January sun

I had been wondering, just yesterday, when there was snow and rain outside and wood fires and hot cider within, would I ever want to work out of doors again, or had I somehow arrived at a point where it was more desirable to be always comfortably warm and dry and clean? I was also thinking of dusting off my spinning wheel, and how I might buy an alpaca fleece, or some nice colored Border Leicester wool, and make my own yarn, a thing I haven’t done for years.

Galliano liqueurThen it became late and was New Year’s Eve, so we celebrated happily with a drink called a Harvey Wallbanger–I did NOT name it–made with orange juice and vodka and Galliano– which by the way comes in a VERY cool bottle. It’s a great drink, but really I do like just local beer quite the best.

Then I got up this morning and OMG there was The Sun!  In an azure sky! (I never say ‘azure’ so you can see how affected I was.)

As the frost melted I was inside, knitting by the stove, but I found that I was thinking about the garden. It became like some kind of brain magnet, even when I knew it was barely above freezing out there.


I finally put down the knitting, since I was finding a woven seam to be a bit of a challenge anyway, and I got up to go toward the parlour and begin packing away Christmas tree ornaments, when suddenly, to my astonishment, I found myself outside in the chilly sunny afternoon! (I think it was the terrier’s fault.)

I wandered into the warm greenhouse, which had even popped up its automatic roof window, and it was just so lovely in there.  The cucumbers have perished (planted too late by some unorganized person) but the lettuce and spinach grow on, along with various flower cuttings, a pot of parsley and some other things.  I swept the floor and cleaned the bench and watered some rather dry pots and it almost felt like gardening–

salad garden January

Then I found myself outside again, touring the beds, talking to Max and the plants, and thinking of all of you.

winter shadow

Soon a shovel appeared in my hands and I happily dug a couple of volunteer oak trees out of a garden bed. The ground was so wet that I got even their long roots out and resettled them in a better location. Still I completely expect them to die, because oaks simply don’t like to be told what to do. Not like roses. You can put rose roots in a blender in June and they will still grow…

Speaking of roses, in the fall I stuck some cuttings in a flower bed. They are alive and well and have leaf buds.

outdoor rose cuttings

As you know, I am seriously scientific (in spite of that unfair grade I got in genetics) and so I created a Control Group of indoor greenhouse cuttings of the same rose. For the record, they are doing okay too, but maybe not quite so well as the ones I left outside, which just goes to show you that sometimes it’s best to do the easy thing, and also that you should never start stupid numbers of cuttings that will grow into enormous climbing roses which will all need homes and soon.

But back to my sunny garden tour today.

I have been considering whacking into a doublefile viburnum, which is shown below with some of my famous arrows indicating the part I want to rip out, I mean divide, and plant in another bed.

viburnum victimsNow the question is, are viburnum bushes contrary like oaks, or immortal, like roses? I’ll begin the research, maybe on the next sunny day.  (Don’t worry, the shrub is sound asleep and won’t feel a thing.)

Max and I made all the rounds, including the winter vegetable garden, where most of the raised bed boxes look vacant.  There is garlic up and some onions and the cauliflower plants are providing food for someone–not me.  In an herb bed I found the Greek oregano growing fragrant leaves …

Greek oregano in January…and the hardy olive tree, below, looks nice even if its stake is being held up by the tree instead of the opposite, a state of affairs that is embarrassing for the Gardener but not fatal to the tree.

hardy olive tree in JanuaryIt’s been cold and wet but not much freezing around here, so Max and I even found a few things blooming. Here is our New Year’s bouquet for you, including a camellia and also a white hellebore flower which still looks great after over two hours so I guess you can use hellebore as a cut flower–who knew?

January garden bouquet


About linniew

Unpublished novelist seeks therapy in gardening. Westie assists.
This entry was posted in Max the Westie, propagation, roses, vegetable garden and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

33 Responses to January sun

  1. Bridget says:

    Amazing how the turning year stirs our need to be in the garden again.
    Very best wishes to you and yours for the coming year.
    Bridget x

  2. kininvie says:

    Not much sign of the year turning here. Wet. Cold. No sun. I’m not going out for at least another month. As for your viburnum – should be OK to hack it out & replant. Depends a bit on the species – but if it’s a suckering type it ought to come away no trouble, provided you leave it with a few roots…

    • linniew says:

      Hi Kininvie
      I didn’t realize this viburnum would colonize. It is very low-key about it but still–surely those sprouts will have some roots. I don’t intend to dig out the entire plant, but rather to divide off the shoots. The cold sun is just rising on another clear sky so I have scheduled the surgery for today.

