Each winter, I begin a mental shift of leaving my thoughts of the winter garden to begin thinking seriously about the arrival of spring. This happens to me each February like clockwork. Spring will soon be here.
During 2008, I began what seemed like a simple garden project. I began renovating a small European-style formal garden in an attempt to transform it into an Asian-inspired garden space. This seemingly simple project turned out to be a little more complicated than I had anticipated. As winter turns to spring I am now seeing a whole new side to this space, and I am looking forward to its first spring.
I am glad I had the winter to watch it and to contemplate my thoughts and desires for the space. It looks even more simple and quiet.
My little lantern
There is a Japanese lantern at the entrance to this garden. Somehow, I think this lantern chose me and a home in my garden. At our garden center, I purchase all the pottery and garden statuary, so I see a lot of different pieces. This lantern came in on a shipment with hundreds of other pieces, and it didn’t seem any more or less beautiful than all the others.
This lantern weighs about 140 pounds, so once we selected its display spot in our store, we knew it would stay there until someone bought it. It was placed in a high-traffic area and I am sure I walked past it a million times. Later in the summer it was still there, and I found myself stopping to look at it and investigate its subtle detail. It even fell over or got knocked over at one point during the late summer. Strangely enough, no one seemed to know how it happened. It is so heavy we couldn’t believe it ourselves.
Fortunately, the quality of the piece prevailed and it came out of the incident with just a little rough patch on the roof. For some reason, this imperfection made it even more beautiful to me, so it wasn’t long after that when I made the decision it would be perfect for my new garden.
Durability and care
When selecting a piece of art or garden statuary that will remain in your garden all year, it is important to look for excellent craftsmanship and winter durability. Kentucky winters can be wet, snowy, and very cold, and the weather can change drastically in just one day. This wintertime drama can be very hard on containers and statuary, so don’t skimp on quality. Lightweight pieces may be easy to transport home and move around the garden, but will typically have to be stored inside for the winter.
When placing decorative pieces in the garden that will remain throughout the winter, it is important to place them on a level and stable surface. You can use bricks, pavers, sand, or pea gravel. This will help keep them stable as the ground freezes and thaws, or goes from soft, soggy wet to hard and dry without affecting your piece. For pieces that have multiple parts, use silicone caulk to secure the pieces together, making them more stable. Make sure all container drain holes are open and draining freely, and any items that hold water will have to be covered, removed, and stored or a birdbath heater placed inside to prevent water from freezing solid.
In the winter we spend so much time gazing out our windows into the garden, I think it is important to leave some decorative elements of your garden intact to enjoy throughout the winter months. My Japanese lantern is perfect in its new home, but was not visible to me from my kitchen window. Now I am so grateful to enjoy it every day as I watch the beauty of my wintertime garden unfold. As spring arrives, my Japanese lantern will slowly begin to disappear from view and I will have to enter into the garden to enjoy it until winter comes again.
Make sure and pick a favorite piece for your garden that will provide you with peace and joy when you gaze upon it.
ASK THE GARDENER
by Angie McManus
I have been saving my coffee grounds, egg shells, potato skins, etc., to feed my garden veggies. Grandma used to use a lot of food leftovers to feed, but I can’t remember when I was a child if she ground them all up together, added water to it, or what. At the same time, do I place it around the stem of the plant or incorporate it into the soil around the stems?
Your grandma had the right idea. Fertilizing your garden with coffee grounds, egg shells, and potato skins is a good alternative to commercial products. Coffee grounds add nitrogen and egg shells add calcium to your soil. The best way to incorporate them into your garden is to start a compost pile. There are all kinds of composting bins you can purchase, or a free-standing pile works too. The composting bins are nice because they “hide” your waste and help retain heat and moisture. They also make it easier to flip the waste and help in the decomposing process. The leftovers you are using should be broken down before you amend your soil with them. When it is time you can either use it like mulch or actually turn it into your soil. The last option is probably better. One or two inches thick is a good amount to use but any amount will add nutrients. Then it is time to water. Happy composting.
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