippets of old ones, it is possible you may see me taking a few little cuttings from shrubs here and there. (Don’t worry. I carry “bail money”, just in case.) It kind of reminds me of back in Southern California where I was frequently seen gathering dracaena draco leaves and philodendron leaf sheathes from peoples’ yards to use making baskets. At least I don’t do that up here. (The plants don’t grow here.) But I digress. What I meant to talk about was perennial herbs. This is the time of year when your basil and dill plants die, and you start thinking that you will have to wait under late spring to have fresh herbs. Wrong! So many wonderful herbs are hardy herein Zone 8. I have parsley, mint, chives, thyme, oregano, sage, tarragon and more still growing. I will cut most of them back, because they will go dormant. However, some of them will grow all winter, even in the snow. Parsley is always green, and mint and rosemary never give up. I sometimes bring a bunch of herbs in and put them in a vase. They look good and smell even better. So, if you don’t grow these, think about growing some next year. I bet you will be glad you did. (Seeds are cheap, and almost all herb seeds are a snap to start.) Just last week my friend Jennifer gave me some nigella seed pods, and this morning I collected the seeds from them. I love seed pods. They hold such promise. Shake them when they’re dry and they rattle, a hint of the tiny treasures inside. What fun. I think that I must go play with my seeds. Garden on, and we’ll talk again soon. Kate