  3. Ricki Grady says:

    That Old Man Sun can entice us into doing the darndest things. I, too, had become an indoor person, but once out there, I found things to do until I realized that my fingers were flirting with frostbite.

    • linniew says:

      It’s true– there are many ‘gateway’ gardenening tasks. You pull a tiny weed and the next thing you know you’re stripping sod off half the back yard but then it starts snowing.

  4. b-a-g says:

    Linnie – Isn’t your viburnum in flower at the moment ? (ie. not the best time to be ripping it out)

    • linniew says:

      Oh b-a-g, did you give your viburnum real coffee instead of decaf? Well it just keeps them awake all winter. I suppose you might still try singing them a lullaby…

      I do have some with that problem (known among landscape designers as viburnum insomniac disorder), but others undress in the fall and go to bed. (Viburnums I mean, not landscape designers. Although landscape designers must sleep sometime.) Think of the snowball bushes, all leafless when the actual snow comes (at least the one I have is)– I believe they are one of the zillions of sorts of viburnums.

      Today I did divide the doublefile viburnum–two of them actually. The little side sprouts had nice bunches of roots. They were still firmly attached to the mother plant by a horizontal underground shoot but this was no problem for my little pruning saw–which made all the rose bushes kind of nervous I think.

  5. Erin Bechtel says:

    Linnie,you are an early starter! I just look at my garden catalogues & start pacing the floor,
    Alternating with drumming my fingers on the table,,,till groundhog day ! Then I hit the door
    Running to check for any emerging growth … Thank God there is some.For now I will just
    Go to bed and dream of that lovely rhubarb crumble you make with a nice cold glass of milk.

    • linniew says:

      Hi Erin
      It wasn’t an actual start I’m afraid–more of a peeking out maybe. And how would we endure late winter without those catalogues and lists of seeds to order? I do like thinking of my rhubarb getting ready to pop up for crumble…

  6. Peter/Outlaw says:

    A little sun and a blue sky works magic on us pacific northwesterners! (OMG, we haven’t been able to see shadows for months!) Your boquet is beautiful! In my experience viburnums are much like roses in the transplant hardiness department and can be moved just abut any time that they’re not fully leafed out on the hottest day of August with their roots exposed to the hot dry sun for hours. I think Dan Hinkley once wrote of these, “Viburnum when you can just dig ’em up?” Happy sunny new year Linnie!

    • linniew says:

      Yes we have so much gloom and rain, appearance of clear sky and sun seems like some sort of miracle and makes us all crazy. (Even very stable people like myself.) I am relieved to hear your endorsement of my viburnum plan Peter. Sounds like they are tough like roses, which probably explains their survival in my garden. Love the quote!

  7. Grace says:

    Hi Linnie Girl, Sunshine is such a precious gift this time of year, isn’t it? I’m so glad this cold snap didn’t come with fog which really makes me SAD. You must be far enough south to be free of that dreaded horror of horrors, the East Wind, correct?

    I didn’t know you were a knitter. Your project looks lovely as do your lettuces and spinaches.

    Isn’t it interesting how shovels just appear into our outstretched hands? I love your little rose babies.

    The only caveat I would mention on the Viburnums is that many of them bloom on old wood so dividing them might not be an issue but if you cut them back, you risk cutting off this spring’s (now dormant) blooms.

    Your New Year’s bouquet looks wonderful! I believe it is a good omen. My motto for 2013: The best is yet to be. Cheers sweetie.

    • linniew says:

      Oh happy new year to you! Yes no terrible East Wind here –I’ve seen it be dreadful up in Gresham. I gave up knitting once, because the repetition made my hands hurt, but now it doesn’t. I do not understand this but then I find health issues to all be rather mysterious and I just rejoice that I can make things from the beautiful new yarns. Thanks for the tip about viburnum blooms. I had considered doing a severe cut-back on the new plants but now I won’t! Great good luck with all your wonderful writing/publishing projects in 2013 Gracie!

  8. Oh, to have a greenhouse to make the transition from “comfy chair in front of the fire” to “rubber boots in the garden in gale-force winds” seem less abrupt…

    I suspect the viburnum will be fine; any plant that sends out root shoots seems to me to be of a persistent nature, so they will most likely grow and prosper if you move them from the mother plant.

    (Also, just because: I have a small oak tree growing in a pot in our courtyard… If an oak can stand being potted – and repotted – I suspect it will also be fine with being moved.)

