Gardens Eye Journal-December 2012

No shade, no shine, no butterflies, no bees, No fruits, no flowers, no leaves, no birds – November!  ~Thomas Hood


The dried grasses are the most lovely thing in my garden right now.  They make a beautiful impact against the gray backdrop I see throughout November.   November flew by for me because of training for work, and a much needed rest with family in Arizona.  I will be training monthly through spring so work continues to be way too busy but I keep my eye on the target of retirement August 1st.  Then it will be time to make a change and pursue my next passion.  I think I may already have found it too.

So with the end of November it is time to take stock and see what has been going on around my garden.  I am joining some other fun gardener’s memes with this journal post:  Walk in Garden@This Grandmother’s GardenFirst View@Town Mouse & Country MouseGarden Bloggers Harvest Day (GBHD)@The Gardening Blog on the 5th, Best and Worst of My Garden@Bumble Lush,  Salad Days@Veg Plotting on the 4th Friday of the month and End of Month View with Helen@The Patient Gardener’s Weblog.



Weather Report

As far as the weather goes, this November was warmer and drier than usual.  We barely had 2 inches of rain and the temps were in the 50s and 60s the first half of the month.  The week before Thanksgiving gave us freezing temps, but sunny skies which were followed by temps in the 60s the following week.  Of course I was in Arizona soaking up the sun with temps in the low 80s.

We had a rude awakening when we returned as we were greeted to the first snowfall of the season which left us covered with a couple of inches of fluffy white.  We have had cold weather with flurries although the lake effect machine has started, and we did have one storm that dropped 4 inches of gorgeous fluff.  I think we will be in for some strong storms as Lake Ontario is warm from our hot summer and I expect it will remain so for a long time.  When that cold air blows across the warm lake, we get strong storms that have lots of snow blowing over my area.  I guess we shall see what the winter will bring as none of the other seasons were even close to normal.

The sunrises and sunsets have been some of the most spectacular I have seen since last winter.  The colors in the sky are so much more intense now, and will increase in intensity as winter arrives.



What’s Growing

So what is growing?  Not much actually.  But the gardens are looking lovely even in decline and especially covered in snow.

Front Gardens

 Here are the front gardens with the first snowfall.  I usually leave most of the spent plants all winter especially for birds and winter interest.






Other Gardens

This is the wall garden next to the garage.  You can see some greenery, but nothing blooming not even the honeysuckle on the trellis.  The red leaves are from another oak leaf hydrangea.  The plant support is for the peony.





 I love how this cyclamen was still budding and blooming in November.



And this lamium was another one of the few blooms in warm November.  It was such a wonderful surprise.




This is the remnants of Pearly Everlasting or Anaphalis margaritacea an unusual native plant with blue-green foliage and these dried white flowers.  It is the larval host of the  American Lady and Painted Lady butterflies.



I love when my Coralberry or Symphoricarpos orbiculatus starts producing berries in late summer and fall.   But as you can see they don’t last long.  Small animals and birds love these berries as much as I do.  I really should plant a few more of these bushes.



This is the ash stump I am following for Loose and Leafy’s Tree Following meme..  It is a few years old now and losing its bark.  The other side is covered in moss and fungus but this sunnier side is a great spot to find lots of dandelions.  I wonder if anyone is calling this stump home?



I wanted to give an update on the ash trees.  If you have been reading the blog, you know that we have emerald ash borers in our area, and we will lose our ash trees to this pest.  In consulting with an arborist, he confirmed that the beetles are here, and that my plan to take the trees down in a couple of years is a good one.  Of course we may have to step that timeline up and remove 3-4 trees in spring if the beetles overrun our area.

You can see the largest ash tree in the top left picture in the background with one of our 2 swamp maples in the foreground.  As you move clockwise you will see the same trees each season.  The last picture shows the first step we took.  We had the top half of the largest ash tree taken down to stabilize it.  It will die within a couple of years, but we will probably have much more removed before it dies.

We will only have the 2 swamp maples left once we lose the ash trees. The maples will eventually be our only canopy for a while as we plant replacements.  So far we have decided to plant a Black Cherry, an Eastern Redbud (both already in a holding spot) and an American Basswood to replace the largest ash tree.




We kept the pond open until the middle of November which is a full 2 weeks longer than usual (top pictures).  Once the pump is shut off and removed for winter, the pond begins to freeze (bottom pictures).



The meadow takes on a different look once the snow flies.  The bare area is where I planted some natives and seeded others after removing the invasive teasel.



Veg Beds Update


 The veg beds are all ready for winter.  I mulched them with the shredded leaves from the trees.  You can see the new bed (second one in) that will be planted with tomatoes, peppers, okra and eggplant next summer.  The first bed will have peas and beans.  The third bed in,which is only showing a little, is the garlic and onion bed now.  The fourth bed in the back is all set for lettuces, carrots and who knows what else come spring.  And yes that is my late afternoon shadow in the foreground.



