Return to the Winter Garden Forum | Post a Follow-Up

 o
Your aging and winter gardens

Posted by luseal (My Page) on
Mon, Oct 28, 02 at 22:47

TO MAKE GARDENING EASIER AS YOU AGE, PLANT A GARDEN TO LOOK GOOD IN THE WINTER,
(Only read this essay if gardening is your passion and you want to continue gardening to the bitter end.")

When I began serious gardening at the age of 23, I was as strong as a peasant woman. On week-ends I could garden for 10 to 12 hours with nary a sore muscle or aching joint. Before and after work on week days I would even put in an hour or two of hard work with no sore bones. But once I hit the age of 50, things began to creak, moan and pain me. At the age of 52 I got a bad case of vertigo which lasted two weeks. I was bedridden with this for one week, flat on my back. This is when it dawned on me, "Since I am not that super woman of age 23 how would I take care of my extensive garden if some physical problem really limits me in working in my garden? I was especially thinking of this physical problem called "aging. I am now, way over 50, (older than Martha Stewart) and feel like 101,sometimes.
I do not want to be one of those older gardeners who whine and lament: "I cannot work in my garden any more. It is too much for me. I can't bend, dig, weed, trim or plant like I did years ago. I do not have the stamina and energy. I get too sore working in the garden. My garden looks a mess. I must remove most of the plants and go back to just grass. Annuals are too much work. Perennials need too much cutting back and separating. Are my gardening days over? And finally, should I sell my property and move."

Truthfully, all of the above statements are a reality for most older gardeners. Our bones do hurt us. Our bodies do slow down. We can not do what we did 30 years ago. So what are we to do? If gardening makes you happy and you do not wish to give it up, Plan for your older gardening days. How do you plan for your older gardening days? You do this by planning and planting a garden that looks beautiful in the Winter. These two can go hand in hand. This article is mainly written for gardeners in the Northeast U.S., zones 5-6-7-8.

Planting a garden to look beautiful in three seasons and also in the winter means you must plant flowering shrubs, conifers, evergreen trees and deciduous trees that look especially good in the winter. It might be their bark, shape or color. Your winter garden should invite you to want to be in it even though the weather is cold or snowy. You must have enough interest and structure in your garden that it beckons to you to want to sit, walk around, and even putter in it even though the garden is dormant. This is very possible and the way I planned my garden. Let me tell you about my philosophy of winter gardening which is also my philosophy of gardening now that I am much older than 23.

Evergreen structure is the most important aspect of a winter garden. Look at your own garden. When your annuals and perennials die down, do you have "nothing?" I inwardly cry when I view a totally annual or perennial garden. It is so short lived for the amount of work involved. Why couldn't they have also planted evergreen shrubs in this garden for structure in the winter? The number of wonderful miniature and small conifers is legion. They look wonderful for four seasons of the year and get better with age. Get a good garden book and look up conifer shrubs to get ideas or talk with a horticulturist and pick his/her brain for his favorite choices. Plant many of them in every bed. In the winter, this is what you will be enjoying.

Annual Flower Beds - Forget them. They demand too much work for 'me ol' bones'. Not only must you replant annuals each year but that bed becomes a nothing in the winter. Number one on my out list are annual beds. Do I plant annuals anymore? Truthfully? Yes, I do plant a few but not like I did years ago. I especially do not use them as borders because they disappear in winter and I do not use them much as fillers, for the same reason. If I do need an annual plant, I usually resort to the larger flowering New Guinea impatiens or similar plants. Easy in - easy out.

Perennial Flower Beds- I love it when gardeners say, " I only plant perennial flowers " 'cause they are no work". To develope a beautiful perennial flower bed can be labor intensive. My greatest frustration in gardening was my perennial beds which are no more. Do I plant perennials? Yes, but not a whole bed. Most of my perennials are planted with conifers and shrubs and they are the type that you do not cut flat in the winter , but rather are left for the snow to do its magic. Which perennials give you the most for your time invested? Lilies, daylilies, all spring bulbs daisys, rudbeckia, goats beard, peonies, tree peonies, vitex, hostas, hydrangeas, etc. You know what works best for you.

Cut down on hard jobs such dividing or removing overgrown plants- round up young, willing and able budding gardeners and encourage them to help themselves to your hostas or ostrich ferns or whatever plant is taking over your beds. I have even put a small sign in the front of my house - FREE -HOSTAS, FERNS,+FLOWERS. One morning a little boy came to my door with a big wagon and said "my mommy wants hostas, thank you." He returned home with a polite note from me stating that is was a "dig your own deal". She did return with him and they filled the wagon.

Weeding- You can minimize weeding by planting thickly and using the filler plant ,i.e. hostas. Buy the newer varieties of this wonderful plant. Get rid of the old common variegated ones. They are feasts for slugs.

Mulching - I do not mulch as much as I did years ago. Even though mulching cuts down on weeding, it is a lot of back breaking work. Decide for yourself how much you can do. If I am having a special party at my home I might bring in a dozen bags of mulch and place it in the beds I want to pretty up. If I am having a really big event, I hire some one to mulch my beds. Saves your ol' bones.

Around each bed I plant Korean boxwood (all my English boxwood died). There may be as many as 30 to 40 surrounding each bed. Do you know how beautiful boxwood make each bed in the winter when most gardens are bare? Boxwoods add structure and look great with snow on them. Actually my boxwood hedges look great in all the seasons as they neatly frame my overflowing flowering shrubs, conifers, and flowers.

Where boxwood hedges are too heavy or another effect is needed, I use Liriope as a hedge. Variegated and Green Liriope are my latest love. They are as tough as nails, slugs shun them, they grow fuller each year, their texture is fine and desirable, and they are evergreen most of the time. They even look good in the winter until a prolong freeze hits them. Liriope only need cutting down with a serrated knife in March or April. I have even gotten rid of my common hostas which I used to use as borders. In a good wet year as was the year 2000, the slugs feasted on the hostas and by the end of August everyone's hostas looked like Queen Ann's lace.

