Thankful Still

Turk’s Cap gourd and lichen beard on hollow bear

The hollow continues to be a paradise of woodland, meadows, fields and garden and our luck is still holding, but the world and time intrude with the continuing pandemic in the outside world (which variant are we on now?). Still we are thankful.

November through December is prime time for bulbs. Many people rush to get them in the ground in October, but by now the earth is nicely chilled – first frost date wasn’t until November 2 – and it’s a lovely task for sunny afternoons. I always tell my clients, get them in the ground before the new year and you’ll be okay and if there are still any left over after that, get them in the ground anyway!

This fall we’re planting the lovely white Narcissus ‘Thalia’, a Triandus type (several pendant flowers per stem, faintly fragrant) , and the Summer Snowflake, Leucojum, both of which we divided in late spring.

Narcissus ‘Thalia’

If you want to extend bulb plantings you already have, dig up a patch next year when the foliage has yellowed (indicating all nutrients have been absorbed), knock off as much soil as you can and let them dry over  summer in a shady place. Ours sit on a shelf  in the potting shed spread out in a single layer in a plastic nursery flat.

When planting, discard any bulbs that are soft or mildewed. Aim for 6″ deep, but I’ve found over the years bulbs will work their way downward to their proper depth if given half a chance (as will we all). Don’t worry about watering.

Leucojum aestivum/Giant Snowflake

Late fall is also the time when our native witchhazel, Hamamelis virginiana, lights up the woodland edges with her pale gold, scenting the air with a faint astringency. Asian witchhazels bloom in spring (showy yellow ‘Arnold’s Promise’ and cherry pink ‘Diane’ are favorites), but the surprise of autumn bloom, not afraid of winter, always cheers me.


Hamamelis virginiana/Virginia witchhazel

Can’t end without mentioning two books that have stood me in good stead over the past year:

I keep The Cloudspotter’s Guide, by Gavin Pretor-Pinney, ready to hand as I continue to learn about the clouds. You will never look at the sky the same way again.

Passalong Plants, by Steve Bender and Felder Rushing, is a marvelous compendium of old-fashioned garden staples with great photos and wonderful stories by the authors of the people they’ve met who pass them along.

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