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Quietly Observing

The winter garden in Kentucky has a beauty all its own. Today may be cold and snowy, and tomorrow it may be warm and sunny. We can always count on the weather changing.

Whenever it snows, I am reminded of all the fun times I have hiking and playing in the snow. I watch the weather very closely at this time of year. I even print it off every day at work so we can plan the next day’s gardening activities.

Hot trends in 2007
I spend time each winter considering what will be popular in the garden for the next year. I believe we are enjoying our gardens more than ever before. Large sweeps of one color will become more popular than small multi-colored displays. Tropical plants are still all the rage, with container gardening taking on a real tropical flavor. A few large container gardens with lush tropical displays are in, and lots of small high-maintenance containers are out.

Statuary in the garden is getting hotter and hotter each year. The saints and religious figures are always popular, but mystical characters, male and female figures, and anything Asian are what to watch for if you are ready to take your garden décor up a notch this spring. An Oriental maiden was one of our most popular items last year and we anticipate her being equally popular this year.

Recirculating fountains, large or small, are not going out of style anytime soon. The easy setup and maintenance are a big part of their popularity, but the desire to have moving water in the garden is a draw that is hard for almost any of us to resist. I learned this in my own garden two years ago when we put in a large recirculating fountain: people who never paid attention to our garden before began to comment on it.

Look with intention
I recently had the chance to travel to London, Kentucky, to speak to a group of Master Gardeners at their volunteer appreciation dinner. Since I was traveling a few hours from home, I asked if I could tour a few gardens while I was there, and they reluctantly but graciously agreed.

“There isn’t much to see,” they said, but I assured them that I could see the beauty in any garden regardless of the season. For me, the best part of gardening is recognizing the changes of the season and the changes in the look and beauty of the garden as each season passes. Sometimes in winter you just have to look with a little more intention.

The biggest surprise for me was seeing an old plant in a very new way. I was walking around a garden just as the sun was going down, and I saw these beautiful stalks with dried seed pods on top that completely stole my attention. I asked what they were, and to my surprise they were simply the dried flower stalks of the perennial hosta.

I have always cut the flower stalks off my hosta as soon as they finish blooming, sometimes even before. This purely maintenance technique has kept me from seeing how beautiful hosta flower stalks and seed pods are once they have dried, with the foliage all melted away. No matter how long you have been gardening, there is always something new to see, learn, or experience.

This is why I love touring gardens and listening to gardeners as they tell me about what they have done, why they did certain things, and what they plan to do in the future. Thanks to everyone throughout Kentucky for your letters and for sharing your gardens with me throughout the year.

Our gardens may lie dormant or colored mostly by shades of brown, but a new spring is on its way. Take the time this winter to observe your garden with a bit more intention, and I bet you can dream up a few new dramatic changes for the coming year. Our gardens are quiet and beautiful in the winter, filled with lessons to learn, experiences to enjoy, and a simple beauty for all of us to love.

More trends in 2007

Integrating small fruits
Blueberries are relatively easy to grow and are very beautiful plants. They can be grown in even the smallest of gardens. Raspberries are another good fruit addition to your landscape.

Small home vineyards
There are several grapes suitable for wine that will grow in our Kentucky climate, and amateur wine makers are jumping aboard and learning to grow grapes.

Larger perennials, smaller grasses
People want larger perennial flowering plants but smaller ornamental grasses. Coneflowers and hardy ferns are probably the most popular perennials right now. Switchgrass, specifically ‘Northwind’ or ‘Heavy Metal,’ is great for smaller garden spaces and can also be planted in large masses in big gardens. Switchgrass replaces miscanthus, or maiden hair grass, as the most popular choice.

Individuality and ingenuity
Using old plants in new ways, unique fencing, fountains, and any sculptural element that ties into the interior décor and your own lifestyle and personality will be super hot in 2007.

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