Around most beds I edge with bricks laid flat and even with the ground so the lawn mower wheel can easily mow over them. This brick framing makes it easier for me because I do not have to dig to edge my bed each Spring. In the winter I sweep the bricks and that neatens them and In the early summer I simply remove any stray overflowing grass. I have noticed that if the edging of your beds look tidy, your beds look cared for.
Verticle interest- Arbors of vines add height, vertical interest, and are fun to walk under. Do not remove the dry vines in the winter. The snow lands on them and they become a structure so different from what they looked like in the summer. An alluring snow tunnel. One of my long nine foot arbors is planted with two weeping evergreen atlas cedars. The weeping effect in winter is like icicles. Also in each bed plant a strong verticle structural plant. Something pyramidal. Usually in my beds it is a Hinoki, tall cypress, tall juniper, strong chubby yew, or Alberta spruce.

Air conditioning - I never wanted central air-conditioning because I was told that you will never want to work outside anymore. I found out this is not true. I garden more since my " Air " was installed. How so? I know that if I work outside in 90+ degrees and am really sweltering, I only have to drag myself inside, have an ice tea, sit down for awhile to cool off, and I am fit to go outside for another hour or more. There were very few hot summer days that I did not garden at all. On those days it was because the humidity was 90+, the gnats were bad, the mosquitoes were in full force, or it was pouring rain.

Flowering Shrubs - Use flowering shrubs such as evergreen and deciduous azaleas, enkianthus, crape myrtle, viburnums, rhodes, andromadas, vitex, and many butterfly bushes. Don't only plant azaleas in your front garden but fill your back garden with tons of them. It is a spectacular effect in the Spring and even in the Winter with snow on them. So what if they don't flower in the Summer or Fall. Neither do daylilies bloom in the Spring or winter.
Small trees - On the ends of some beds I have been planting a small deciduous tree that will give me dappled shade as I walk through the paths. I do not like to walk through a garden that is in full sun. These trees though, will not give me heavy shade. If they do begin to give me heavy shade, I raise their hems, thin out selective branches, or remove wide arms. I am a little concerned about my limber pine because each spring, even though I cut the new growth in half, the tree is getting too tall to do this without a tall ladder. I think I planted too large a tree in a garden bed.

Almost all the trees in my garden are flowering ones. What more can you ask for? Remember, these trees not only give you flowers and dapple shade in the summer and spring but also add interest in the fall and winter with snow upon their branches. Good choices are: weeping cherry, kwanzan cherry, styrax, franklinia, southern magnolias, soulangiana magnolia, crape myrtles, dogwoods, acer palmatum, acer grisium and all unusual maples, stewartia, sweet bay magnolia, fringe tree, golden raintree, sourwood, vitex trees, holly trees, and my favorite non-flowering trees; china fir, limber pine, umbrella pine, dragon's eye pine, and stately soaring dawn redwood.

I now do not clean out my beds and lawn in the Fall or Spring. I hire
Someone to do that. You can not do everything. A crew of five men
came this November, right before Thanksgiving. It was wonderful to see
these strong able guys rake and neaten all my beds and paths. They
reminded me of my ol' husband when he was 30-40 years old and strong as
they are now. They were finished in one day and it only cost me $400.00.How pleasant it was this winter to walk in my garden each day and see neaten beds instead of looking at all the work I would have cleaning up in the Spring. My husband loved it too.
The date today is November 10th,2001, in Eastern Pennsylvania and many of my large deciduous trees have already dropped their colorful leaves and all my flowers are gone. Even my sugar maples are bare. But, I still do have
14 acer palmatum dissectums in full leaf. - brilliant red, yellow and orange, three shagbark maples ( acer grisium), are brilliant red. My 10 oakleaf hydrangeas, 'Snow Queen' are glorious mottled shades with all the
leaves still on and all the large flowers still on. My enkiantus are brilliant red and all my azaleas have leaves that look great. Some are maroon and yellow in color. The foliage of the mentioned trees and plants seem to me to
keep their bright and colorful leaves the longest. There is nothing in this Fall garden that I must coddle or give much attention to. Everything returns.

I garden on 2 acres of land that used to be only grass with large trees around the perimeter. Over the past 30 years of gardening on this property, I have put in at least thirty beds of all shapes and sizes. I did not make these beds all at once. Each year I added one or two. Was my garden planned on paper and systematically implemented? No. Like Topsy," it just growed". In each bed I plant one acer palmatum, a group of pink or lavender azaleas, a vitex, a butterfly bush for height, a hinoki or unusual conifer shrub or two, and always a tall impressive pyramidal evergreen conifer for dramatic interest.

With my Fall garden all cleaned and gussied up, all winter long I can leisurely putter around, snip here and there and enjoy myself. And you must have large garden benches placed around your garden. I have five sturdy ones placed in far reaches of the garden. This is especially important in the winter when one may not really want to be outside and be uncomfortable.

Bundled up in winter coat, hat, gloves and with a hot cup of coffee in one hand and snippers in the other hand, the benches at the far ends of the garden are a nice destination where I can sit and enjoy my Winter Garden. This is different from what one often reads, "winter is the time to sit by your fireplace with garden catalogues in hand and "dream green". Each day that it is possible, I stroll and snip around the beds and sit on each of the benches and take in the view. My three cats also follow me and sit with me on the benches. Lulu Cat, usually snuggles in my furry coat lapels. This September I got a Maltese puppy, Cocoa-Mulch, who is now part of my entourage. Having a puppy this winter ensured that I would be outside five or six times a day. What is more fun than being in your garden with your cats and dogs? And husband? A husband to whom you can point out all the garden warts and things you want him to help you with come early spring.

Nothing do I love more than lying across my bed looking out of my upstairs window at the full green winter garden below. Even without a snow covering there are large spaces of lush green pachysandra carpeting the ground. My two red brick terraces and a brown stoned courtyard also make for pretty carpeting.

Nothing do I love more than sitting or walking in the early morning garden during or after a snow fall - Coat over bathrobe, rubber boots on, fortified with that hot mug of coffee and my "beasts".......Aah...... Do not garden for only three seasons of beauty. Also make an interesting WINTER GARDEN. Luseal


Follow-Up Postings:

 o
RE: Your aging and winter gardens

A lovely post Luceal.

I'm so glad to have read your views. Until I read them, I was beginning to feel like somewhat of a "quitter" - but I was tired of all the sod turning, planting, weeding, staking, etc, etc, - but could never live in a condo, never leave my garden and had only one alternative then - to make it manageable in my "dotage". So I'm slowly but surely eradicating those things in the garden that demand too much attention. Because, alas, you're right - the bones betray us. (When I talk to young people about the gardens they are busily creating with great enthusiasm, I laugh and tell them to be careful what they make - creating a garden is like having a child - once you have it, you must take good care of it!!)