This is the new garlic bed that was planted after the first frost/freeze.  In the month since it was planted, the weather has been so warm the garlic started growing.  If I didn’t know better I would think this was a picture from spring not late fall.



And the grow bags outside with lettuces, arugula and carrots are still growing oh so slowly, but not enough to harvest.  They have been exposed to 20 degree temps, wind chills in the teens and 6 inches of snow.  Let’s see how they do throughout winter.




The herbs upstairs (oregano, thyme, mint and chives) are in clay pots and seem to be struggling except for the thyme.  I may need to put the others in plastic pots so they do not dry out so much.  You can see below that the chives that are in a plastic pot are already growing fast and blooming.  I love having the fresh herbs ready to use for a taste of summer throughout the long winter.






Even with the warmer weather in November there were few critters around.  There were a few frogs in the pond until we turned off the pump.  The sparrows were checking out the bluebird houses perhaps for a winter home.  But the biggest surprise was the new black squirrel.  They are very rare here and fun to see. This one was scared off by the gray squirrels which I found surprising since they are said to live easily among the grays.



Gardens Eye Verse

Well even with the warm start to December, we still are headed for winter.  My winter coat, boots and gloves are out and being used.  This will likely be the last of the journal entries as the garden will be covered in white for a few months.  Time to start dreaming of spring.  Hope you enjoy the following poem as I say goodbye to the garden.  Oh and please join me for Seasonal Celebrations.  Details are below.



A nip in the air has hastened the hour

of hardening the soil and death in the bower.

The harvest is done; the cold winds do howl.

Gone are the days of seed and the trowel.

Donna Donabella


Come Join Us:

Seasonal Celebrations is a time for marking the change of seasons and what is happening in your part of the world during this time.  I hope you will join in by creating a post telling us how you celebrate this time of year whether winter or summer or something else.  Share your traditions, holidays and celebrations in pictures and words.

And it seems so appropriate to collaborate with Beth and her Lessons Learned meme.  What lessons have you learned this past season of autumn here in the North and spring in the South.  Then tell us about your wishes, desires and dreams for this new season.

The rules are simple.  Just create a post that talks about lessons learned and/or seasonal celebrations.  If you are joining in for both memes please leave a comment on both our blog posts.  Or if you are choosing to join only one meme, leave a comment on that blog post.  Make sure to include a link with your comment.

Beth and I will do a summary post of our respective memes on the solstice (around the 21st of December).  And we will keep those posts linked on a page on our blog.  Your post should be linked in the weekend before the solstice to give us enough time to include your post in our summary.  And if you link in a bit late, never fear we will include it on the special blog page (which I still have to create).  The badges here can be used in your post.   So won’t you join in the celebration!!


Next up on the blog:     Next Monday I plan to look at the blooms of the past while presenting some Garden Lessons Learned.  In December I will savor another Garden Book and present my last native plant for the last installment of Simply The Best  and Dozen for DianaElephant’s Eye.  Seasonal Celebrations will be revealed on the 21st and I will have a special Christmas post on the 24th.

I will be linking in with Michelle@Rambling Woods for her Nature Notes meme.  It is a great way to see what is happening in nature around the world every Wednesday.

I hope you will join me for my posts once a month at Beautiful Wildlife Garden. See my most current post now.

As always, I’ll be joining Tootsie Time’s Fertilizer Friday.

Please remember, to comment click on the title of the post and the page will reload with the comments section.

All original content is copyrighted and the sole property of Donna Donabella @ Gardens Eye View, 2010-2012.  Any reprints or use of content or photos is by permission only.


  1. catmint says:

    dear donna, your garden is looking so different at the start of winter. The dried grasses are lovely,and the picture of the coralberry is quite magical. I’m glad you still managed to snap some critters. And I adore the photo of the snowy meadow. Nice poem. You are so joinful – I just made up that word. So energetic, following so many memes.

    • Donna says:

      Oh Catmint that is a clever word…I do enjoy participating and joining in to support many bloggers…If you feel joinful, join me in my Seasonal Celebrations meme…love to hear how you celebrate the coming season 🙂

  2. Judy Burris says:

    Your little black squirrel is so cute! I’ve never seen one in my yard, but my brother who lives just 3 miles away from me has one that visits his garden. It almost looks like a kitten from a distance.

    • Donna says:

      I thought it was a cat at first when I saw it….it does love to travel too as I see it in the area and I am sure it is the only one.

      • Diana of Elephant's Eye says:

        where my mother lives, there is a white squirrel.

        Reassuring to read that you have trees in waiting for the once were ash trees. Ours lost a LOT of leaves and twigs in that wind – when I looked out in the morning the light was weird – where’s my trees?!

