gardenphyllisophyBy Phyllis Galowitz

At this time of the year, I begin to think of my summer garden, the successes and failures of previous years, and what I’d like to try in the coming season. My vegetable garden was not good last summer. Between the flooding and the lack of sufficient sun, it was disappointing. The container plantings of herbs and cherry tomatoes on the back porch did well and I enjoyed their being near the kitchen, convenient to pick as I was preparing a meal.

Vegetables should not be planted in the same place every year but my garden is so small, (about 12×12), that there isn’t much choice of where each plant must go. One side is shaded by a wall, another by a birch clump. That doesn’t leave me many sunny spots for tomatoes! I thought, “Why not intersperse them with the flowers in the perennial garden?” And that’s what I’ve decided to do. Flowers such as nasturtiums and marigolds, as well as onions and garlic, will keep pests from invasion and I won’t have to resort to sprays.

January is the time when the garden catalogues are mailed to people like me, who have gotten on lists of anyone who has shown an interest in anything garden-related. The catalogues keep coming and I love looking at the beautiful photographs. It’s hard to resist ordering “perfectly sweet carrots”, “ruby-red beets”, or “juicy, sweet tomatoes”, and on and on. I want to plant everything, but the first thing I consider when deciding what to plant is our short growing season. Anything that takes more than 55 days is out, unless it likes the cold, August nights.

Evergreens are wonderful. They don’t require much maintenance and look beautiful in every season.

Something I’ve never tried before are hellebores, the so-called Christmas or Lenten roses. In zone 4 or 5, they might bloom at this time, but even if they don’t, their lustrous foliage and swelling buds bring life to the winter garden. They require some care and protection from wind and snow, neutral soil, and good drainage. Planting them under the umbrella of an evergreen or weeping tree, but not too close to the trunk, might be good. If the soil is too acid, add lime and compost or humus. They are happiest in dappled shade. Hellebores need room to breathe and don’t appreciate root competition. A sheltered corner with some taller shrubs to break the wind would be ideal. I’m anxious to try one or two and I’ll keep you posted. ~


Lenten roses, Hellebores orientalis, open their nodding bells of pink or rose or white very early in the year. The satiny flowers last well in water if picked before they  are fully open. from:  Further Along the Garden Path by Ann Lovejoy