So, after a lifetime of annuals and perennials - (I think at one time or another, I've tried every plant in the book), I've been changing the direction of my gardening - not only to something less labour intensive but also to something I can enjoy year round. (Quite important with my house actually since the back has huge floor to ceiling windows that overlook the garden and when there is nothing for the snow to fall upon - sheer boredom.)

For the past few years, I've also been in the habit of buying evergreens on sale and planting them in large pots where they give life to my otherwise winter-sterile decks. Once they get too big for the pots, its into the ground they go.

So, Luceal, here's to "winter" gardens for year round pleasure and all the joy they bring - and the work they don't! Cheers!


 o
RE: Your aging and winter gardens

thank you for this great post! Very motivating and some good stuff to think about. I am currently trying to rid my yard of too many boring green things that don't look pretty when they aren't blooming (rhodies, azaleas)and am hoping to get more large border shrubs that are interesting to look at all year. I have to convice my other half that the rhodies aren't any fun, and that's been a challenge!

Cheryl


 o
RE: Your aging and winter gardens

Garlicgoddess: You're response is 180* diametrically opposite that of Luceal's comments. Living in the PNW as you do, you have year round interest with rhodies/azalea. Rather than tear down.......augment. supplement. divirsify with other plantings.

I count ovr 100 rhodie/azalea in my gardens for winter interest. Right now, native azaleas (decidious) are in glorious shades of yellow, orange and red. Yes, there's the beautyberry, the ilex verticillata amongst the dozen other hollies for fall/winter viewing. The dwarf conifers also serve as points of interest and structure to the dormant garden.....but hold on for a minute before you start tearing things up

Work with what you have. And you're ready to forsake glorious spring blooms for winter interest? You can have it all if you work smartly and with your heart.

Ted


 o
RE: Your aging and winter gardens

I have to respond... thanks, I have been trying to do what I did so well 30 years ago. I am now over 50 and couldn't figure out where and why my gardening went wrong. I have been adding and building like crazy now that we stopped moving around the world and bought our home. Just really tired thinking of everything I should do in the garden beds and frustrated when I accomplish so little. And too busy "doing" to figure out what I shouldn't be doing. Nice insight for these older bones.


 o
RE: Your aging and winter gardens

Its not only ageing that affects the way you garden. Professional schedules and additional interests affect it too. Having started my garden when I was working full time in a very demanding job, I would never have accomplished anything if I had stuck to perennials and annuals.

Instead, I did a lot of research and planted a lot of flowering shrubs, including roses, some deciduous shrubs, some evergreen, a couple of nice trees for interest over several seasons, etc. I use some perennials as fillers in the borders and a few annuals as well, but thats about it. I do put up as many bulbs as possible, specially those that naturalize well, such as daffodils and grape hyachints. They are no work at all and provide splashes of colour throughout the year.

I have been helping a friend to start her garden and Ive used the same approach. Shes also a busy professional woman and has no time to spend deadheading annuals or sowing seeds. Her garden is already looking so much nicer than her next doors neighbours, who went for the dull look and stuck a palm tree in the middle of a lawn... ;-)

I have the feeling garden centres tend to push annuals and other labour intensive plants on people solely in order to benefit their business. Because most people dont know how to properly care for them or have the time to do so, they end up dying miserably and then they need to rush to buy some more.

Anyway, dont misinterpret me, a lovingly tended garden based in perennials and annuals is a wonderful sight to see, but most people nowadays dont have the time and/or the energy to do it - even if theyre younger!

Eduarda


 o
RE: Your aging and winter gardens

Luseal-- Your advice is wonderful and solid advice for all of us, old and young. I appriciate you sharing your approach in detail and also your inspiring enthusiasm for your winter garden!


 o
RE: Your aging and winter gardens

what a nice essay.
I am now going on 61 and have cut down somewhat in my work schedule this year and have spent every minute of that time off in the garden.
I have been very lucky that a good friend about 8 years ago gave me 3 hellebores and they have multiplied like crazy.
These wonderful plants are evergreen and are truly a no care plant.
They stay pretty and green all winter, in fact winter is their time to shine. Right now in late fall they are putting on all their new fresh green growth.
Later in dead of winter they start to send up their wonderful flowers, when everything else in the garden is still sleeping. Those same flowers stay on the stem fora full 3 months and then drop seeds which make small colonies of plants.
I did read with interest that changing the style of plants can help eliminate some of the work. I, myself, have been adding more ground covers, like Heuchera, to take over the open spaces between some of the plants where weeds love to pop up their heads.
One year I put in yards of expensive landscape fabrics to help keep the weeds out and save me some work. About 3 years later, I have been ripping it all out as it is stifling some of the plants and not allowing seeds to drop to the ground from desirable plants and germinate. It also seems to be keeping the natural process from happening, whereby the leaves that fall decompose and turn into wonderful compost for my garden.
Mary from Gainesville, GA


 o
RE: Your aging and winter gardens

Luseal, Thank you for sharing that with us. But you should have sent it to a gardening magazine. I would much rather read your post than many or the dry articles in the magazines. I feel people are working too hard to have a garden like the "Joneses", instead of planning something they can handle, and enjoy. I think people try too hard to achieve "perfect" and don't get to enjoy it. Although at my place, you can look and see I am more in the class of a plain lazy gardener. Lotta


 o
RE: Your aging and winter gardens

What a wonderful post. I'm only 45 but have arthritis already in my knees & it is slowly dawning on me that the hardscape is a wonderful thing. In fact, I'm thinking of planting Kalmia the whole length of our driveway. I'm committed to deleting the rose of sharon - which I detest anyway and replacing with something evergreen, and probably some of the overgrown, scraggly lilacs will go to the same fate. I just edited 18 forest trees out of our 2 acres this week and will replace with flowering trees and shrubs.
Feels good to do some clean up - though this is on a grander scale than I've ever done before.


 o
RE: Your aging and winter gardens

Luseal, I've just found your post. You have said so well what it is that I am beginning to face. Now that I can afford to do some nice things in our yard, I realize that I will not long be physically able to maintain some of my dream projects and must reconsider previous plans in order to make what I do more appropriate to my age and condition.

