Marty's Garden, November 30th, 2017

November is a month of transitions. The weather gets colder although you still get some days which are balmy.  It entices me to go outside and work a little bit in the yard.  We didn’t have a killing frost in October, but one night in November we dipped way below freezing. One day the annuals were still standing tall, the next day they were mush. But the hardest day of the year for me is the one when we turn the clock back. One day you still have light at 6 PM, the next day it gets dark one hour earlier. Suddenly I find myself thinking at 5 PM “what the heck am I going to do for the next five or six hours?” I go down to the basement and fiddle with cuttings; I water plants which were brought indoors a month or two ago. The spouse and I break out games and match wits. I pull gardening books off the shelves and go through them. I feel as if I could go mad…


Many moons ago I used to watch HGTV (Home and Garden TV) and ALL of the gardening shows they offered. I also watched BBC America for the wonderful gardening shows they used to have.  Usually there were more shows in spring and summer than fall and winter, but still there was something most of the time which would be interesting. They showed you what to plant and where (right plant, right place). They educated you; provided you with Latin names as well as common names; shade lovers versus sun lovers; wet versus dry (RIGHT PLAN, RIGHT PLACE!). They took you to places with amazing gardens, but as time went by the “old time gardeners” were replaced with hipper, younger hosts. Then, gardening was replaced with design and build shows with little room for plants. Preferably they transform your “garden” (i.e. neglected outdoor space) into a fully functioning outdoor room with bar, grill, sitting area and a water and fire feature within a short period of time (2 days!).


 There is usually a bit of grass and a few plants set closely together around the perimeter to screen out the neighbors. Never mind that some plants won’t make it through the winter or they are planted too close to their neighbors. Gardens aren’t static; plants grow and if you don’t take into account the mature size of your plant you will be forever pruning or subjecting your plants to overcrowding and disease. If you take the effort of matching the plant to your site you can actually stand back and enjoy seeing it grow to maturity.

The worst example of a gardening makeover show I EVER saw was a garden with a nice mature shade tree off to the side. The host of the show decided to put a sitting area under the tree. Rather than just mulch the area under the tree allowing for oxygen exchange and infiltration of water, they excavated the area under the tree while cutting off some large tree roots because “they were in the way”. They put down a 1 inch layer of sand and 6 inches of crushed stone before putting down the pavers for the patio. Guess what, that nice shade tree is now deprived of major roots, water and oxygen and will most likely die within the next three years. So rather than a shaded patio, you will have a large dead tree which will need to be removed so it won’t become a hazard ($$$!) and you will have a patio in full sun.


I gave up watching HGTV as they should rename it HGT (Home TV) or HGD&BTV (Home and Garden Design and Build TV). BBC America no longer seems to have ANY gardening shows at all while their (native) counterpart BBC has a slew of them.  Oh, how I miss them all.


But… a while ago I came across an ad for a website: I checked it out. Wonderful, the first week is for free. Then you pay $6.99 a month, or less if you happen to find a coupon (I did, check the web or gardening websites). Now each evening after watching the first 20 minutes or so of the local news at 4 PM I go online at First I watched Alan Tichtmarsh and the Gardener’s Year. It takes you through Alan’s garden from winter through late fall the following year and shows you all the changes made to the garden. Next I surfed through a few episodes of different shows. Then I started in on Monty Don’s series at Longmeadow. I start with the 2011 year. By now I have made it through the first year in Monty’s garden (all 28 episodes) and I have moved on to the 2012 season, with 5 more years to go.


All in all there are currently 24 different shows to watch, some old, some current, some multiple years for the various shows. While we were in Holland in September we watched a few episodes of “Garden Rescue” and “Wildlife Gardens” on BBC with Charlie Dimmock (another favorite of ours).  On Hortus TV I get to watch all of these episodes. No longer do I wonder what to do as darkness descends on us; I get a virtual shot of vitamin D (sunshine) while watching two, three and yes, sometimes four episodes of gardening TV during a particularly dreary day.  


By now I have also put up a variety of birdfeeders and watch birds coming and going; in a way they are like flying flowers brightening up my garden. Then, as I take a walk in the garden during the day I see hopeful signs of flowers and growth to come two or three months from now. My magnolia (unknown variety) has both the fuzzy buds for leaves as well as flowers at the end of the branches.

Magnolia buds; flower and leaf
First flower Hellebores Nov. 2017
My witch hazels (variety Arnold Promise) are full of buds which will flower in late winter (February/March). The only peony brought over from my old garden (Dancing Butterflies) has bright red growth peeking up from the soil; a promise of things to come. A hellebores plant opened up its first flower, a few months early. Meanwhile with Hortus TV and the promise of fragrant flowers not that many months from now I hold on through the darkness.