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Winter Garden

My title may sound like the name of a ski resort, but I mean only to suggest what might go on in a garden during winter. What? Nothing? Well, not quite. But while in a given season I might be proud of my garden, I claim no expertise in making my mounds of soil beautiful at this time of year.

Of course, we must butcher many of our plants in the fall. Peonies, my specialty, must be cut back to the ground (and the stems removed from the garden—and NOT put in the compost heap, as fungus in either case would readily reproduce and eventually inhabit the soil). Dahlias, my second favorite plant, are not hardy (except by occasional good luck) and must be dug and properly stored for the winter. But you no doubt are familiar with the rest of the routine that leaves mostly bare ground.

Still, there’s some green here and there, enough to give me hope for spring, if not much beauty. I have lots of sedum in various parts of the garden, some varieties of which die back, but others that stay green all winter. Sedum Acreis not very showy, but I believe it’s indestructible. One sedum turns deep red for the season. A sedum I believe is a variety of Donkey’s Tail is quite faithfully green. And there’s my moss patch, probably Mnium Hornum or carpet moss, but since it was a volunteer, I can’t be sure. As a Master Gardener, I once was asked how to get rid of a patch of this attractive plant, but my healthy bed grows vigorously in a shady place for me to enjoy as I pass many times a day. Incidentally, this plant made me aware of mosses, and I looked them up, finding many other varieties, (If you have some that’s persistent and bothersome, change the Ph of the soil.)

And then there’s my cactus, Prickly Pear or Opunta. This interesting plant though green all year isn’t very pretty in winter, but green is green. And in the summer it produces lovely blossoms followed by edible fruit. Some Mexican workers here to do roofing were amazed to see cactus this far north and spoke of cooking and eating the fruit. Well, okay, but let the grower beware. If allowed, the plant will cover a football field in a season, I’m convinced, and it must be handled with tools or very heavy gloves, as its tiny thorns are not easily removed. (Or so I’m told.) Less threatening is my parsley—still green and usable even now with the temperature in the teens. Wish I could remember where I bought the seedlings.

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