We need to plan and plant evergreens and other plants with structural interest for winter and fall color. Hardscaping with structures that stand alone in being attractive without decorative plantings to carry them is another thing I must think about.

Reading your commonsense approach to the need to simplify is helping me to look at simplifying as an interesting challenge, rather than a dreary prospect.

My best to you as you garden in winter,

Rebecca


 o
RE: Your aging and winter gardens

Some interesting ideas here. I am 70 and live in Central California. Gardening never ends here, but I think we have to work smarter as we grow older. My back really hurts this morning because I moved 6 rose bushes on Thursday. That wasn't too smart. On the other hand the roses were snagging my pants when I climbed a ladder to clean the gutter. When my wife fell in the roses while settling a "paw-de-cuffs" matter between two of our cats, I decided they had to be moved. When I say smarter I think we must organize everything in our lives. Make lists, use a computer if you do that sort of thing and stick to routines. Make only small changes and then remind yourself of the change so it becomes a "new" habit. I find life is a lot better than 30 or 40 years ago. At 70 I may be slower, but I have a lot of experience and habits that carry me through the day. Thanks, for the ideas, Luseal. I am saving all these ideas and using them in a talk I am planning for a Toastmasters group in the near future.


 o
RE: Your aging and winter gardens

Luseal's essay was the most inspiring thing I have read in many years. Having turned 70 this past year and having had a second knee replacement also - as well as two sessions of Lyme Disease - this has NOT been a good year. However I discovered Luseal's essay this morning and as I read it, it made me realize that in spite of myself I had not done too badly - that out of necessity my garden has gradually evolved into a fine year round place to be. I actually prefer my garden in the winter when the simple forms, textures and colors are so soothing. (My annuals go in pots on decks and terraces!)
My husband is considerably older than me and we certainly cannot and do not accomplish as much as we would wish. For this reason I was feeling despondent - but Luseal has made me aware of the positive aspects. For this I truly thank her.
(As someone suggested - she should submit it for publication - FIne Gardening may be???) I intend to share it with my fellow garden clubbers. I know it wil be appreciated.


 o
RE: Your aging and winter gardens

What a wonderful post! I find myself at 45 thinking about what this bed is going to look like in a few years and will I be able to tend to it, before I ever get it in the ground. It is nice to be reminded that whatever the age we can still get out and enjoy some kind of gardening. Thanks for the reminder, Luseal. Happy winter gardening. Debbie


 o
one solution

For awhile I thought I had arthritis because everything I did after gardening hurt. But then I learned that all I really needed to do is stretch and stretch on a regular basis. Since I've done that, I hardly ever have a gardening injury.

At first I resented the time I had to spend stretching. But after I did it for awhile, I learned that one can knock out a stretching routine in about 20" a day. And if you're really lazy about it, you can get away with a few stretching sessions a week after you've lengthened your muscle fibers. I happen to think a daily stretching session is a good thing, however, so I advocate that. You can do it while you listen to NPR and your kitty cat will join you, too. They love all that stretching business.

My chiropracter told me that if people stretched on a regular basis, his business would be decreased by about 90 per cent!

It's true. After I learned the value of stretching, I quit going to see him so frequently.

The stretching examples he gave me were from stretch.com.

Cher


 o
RE: Your aging and winter gardens

Luseal, you have a gift. What a lovely essay! Thank you for sharing it with us.


 o
RE: Your aging and winter gardens

Great post Luseal. When I retired I found I didn't have the money at my disposal to buy all the new things I wanted and put in more shrubs and ground covers and have since let it mature rather than digging new beds. It looks alot better I think and I have come to realize that forms and hardscaping add a lot to the winter garden.

Cher - I'm going to check out the website on stretching.


 o
RE: Your aging and winter gardens

Luseal: I live in NYC and belong to a Senior Center. We have 4 boxes approx 4 ft L by 3 ft W and 3.5 ft H reserved for the Seniors. I am a leader of the garden group and in the Fall we all went down by the East River and planted our bulbs-Tulips & Daffies. A modest beginning and a start to the gardening season. Everyone took part and enjoyed the effort. Now we wait until Spring. Your article will be circulated among our members for inspiration. Thanks again.


 o
RE: Your aging and winter gardens

luseal, I am only 37, but that was a wonderful post with some great wisdom. Thank you.


 o
RE: Your aging and winter gardens

  • Posted by Corrie 2b MB Canada (My Page) on
    Sun, Feb 9, 03 at 23:10

What a wonderful post; thanks so much Luseal. You've surely given many of us both confidence that we can garden long into our "golden years" and beyond that, a recipe for doing it successfully! Having turned fifty (and still can't quite believe it) last year, I too am feeling the effects, especially in the knees and especially on cold ground, and I know it's not going to get better.

Like others have mentioned, I've spent many years and much money planting lots of annuals and perennials (not to mention that huge veggie garden every summer) and it wasn't until I began planting some shrubs, especially a few everygreens, that the lights turned on. I plan to include many more of these in the next few years, and hopefully will have a garden that is both beautiful and manageable even when I am no longer either, haha. Thanks Luseal! Corrie

Sorry I'm not sure how to post a link, but you might enjoy this;

http://www.holistichealthtools.com/purple.html


 o
RE: Your aging and winter gardens

I would love to see a photograph of your garden, luseal. I have only a picture in my mind's eye, and I'd be curious to see how closely it matches.

Thanks very much for your essay.


 o
RE: Your aging and winter gardens

Iam going to get that special camera and take some pictures of my garden in all seasons. I think I must have digital camera to do that and I only use a cheap disposable camera for my own self. I will show you views and paths not individual blooms 'cause that is what i am mainly interested it. I want my garden above all to have a feeling or a mood. Walking in a beautiful garden should be like Mario Buatta feels as he walks into a beautiful room. Or how the pope feels when he walks into a beautiful church that has atmosphere. Did you ever go to a fine opera house and the curtain opens to a Franco- what ever his hname is set and it takes your breath away? Anyway, i will get pictures. I'm a goin'ta Arizona tomorrow to garden in my brothers desert garden and soak in his big spa, get some sun, eat a cowboy steak with cowboy beans, eat mexican food, and shop till I drop. !


