I don’t know about you, but here, outside of Philadelphia, we’ve been getting slammed this winter. We’ve had tons of snow, crazy wind and wind chills, and even the polar vortex, whatever that is!?!? But, in the midst of the snow, ice, and frozen limbs, the winter is a great time to start thinking about your garden!
When I was in my early twenties, I was thrilled to get my first gardening book. I had always loved to garden, having spent tons of time with my grandmother, helping her care for her immaculate roses (I still can’t get mine, or even hers, to perform as amazing as she did), and I took over my parents’ landscaping when I was in high school. But I needed to better understand design, when to do certain things, and even what type of flowers were available. So, for my 21st birthday, my parents gave me Martha Stewart’s Gardening: Month by Month, an absolutely beautiful book that shows month by month what Martha does in, and can expect from, her garden. And right away, I was hooked. I know what you’re thinking, what 21 year old boy wants a gardening book, let alone Martha Stewart’s, but I was, am, and always will be a huge fan. What can I say, “it’s a good thing!”
There were so many great ideas in that book. I think my favorite part was the sources section in the back, where I now had the names, addresses, and phone numbers (remember, we’re talking 1996, sadly there were no websites) of amazing providers of mail order plants, trees, and seeds. I immediately called those companies and got on the mailing lists, and I’ve been on their mailing lists ever since. The beautiful thing is, usually around late December, early January, they send you these wonderful catalogs and you can get lost dreaming about the garden, even with a foot of snow outside. The catalogs have proven to be invaluable for inspiration on different varieties, and often times, the plants are incredibly cost effective. They have so much more than your local Home Depot (I can only have so many black eyed susans, daisies, and standard hydrangeas). Below are a few links to some of my favorite companies, but really, if you haven’t yet, look online, find some good suppliers, and give it a try.
- Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds-rare, non-GMO seeds, and tons of varieties (and a beautiful catalog)
- Burpee-great seeds and some plants, but tons of varieties
- Jackson & Perkins-amazing collections of roses and other plants
- Kelly Nurseries-very affordable plants, and good quality
- Stark Brothers-wonderful fruit trees and other fruits and vegetables
- Wayside Gardens-a bit more expensive, but a huge collection of shrubs, trees, plants, everything
- White Flower Farm-again, a bit more expensive, but such amazing plants and such quality
One other thing I did, taking direction from Martha of course, was I started to keep a garden log, noting how things were progressing in the garden. This proved to be invaluable. So many years, I’ll remember I planted the pumpkins too early, or the frost took those tender annuals, but I can’t remember exactly when I planted them and how I should adjust. Keeping a quick log is so helpful to plan for the following year. If you don’t do it, you should try. It doesn’t have to be time consuming or difficult. Just jot down some notes, and date it. I’ll admit, I haven’t done it in years, but this year, I’m starting again (thanks to a little encouragement from Grow Tend Cook Eat).
So, grab some catalogs, or your tablet/laptop, curl up with a blanket, maybe a drink, dream about the garden, and start planning. And if you happen to have Martha’s book, or come across it, definitely take a look at the inside cover. I fell in love with the sketches of her amazing property…and I have to admit, I still try to create similar sketches of my garden today, although mine are no where near as beautiful as hers. Of course, I don’t have half a billion dollars to support it and a staff of who knows how many, but I can dream!