        • Donna says:

          Diana what a lovely surprise to have a white squirrel and I hope your trees bounce back. I think the only way I am getting through the loss is by finding replacements to get excited about…I can only imagine the changes their loss will bring to the garden and wildlife…some good and some I will not like I fear.

  3. Grace says:

    Hi Donna, I love your poem. So true. Love your photos. At first I thought the squirrel was right next to the birdhouse. It took me a second to realize they were two separate photos.

    I’m so sorry you’re losing those trees. Dang beetle. I love your Cyclamen clump. Actually, I was just reading that after the flower fades the little stem curls up and produces the seed. I can see them hanging there, so delicately.

    I’m sure not ready for December but I’m very ready for January, if you get my drift. 🙂

    • Donna says:

      Grace it pleases me that you enjoyed the post and poem. I also read about the cyclamen and pushed a few seed heads into the ground. Ran out of time to do more. I am not ready for the holidays but I am certainly ready for the New Year and retirement in 8 months.

  4. Carolyn @ Carolyn's Shade Gardens says:

    I am sorry to hear about your ash trees but admire the way you are calmly accepting their fate which can’t be reversed. I am in denial about mine and will try to accept that there is no point in ranting and raving because there is no cure. A black squirrel recently moved in here. Now there is something to be happy about.

    • Donna says:

      Some days I am in disbelief and grieve terribly for my trees but like you there is nothing I can do. How wild is that another black squirrel.

  5. Alberto says:

    Hi Donna! You had snow already! But autumn lasted long and warm there, as well as here. Yesterday I saw ice in the outside tanks for the first time! The picture of the squirrel is fantastic, a little blurred it gives the idea of how fast he ran!
    Brilliant idea growing stuff in protected bags, I should try it too.

    • Donna says:

      Thank you Alberto. That squirrel never real stood still long enough to get a clear picture. Today it will be almost 70 but tomorrow we go back to the 30s and snow…crazy weather. I am hoping to create a permanent veg bed with protection to grow things all winter…I will let you know how this current experiment works out with the grow bags under cover…how cold does your winter get?

      • Alberto says:

        It depends, we could get down to -16C but not for a long time. Normally it stays between 5C and -8C. Problem in the garden is for damp cold clay.

  6. Christina says:

    I’m not sure I could be happy living somewhere that had snow on the ground all winter. We had snow very close to us yesterday, just a few hundred metres higher and the road was closed! I was driving to Rome and had to turn around and take another road; it was very beautiful but I didn’t stop to take photos – I should have done! I like your poem. Christina

    • Donna says:

      Thanks Christina. I have been living with snow all winter my whole life so it is part of me now…although I like a break from the months of it…my garden actually requires the cold and insulation to thrive…our roads rarely close and that is only because of a blizzard with many feet of snow in a short time.

  7. HolleyGarden says:

    When I see pictures of the snow, I wish for it as it makes the garden so beautiful. Then I remember it’s cold, too, and I’m thankful we don’t have it! 😉 What a change to your garden with the loss of your trees. Such a difference in the light. Are the plants underneath making the change well? I have a couple of trees that I will probably lose in a few years, and I wonder if the plants shaded now will be able to survive.

    • Donna says:

      The majority of trees will not come down until next year and the big tree was just cut but I will bet all those hostas will have a hard time and will end up as a loss…but the deer have been hard to control as they eat the hosta every year and do damage so I think it is time to plan for a native replacement to them.

      As for other plants I will assess them as the change occurs but yes the garden will change for a while. In 10 years though, there will be a new canopy that will get bigger as the new trees grow to heights of 80-100 feet. Just not as many trees this time and more of a variety.

      For now as we cut the trees down in 2013 and 2014, picture the garden with one 40 foot tree in the middle of the back yard and one behind the gazebo…the rest will be history…this will be the new look for several years.

  8. Leora says:

    Your grasses are quite nice to view – lovely textures. I do like the lamium flower – I have not seen those. And I’m enjoying reading about your garden beds. I have one in a fence – I threw a lot of compost in it for the winter and tossed it a bit, like a garden salad. I look forward to planting peas in it. Last year the deer didn’t go over the fence to eat the peas (but later they did go over to eat the green bean plants).

  9. Randy Hyden says:

    Thanks for the tour, Donna. It`s the next best thing to getting to visit New York. Please let me know what hiking trails are there and I sure hope you improve so you can hike too!

  10. Claire says:

    I am amazed how much there is still to write about. The grasses look very good and are a real lifesaver for keeping some structure to a place over winter. Love your black squirrels, reminds me of my trip to Toronto when they were everywhere. I have a similar pattern of success with herbs: 3 unstoppable thymes but nothing else thrives quite as much. Good luck with your plants over winter!