 o
RE: Your aging and winter gardens

luseal. your post was indeed inspirational. When I was somewhat "younger" with tons of energy I could, carry, lift, dig up just about anything. However, this year I set out with a plan but my body just doesn't want to cooperate. It is quite difficult when you are used to doing everthing yourself and now I have to say to dh can you move this for me, can you dig up this one area etc. Mind you it does lighten your workload when you can swallow your pride and ask for help. Some times we have to wake up and "smell" the roses and let others dig the holes and plant them. I will keep on gardening though as long as the Good Lord allows it. Thanks again for your encouragement. God bless all you wonderful garden folk.


 o
RE: Your aging and winter gardens

Your post was such an inspiration ! I have begun changing my garden and incorporating many of the shrubs and plants you have mentioned. I have also begun a clematis garden of over 100 plants to make summers colorful with a minimum of work. I am a person who HAS to be outside whenever possible and I will always garden, but I MUST make it easier on these aging bones. Planting hundreds of Impatiens is killing me too, so I must learn to stop killing myself with that chore every year. A few here and there, but no longer hundreds ! I have also begun planting Hardy Geraniums/Cranesbill where those Impatiens "used" to live for their gorgeous all summer flowers with no effort from me. Changes are happening and I actually love the way it looks ! We think alike, or do our stiff, aching bones think alike ? Your words gave me a smile laced with memories of the garden's "old days", but the reassurance that we old gardeners don't just lay down and die ! We CAN make beautiful changes that are less work !
Suzymac


 o
RE: Your aging and winter gardens

Even though I'm in N. Florida, your post is still very applicable for me also. I'm almost 45 and as you start to feel twinges here and there you realize you can't do everything the same way you always have in your garden. I enjoyed it so much I have bookmarked it to save for future reference. I agree that what you wrote was better than what you find in 90% of the gardening magazines. You are a very talented writer! Thanks for sharing with us.

Effie


 o
RE: Your aging and winter gardens

Luceal, I am only 33 and am just starting my gardening adventure--preparing to landscape our first home. I want to enjoy my garden, not be a slave to it, and so am focusing on shrubs--those that flower, provide texture, look great in winter, etc. Your post was so encouraging. I'm going to keep checking back in hopes of seeing some pictures!
Tricia


 o
RE: Your aging and winter gardens

I just found this forum and read this thread .
Luseal , I can sure identify with all you say about the ability to garden when you are older .
I turned 70 last November , but my problem is just as much poor health as it is age .
Having suffered with Fibromyalgia Syndrome and arthritis , for years and years , has taken a toll on this aging body !
I had just came in from push-mowing part of our big yard .
It is 78 degrees (in the shade) , and around 80% humidity .
I was covered with sweat , my face red as a beet , and my heart beating like mad .I set down here at my computor , and found your good advice .
My yard is a hodge-podge of trees and flowerbeds .
I have a riding mower , but it's too hard to get it in all the 'nooks and cranies'.
My husband is 6 years older than I , and has numerous health problems , as well as a certain amount of dementia .
So it is my responsibilty to do almost everything ,inside ,outside ,and everywhere else !!
I have planted several evergreen trees , and lots of flowering trees and shrubs , but I still have too many flowerbeds . I am trying to incorporate more low maintenance plants , like peonies and hosta .Also clematis
and lilies .
When worse comes to worse (which it will ,if the Good Lord doesn't call me home pretty soon ), I can probably find someone who can mow for me .
Last year , and the year before , I almost gave up gardening.
My ailments had came close to overwhelming me .Then I had corrective surgery , and am much better this year .But I know I can't keep in forever !!
So , I want to thank you for your very good essay , and I hope it stays on this forum for a long time , so I , and others , can gain wisdom from it .
Thank you , Marian


 o
RE: Your aging and winter gardens

I just found this wonderful post, too, and I hope they keep it here forever so that people can just happen along and be inspired. Luseal, you've done a wonderful thing. Well, from the sound of your post, you've been doing about twelve wonderful things a day for decades, but I mean in particular, this post is a wonderful thing. Thank you. And for everybody who posts, I bet there are ten people who loved it!


 o
RE: Your aging and winter gardens

Lucille, Your post is an inspiration. Just full of smart ideas. Thank you so much for reinforcing what I've been thinking about since turning 50 a few years ago. I think I was on the right track, but your ideas have really really helped. Blessings on you and your garden and your pets too! Cynthia


 o
RE: Your aging and winter gardens

Luseal - I have been converting my backyard into a 4-seasons garden this year, and have borrowed many of your ideas for this project. It has been so helpful to refer to your essay as I go along.

Thanks so much for sharing your wisdom.


 o
RE: Your aging and winter gardens

I liked this so much that I wanted it added to the FAQ, but there wasn't one! So I emailed Spike, and Lucille's essay will now be in the Winter Gardening FAQ where we can all access it and don't have to worry about it slipping away from us. Thank you again Lucille! Later in the season when there's more activity here, I'll post some discussion questions about what else should be added to the FAQ. (Though it seems Lucille has covered everything :-)


 o
RE: Your aging and winter gardens

Cynthia - thanks so much for having this lovely essay added to the FAQ. It would be such a shame to lose it.


 o
RE: Your aging and winter gardens

Although I'm 56, I'm facing my first winter as a gardener. The house I bought exactly a year ago had very little growing in the yard except some wild ferns that surprised me in the spring and a beautiful old dogwood. And last winter's incessant snow didn't encourage me to spend any extra time outdoors! Now I've spent 9 months planting green things. I have only a quarter acre corner lot but want to cover as much of it as possible with garden beds. This is the first November that has really made me sad because I miss all the perennials and ferns I've been caring for all summer. On the other hand, I know that this feeling of being a "care taker" for plants should be a warning not to plant too many that need too much care. I live alone and pay for lawn maintenance all summer, so heavy duty work is either mine & free or expensive & Someone Else's.
My across-the-street neighbor is in a somewhat similar position, although she has three grown-up sons and a beautifully mature and well-cared for yard. She has been an inspiration to me all year as I watched her calmly coping with the terrible snows we had last winter, cutting her own lawn and tending the part of her garden that I can see in the summer, mulching leaves in the fall. She's retired and always seems to know what to do to make the best use of her time. I admire her and hope to grow into someone like her by the time I have the opportunity to retire. I would like to have a well-planned and attractive yard, too, where the seasons' cycle works properly.

