gardenphyllisophy8By Phyllis Galowitz

What a difference a month makes! The trees are bare, except for the evergreens. The hills, in the distance are beige to gray, interspersed with the yellow of the larch, lots of evergreens, the red branches of the dogwoods and red berries on so many bushes. The grass is bright green and the background is perfect, outlined with the recent snow of November 8th, when we thought winter was suddenly here, only to be followed by warm, sunny days. It was a funny month. Temperatures ranged from 21 degrees in the morning, to the 6os on some afternoons… that’s Andes!

Rosemary, thyme and lettuce are still looking beautiful on my deck, but I’m spending more time with the neglected houseplants. Some have outgrown their pots. Some look weak and spindly. They need new soil. Just when I think everything looks terrible, I notice the buds all over the Christmas cactus. They’ll be in full bloom by the time you are reading this. Thank you Eddie Piervincenzi for giving them to me. Was it two years ago? I love them!

Every houseplant has a history. Most were gifts and remind me of the person I received them from whenever I look at them, or they trigger something in my past, like the avocado tree that’s always there; maybe not the same one, because it gets to a certain stage and dies.  But there’s always another one waiting to take its place. The coffee plant, that Michael Passafiume gave cuttings of to several people in the library, is so beautiful and tall that I must either make a hole in the ceiling or prune it drastically. The dracaena is also too tall and the lower leaves keep dying off, but I can’t part with it. I’m going to try cutting just below the top and re-rooting it. It would be easy to buy a new one, but this one has sentimental value for me, as do most of the plants.

Lori, our daughter, gave me a tiny bay leaf plant about twelve years ago. It almost died last year, but I pruned it down to the bottom, carefully washed the roots, and planted it in new soil. It’s beautiful again, and has flavored many soups and stews in its lifetime.

Amy, another of our daughters, gave Alan a Janet Craig plant many years ago. Like the dracaena, it grew tall and lost its lower leaves. I cut the top off and stuck it back in the soil where it lived happily until again it got too tall. Many generations later, that plant is still growing. It brings back so many fond memories!

Plants, like people, always amaze me and I’m constantly learning from them.

The pruning of evergreens gives us mulch to place under acid-loving plants like rhododendron, azalea, and other evergreens. They are also good for mulching mums after they finish blooming. If you’re lucky, they’ll come back next year. Evergreen clippings, branches with berries and the cones that fall to the ground from spruce trees, are wonderful for decorating for the holidays and filling in spaces on old wreaths.

Now that winter is almost here, sit back and think about the garden as it was last summer. Look through the catalogues that will be coming in, and plan next spring and summer’s even more beautiful garden of your dreams. ~