    • linniew says:

      Hi Søren
      Yes you totally NEED a greenhouse. They can be tiny and simple, and still produce tons of plants and be such a joy. I begin starting seeds in late winter, and it feels as if the warm season comes more quickly. I know you grow things in windows, so you have the idea. It’s just easier and roomier with a greenhouse. I have just a tiny electric heater with thermostat, nothing special, to keep the temperature just above freezing, and I use heat mats under the pots of seeds. The basil lives inside there in pots, even in summer.

      I’m having great confidence about the viburnum division, based on comments like yours. But I must say that OUR oak trees, the native Oregon white oak (also called Garry Oak), I have killed many times, by simply transplanting from a pot or digging up and replanting. Sometimes they pretend to live for a season or two and THEN die. The ones allowed to grow where they plant themselves have done much the best. I’m glad you have better oak luck!

      • I do need a greenhouse… 😦

        But, considering that my garden is at our holiday home, I just wouldn’t be able to keep it going. The plants would get too hot or too cold or too dry or whatever other excuse they can find for dying, so I have to sow my early seedlings in the windows of the city apartment and then transfer them to the garden when they have a chance.

        (But oh… To have a garden right outside where you live… I desperately want that, these days more than ever. Fortunately we’re having a balcony added to the apartment in spring, so by summer I might actually at least be able to grow some pots of hardy herbs and climbing flowers at the apartment!)

  9. So you took a cutting from a rose and just stuck it in the ground? As in, – stuff/cram – I’m done? I’m not sure that works here but I’m intrigued to try. It works very well for sedum. I love that you have enough flowers in Jan to make a bouquet.

    Viburnum are super tough so chop away. 🙂

    • linniew says:

      I’ve observed that some varieties of roses are more particular than others, but yes, just put a cutting into some nice flower bed in the fall. I think I dipped them in some ancient likely useless four-year-old hormone powder, or not. They certainly seem to be alive.

      And I proceeded with the viburnum chop/divide, so I do appreciate your encouragement on that front!

  10. Alistair says:

    Ah, what a difference a little sunshine makes. Encouraged by your easy method of propagating Roses, I have seen others recently do this. A zillion years ago when I first started gardening I was always told Roses had to be grafted or they wouldn’t come true. Its taken a long time but you can teach an old dog new tricks.

    • linniew says:

      Hi Alistair
      I’ve had grafted roses die back to the root stock, and then the root stock grows instead and is a horror to remove. I think all the roses I have are ungrafted and doing quite well, when we keep the deer from munching them down. This is the first year I’ve tried the outdoor cutting idea–might not be so successful for all varieties but so easy, it’s worth a try. Rain is back, dark and dreary. Maybe the next sun break will be over Scotland.

      • kininvie says:

        I think it much depends on the rose. A lot of the tough climbers and ramblers come away on their own roots quite happily – it’s the highly inbred floribunda types of the kind that are named after yesterday’s celebrities that are inclined to get the vapours if you suggest they might like to breed…

  11. Roberta says:

    I think I literally groaned with envy when I saw your perfect spinach. My goodness, not a hole, not a bug bite to be seen. I don’t think there is a single leaf that has been left untouched in my spinach bed. The unblemished leaves are reason enough to consider a greenhouse. If I had one, I’d definitely want the automatic roof window feature. You lucky girl!

    • linniew says:

      I totally know what my spinach would look like if it were in the garden right now. Actually it would look like the chard, which IS in the garden. Its leaves are eaten to spider-web leaf forms, so you can sort of see where a leaf WAS, but its largely gone. I’ll put these spinach plants out to the garden in early spring, but they get all anxious to bolt then and I’ll have to get some more plants started. I start all the veg. seeds in the greenhouse, even cucumbers which they say you shouldn’t transplant but it’s a lie, they do fine.

  12. Katie says:

    Glad you got a bit of sun to cheer you! How fun to tag along on your friendly Winter garden tour. Your cheerfully waving shadow really made me smile!

  13. Alberto says:

    Hi Linnie I did leave a message here about a week ago, could you please check your spam draft?

  14. Linnie, It’s wonderful what power the sun has to motivate! Your January bouquet is amazing — my garden is under snow and ice. Wishing you a sunny and happy 2013. P. x

    • linniew says:

      What I like is when it snows here some, maybe six inches, with a couple more the next day, and it stays all pretty for a week and then goes away instantly and the daffodils come up. So in a way I envy your snow Pam. Also, no more bouquets out in my garden now–all is dark with cold rain.

  15. Cynthia says:

    It has felt a bit like Oregon here lately, and I had the same experience the day the sun came out and it warmed up a bit. We will garden again!

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