Luseal's essay has given me another important guideline to planning how I should grow my gardens. I nearly killed myself digging beds and battling roots last summer because I'd never held a shovel before last spring (except a snow shovel). I figured I was just out of shape (too true) and that pushing myself to do more was the way to go. I've planted 80 ferns, a dozen tiny rose of sharon bushes, 30 assorted "beginner" size shrubs and trees, 530 bulbs and several dozen 8-foot sunflowers (started indoors in March) in the past two seasons. There's space for at least two more beds next year, plus I'll have to learn to grow vegetables some day. But although I knew I wanted to make most of the lawn go away eventually, I had no idea what to do next.
Luseal's essay is exactly what I needed to read right now. Thanks to Luseal for writing it and to Cynthia for posting it where I could find it as I face my first winter as a care-taker for plants. My cat will testify that I take good care of him. I've shared my life with cats for 35 years and gotten fairly good at it. I hope to have gardens that will say the same for me some day.


 o
RE: Your aging and winter gardens

Gee, I am 34 and just moved into my fiance's fantastic house in which the outside garden has been basically abanonded for 7 years. I have a few challenges ahead to try to bring it back to life and as I sit and look at it with the onset of winter, it is pretty boring. The drought of this summer killed off most of the pine trees, there are a couple of holly trees, but they are looking rather piqued. Grape vines and locust trees have taken over the rest and with the nature of these underground houses, literally the neighbors roof is twenty feet into our front yard with renters who do not maintain their roof top garden. I've been dying to contact the owners and ask if I can do some plantings, but was unsure of what to do. But reading your posting, I've decided to cut back the overgrowth and plant shrubs and evergreens, so that they are easy maintenance and are easy on the eyes. Thanks for the inspiration!

Lots of Love and Light,
~Tumbleweeder


 o
RE: Your aging and winter gardens

What a nice bunch of letters. Now I know where to find real gardeners. I also have had to cut back, and to do things the easy way. Next year I hope to get somone to cut the grass, I like doing it, but it becomes a chore thet I can save myself from.

I Live in the city, in a big old house with a large lot. I have a Japanese garden that I designed, as I have the other beds. After 30 years it is developing nicely, and I know so much more. And I too wonder what the future will be, I can't imagine not gardening.

I am over 80, and reading your letters I realise that I am healthier than most . I do almost all of the work, but I put in fewer annuals and bulbs now. I do grow a lot of lilies in my periannual beds and would like touch base with someone who also does lots of flowers.
As for stretching, absolutely.... Every day..and to the gym 3 times aweek for weight lifting . I don't let myself take it easy. It makes a huge difference in your ability to work. I have artheritis, back trouble and all those old lady things.


 o
RE: Your aging and winter gardens

Posting to put this back on top. We use every leaf available over newspaper to keep the winter weeds out. We plant hollies but avoid conifers due to bag worm infestation in our area. We have learned to avoid perennials that need a lot of dividing including lirope spicata even tho it is beautiful as edging and the berries are eaten by blue birds in late winter. We didn't know about the different varieties when it was given to us. We still use it but had to have a lot of it dug out and discarded this past summer. The structure of the garden is another thing to consider. Adding hardscape in form of raised beds is both attractive and beneficial and putting attractive hand rails where they might be most needed. Most gardens outlive the gardeners. We are the 2nd caretakers of ours and hope who ever comes after will appreciate our efforts and respect our work and plants. We both know one of us couldn't do it alone and know the time will come when we'll need to make decisions or be prepared to pay for more help. Accepting reality is common sense but so is keeping in the best possible condition. Luseal we hope you'll keep going and post some photos for us eventually. EP


 o
RE: Your aging and winter gardens

Thank God I had sense to go into conifers a few years back.I just found out that this summer i must have 2 knees replaced. And i am in my mid 60s. I go into my winter garden each day even tho it is ice and snow and sit on my banches in the sun. Remember, you must have a few benches in your garden spaced all over. I am hiring a group of guys for spring clean up and a guy to help me a day or two for a few hrs at a time. I will not neglect my garden. my friend got a digital camera and will take pictures of this for you when I get my act together. I love the slide show of EP in the message above.I now garden alone as my italian gardener and husband passed away last December. This year I actually added a lot and yet simplified things for myself. I coated my benches with 2 coats of marine polyurathane so that I can sit on them with one wipe of a towel after the rain or snow.Any way I am please that you all like this essay or post.


 o
RE: Your aging and winter gardens

Thanks luseal. I am 70 and had a knee replacement last July with good results. thankful my companion is here. good luck. Keep us posted. EP


 o
RE: Your aging and winter gardens

  • Posted by ekin z6/7 Ky (My Page) on
    Fri, Mar 12, 04 at 21:24

Dear luseal,
God bless you dear. ....((((hugs you))))....I am sorry to hear your husband passed. Eternal rest to him and may perpetual light shine upon him.
I have been wandering these boards for a while now, this is my first post.
I realize your gardens are a haven for you, as mine are for me. Your posts caught my eye because they echo what I have thought all along, that we should plant with an eye to the future and not stare at the present quite so hard.
I will turn 42 soon. Bad knees and a busy scheduale keep me from my "Eden" much of the year. I too will print out your original essay to use as a reference guide.
It was truly a work worthy of publication and I thank you for it.
My parents are 75 and 76 respectively and helping in their care after Daddy had his stroke years ago is what got me started thinking along these lines.
I took today off from other obligations and worked in the front "yarden". I began fencing it in completely and will remove the "crazy fence" as I go along. (((bubbles of fencing around every single bed to keep the wild life out))) I also took down one holly tree and a good chunk of another. Reading your posts made me realize that may have been a mistake after all. I can't undo what I've done today, but I can keep from taking anything else out until I've had some more "creative time" in the garden.
God Bless,
Ekin



 o
RE: Your aging and winter gardens

Every zone and garden is different. Every gardener is different. I'm pleasantly surprised to learn that Luseal's not much older than I. My gardening mentors are in their seventies and eighties.

I wouldn't miss the annual azalea show for anything, even though they require care and vines and tree seedlings grow up in them and have to be grubbed out.

Behind the azaleas are hydrangeas; wouldn't miss the summer show, either. I have paths through the wilderness so the mower can take care of some of the growth. All beds now are planned with an eye toward 'old age' but I'm not finished yet.

Luseal, I hope your surgery goes quickly and healing is swift.


 o
RE: Your aging and winter gardens

Eight years ago I was blessed in having my path cross with a wonderful gardener here, Mr. Blough. Mr. B's home was situated on 40+ acres of wonderful grounds covered with rhodos, mature trees of all types, daylilies, lawns, rock gardens and a multitude of plants. When we first met him we spent hours wandering thru his paradise! Most the 'staples' of our gardens came from Mr. B, the day lilies, bee balms, ornamental grasses, fringe trees, rhodos and many, many more. One thing I learned from him was the structure of his gardens, the defining structure of each pathway and 'room' were trees and shrubs. Mr. B passed away this winter, I'm sure he continues his passion on the other side and that he is once again developing another garden paradise.


 o
RE: Your aging and winter gardens

Another easy-care "plant" in addition to evergreen trees and shrubs that will add structure and winter interest that no one has yet mentioned is ... ROCKS!

All you have to do is hire a crew to place them in the ground to look naturalized. You can have them placed in and around existing trees, amongst your conifers and other shrubs, framing a few bulbs and perennials, and voila! Instant non-maintenance beauty. The Japanese have been appreciating true rock gardens for thousands of years. I'm even thinking of replacing a few shrubs with rocks!


 o
RE: Your aging and winter gardens

Dear Luseal and Everyone who contributed here. What a wonderful group you are. I felt so privileged to read your heartwarming, beautifully written essay, Luseal and the many honest-to-goodness responses it engendered. You certainly tapped into a soft spot in many of us. Thanks so much. LaLa

P.S. I think you should give us an update on the state of your health and the state of your garden.


 o
RE: Your aging and winter gardens

Dear Luseal,
Your essay was just what I needed to hear... this year I invested in more perennials and just bought a few impatiems. By perennials I mean Astilbe, daylillies, hosta... I had to smile, though, because luckily the only three small hostas I bought this year are NOT variegated... they are a lovely lemony green.
Good luck with your surgery... write to us again... I want to hear how you are doing and hear some more of your wisdom.
I am in my sixties and this love or gardening only started about three years ago... my husband died five years ago... and I find it so fulfilling besides it being such a great way to keep active with bending, pulling, hoeing, lifting and on and on. I also attend an exercise class three times a week and walk as much as I can in the evenings.
I have a lovely niece who provides me with gifts from her garden, bee balm, iris, lambs ears, hummingbird vine, and many others... she is always thinking of her garden... and it is absolutely lovely... even a rose garden... she is not even 50 but I've heard her say "what is going to happen when we get older and can't do this anymore?"
Take care, I will move a bench I have to a better location as you advise. My yard is small... my husband had more foresight that I do... flagstone behind the garage, azaleas and savannah hollies, a weeping cherry, lots of dogwoods, river birches and the most gorgeous sugar maple that we planted in memory of my Dad.
The steep bank in the front is getting some steps so I can nurture my butterfly bushes and salvias, daylillies, that I have planted on it... on a part of it... so tired of ivy covering the whole bank although the boring thing is low maintenance. Now the steps need railings because I certainly need something to hang onto. What are conifers? I must find out... :-) My house also has a very steep driveway which gets pretty slippery ... will have to figure what to do about that ...
Take care Luseal, God bless you.
May in Atlanta


 o
RE: Your aging and winter gardens

Dear Luceal, your essay has brightened my day after a miserable start. I made a post on another forum and was reprimmanded because my way of gardening, according to this other poster, was not gardening at all and I shouldn't consider myself one. Well, it put me literally in tears. Now, I read your essay and I'm smiling, feeling good about myself again. You see, I became disabled 8 years ago. We've just moved last summer and are in the process of building new gardens that are 'disabled friendly'. Your essay has inspired me. My many, many thanks.

Happy gardening to all..not just those who are physically robust.

Tricia


 o
RE: Your aging and winter gardens

Luseal,
Wow, what writing! Along with the practicle sides of gardening, like structure, and keeping going when your getting on in years, you seem to look at the garden as art. I'm like that too, I just don't want the blaze of color or the dizzying array of plants for plant's sake. I want to create a mood.

For myself, when I was putting in a garden on a 20' by 25' square, I put in the basic structure. A foot path of paving stones, a weeping Japanese maple, a Japanese lantern, three azaleas, and ROCKS. (I like rockery too, long time geology fan.) That was the "bones" of my garden.
Then I was looking at it and it seemed too dull and skimpy for summer, so I did the perennial thing. Groundcover too, near the footpath.
Now, into winter I'll have the structure, in spring, bulbs and azalea blooms, and summer, lush color and foliage.
If Mr. Mole stays away!

Give us more luseal! More writing!


 o
RE: Your aging and winter gardens

  • Posted by ekin z6/7 Ky (My Page) on
    Fri, Aug 6, 04 at 23:07

As the summer progresses all the plant outlets are having those wonderful sales. I was at Lowes and ALMOST lucked out on a deal on rhodedenrons that had sold at the beginning of the season for 30 dollars each. The cashier said the price tag of a dollar each was correct and that I could have them for that. There were 10 of them! By the time I got back to them with a cart big enough to hold them, another person was on check out and said I couldn't have them for that. ((grr....)) But that's ok. I plan to buy whatever I can with an eye to the future. My last homeschooler graduated last month and it's brought major changes in my life. My gardens have been my refuge and Luseal's article has been with me all year. I will be purchasing a dump truck load of compost next week and plan to spend hours dispersing it to the sites for next year's planting of the deals I find and over winter. They will be perfect sites for the autumn leaves in the back yard too!


 o
RE: Your aging and winter gardens

What a great thread! I was looking for some ideas on winter gardening when I came across this. I live on a standard city lot, but make the most of what I have. I too love to be outside in the back during and after a snow fall. We have low voltage garden lights and seeing the snow glisting on the ground is almost as nice as seeing a summer garden in full bloom. Though I'm still "young", I find the summers passing by more frequent. Hopefully this thread will be around for everyone to read.


 o
RE: Your aging and winter gardens

My, and here I am, pushing 70 away, hard, and I'm going to have to do all that extra work!! It makes me want to get "on" with the water garden I've been planning for years, and to do that, I must expand my back yard.My husband was recently diagnosed with a brain tumor, so I have to balance my work.But, with a little rearranging of flowers, benches, and changing the fence lines--hummm, but my minds eye can just see it in winter, with snow clinging from the wisteria vine


 o
RE: Your aging and winter gardens

Thank you so much for writing this. I'm 38 but I really enjoyed reading and the glimpse into the future.


 o
RE: Your aging and winter gardens

What a beautiful post! And so sensible. I too (at the "ripe" age of 42) have also had to tell myself not to try and do too much, and I've also realized that someday soon I will have to seek occasional help with my garden. (Not only am I 42, but I'm a petite female, so trying to move large potted plants just isn't very "wise"). And as I become more experienced with gardening, I've come to learn some basics on how to make it easier on yourself.

Like don't try to put something in your garden that you know probably isn't going to work. Don't try to "stretch" your zone. Better to be safe, and not set yourself up for disappointment later. If your yard is shady with "some" direct sun for an hour or two, don't think that "maybe" a Full Sun plant might work. Work with what nature gives you. Don't obsess over your yard looking "perfect". I mean, that's the beauty of nature right... all its "imperfections". As I look out at my Japanese Maple that has bird poops on the leaves, while I can momentarily get "upset" and think I'm going to have to come up with "clever" ways to keep the birds off it, on the other hand, I tell myself not to stress too much. Birds, just like plants, are a part of nature. And I LOVE birds, and actually invite them to my yard via birdfeeders. So I should just let nature "be", no? :--)

Anyway, back to Luseal... are you a writer? If not, you should be. Your post had the feel of a writer.


 o
RE: Your aging and winter gardens

Looking back on photos from 5 years ago, I see changes already in how I consider new plantings. Beds can expand or diminish depending on where the mower runs. Shrubs that were rooted cuttings then are now as tall as me. Bulbs have become more important in my schemes.

Luseal's essay is a classic. It's in the FAQ, but it's deserving of a spot at the top of the forum page again on a cold, dreary winter day.

Nell


 o
RE: Your aging and winter gardens

Just found this essay - what a gem! Timing is good as well, as I turned 50 last year and have been wondering how long I will be able to pursue my hobby-turned-passion. My great-aunts both had vegetable gardens into their 70s and I hope that I can do the same. I've found that to ask for "garden help" for my birthday or Mother's Day gets great results! My three daughters came up last year and we cleared an area and created a large perennial bed. Now, I'm looking at it thinking I need more green in the winter. Luseal, your essay confirms it. Thanks so much for your words of wisdom.


 o
RE: Your aging and winter gardens

I just now ran across this post and so glad that I did. I'm going to bookmark it. We moved into this new house 2 years ago and have been working at landscaping ever since. This is exactly what I'm trying to achieve. We have a long narrow bed along our 70' driveway. For winter interest we have 2 varieties of red twig dogwood, witchhazel, contorted filbert, ninebark, Russian sage, hebe. rodies and Mexican feather grass. We also have an evergreen clematis on a trellis near the front porch. It's green all winter and has masses of white blooms in early spring. The back yard is a work in progress. So far we have rhodies, azaleas, strawberry tree, weeping redbud, hydrangeas and my husband's favorite fruit trees as well as a few fir trees and a maple tree that were here when we came. I also have planted a lot of sedums. They grow like crazy and are great evergreens for filling in spaces.
Like luceal I want benches. And interesting garden art, which I've been busy making. My husband is going to make a pergola for grape vines. He built a dry river bed and built a bridge over it. I'm hoping by this time next year we can just sit back and enjoy it.


 o
RE: Your aging and winter gardens

Hi There, What a great writing. You seldom see such writings even in gardening magazines. Your writing is worthy of books, as well as good named magazines.
People would certainly pay to read such information. It's personal yet geard to reach anyone.
You write with such focus and right to the point, and much info, what wisdom, you've learned through the years.
You really should check into writing books or perhaps, even somthing in your newspaper wkly, monthly etc. or even via; internet on a regular basis.
You certainly have what it takes.
Thanks for sharing,
Linda


 o
RE: Your aging and winter gardens

Oh so glad I found this post. It is beautiful and affirming that one can age gracefully. Gardening has been a therapeutic pleasure for me, and I have been wondering how I will keep this up. Your lovely writing opens up many hopes. thank you.


 o
RE: Your aging and winter gardens

Does any one know how Luseal is doing?
Her post was written in 2002
cAROL


 o
RE: Your aging and winter gardens

I agree this is a wonderful post and like most great garden plants I'm sure it will go on and on even maybe after the poster leaves this life. Herman Hesse, the German writer, once said the plant that he admired the most was the tree because of its PATIENCE. Trees put up with everything that nature can throw at it, heat, cold, drought, flood and still they survive.We have a lot to learn from them and yet we still insist on cutting them down...Oh foolish man, have you no patience?


 o
RE: Your aging and winter gardens

Plant camellias, magnolias, hollies, Trachycarpus palms, pines and yuccas. I hate azaleas... ;-)


 o
RE: Your aging and winter gardens

luseal, I love this post. It will help me with planning a new garden once I move from Florida to Connecticut. I have been in Florida for 20+ years and will have to relearn northern gardening. Show me some pictures if you can, of your winter gardens.
Sharon


 o
RE: Your aging and winter gardens

Excellent post. I am 71 and still mobile. Will be moving into a small house in a few months and must plan new gardens. Have lots of plants moved from previous house - iris, day lily, daffodil, rose, etc. Want to put in semi dwarf fruit trees and flowering cherry. I will have a vegetable garden too. I now need to decide on which dwarf evergreen and flowering shrubs to get. Also want fall colors.


 o Post a Follow-Up

Please Note: Only registered members are able to post messages to this forum.

    If you are a member, please log in.

    If you aren't yet a member, join now!


Return to the Winter Garden Forum

Information about Posting

  • You must be logged in to post a message. Once you are logged in, a posting window will appear at the bottom of the messages. If you are not a member, please register for an account.
  • Posting is a two-step process. Once you have composed your message, you will be taken to the preview page. You will then have a chance to review your post, make changes and upload photos.
  • After posting your message, you may need to refresh the forum page in order to see it.
  • Before posting copyrighted material, please read about Copyright and Fair Use.
  • We have a strict no-advertising policy!
  • If you would like to practice posting or uploading photos, please visit our Test forum.
  • If you need assistance, please Contact Us and we will be happy to help.


Learn more about in-text links on this page here