    • Donna says:

      Thanks Claire…it is amazing when one continues to observe through the seasons what is around…I’ll keep all posted about the herbs and some other growing from seed indoors I will start soon.

  11. Janet, The Queen of Seaford says:

    You really have a lot going on in the garden / yard this time of year. Love the sprigs of garlic showing up through the snow.
    A nice blanket of snow would be welcomed ( for a few minutes) as it gently waters the soil and gives a blanketed protection of those sleeping plants. nice.

    • Donna says:

      Yes my garden is looking for that nice blanket of snow that used to stay all winter…now it comes and goes and goes more than it comes…

    • Donna says:

      The weather is sure confusing the garlic more than usual…hope winter does come for a bit as the garden will miss it if it doesn’t

  12. Debbie / GardenofPossibilities says:

    Donna, I always seem to find new native plants to add to my wish list when I read these posts. Today it’s Anaphalis margaritacea. I’m always looking for larval host plants to add to my garden. Now I just have to find it for sale.

  13. RamblingWoods says:

    I love your poetry Donna!!! Every yard here is neat and clean and we look like we are lazy, but I have to get over that feeling. There are many hiding spots, seeds and other food for critters hidden. I am so sad about the ash trees. We have 3 that we are treating for now…That won’t last forever though and plans needs to be made.. Thank you for linking into Nature Notes..Michelle

    • Donna says:

      Michelle I love when you comment on my poetry…yes our ash trees will be gone soon and new changes will be coming…I will need time to adapt as will the garden although it will adapt faster than me.

  14. Curbstone Valley Farm says:

    That Thomas Hood quote is spot on! I’m a little jealous your November has been dry. We had over a foot of rain in just a few days this last weekend. I almost needed to build an ark! I’m not envious of your snow though 😉 I bet your tree stump is home to more creatures than you might expect. I love looking around our stumps and finding pairs of lizard eyes, or salamanders, or frogs peering back at me!

  15. Janet/Plantaliscious says:

    Plenty still interesting in your garden Donna – I love the shot of your garlic poking heads up above the snow! I was amused to see your white fence and veg beds, such a contrast to my black ones, but wonderfully clean and light. I am finding it slightly strange at the moment, warmly snuggled into my new house, which is in turn warmly snuggled down out of the wind and on the opposite side of the Island to the mainland. Where we lived before we could look across the sea to Snowdon and North Wales. Snowdon is covered in snow now, but I only know this from the radio – I haven’t even seen a hard frost yet! BTW, not sure what it says about me, but my favourite shot is the one of your meadow… Hope your rest tides you over until August, and the next phase in your life!

  16. Christine @ The Gardening Blog says:

    Donna, your front garden looks magical with all the snow … we don’t get snow here where I live so I envy you that. Snow always feels like Christmas to me …

    Your herbs look great – my indoor herbs flopped unfortunately.

    PS: Busy with my Seasonal Celebrations post 🙂

    • Donna says:

      I found I could only grow herbs indoors under grow lights…otherwise they flopped as well…yes snow does feel like Christmas…

  17. Andrea says:

    Hello Donna, i guess i am late here. I would love to title your brown garden photos as ‘elegance in death’. During our dry season our plants almost look like that, except that our grounds are bare and cracking sometimes, instead of snow-covered. I love the color of your lamia, at least that will give you some colors. Keep warm Donna. By the way, have you seen on the news our devastation and deaths after the last super typhoon in Mindanao? It is said to be stronger in wind speed than Sandy in the US. Mindanao is known to be free of typhoons, so this is its first typhoon, lots of dead, agricultural crops even coconuts are uproooted or broken so 100% destruction in agricultural crops. Sad Christmas for so many people.

    • Donna says:

      Andrea I did not see the news much lately and I am saddened to learn of your devastation…So many harmful storms now. Perhaps you wil join in to Seasonal Celebrations with the coming of your dry season.

  18. Alicia says:

    Lovely to find little surprises of colour popping up, like the cyclamens when winter hits and everything is bare. Hopefully the herbs carry on well for you.

  19. Tootsie says:

    I am so glad you linked in this week. I have been in the deep freeze of Alberta for a while now and seeing that others still have a few things on the “grow” makes me smile! I hope you will again soon!
    I am sharing this post with my Tootsie Time facebook page!
    Hugs from Alberta Canada
    ¸.•´¸.•*¨) ¸.•*¨)
    (¸.•´ (¸.•´ .•´ ¸¸.•¨¯`•.

    • Donna says:

      I am not sure we will get our normal winter this year…we didn’t last year and some predict a warmer one again….I tend to like the normal winter although when it is too cold and gray for too long that is too much! Wishing you a bit of warmth.

      • Tootsie says:

        I’d be happy just to see some sunshine for a day or two…makes me want to hibernate when it is so dreary outside. Even the greenhouse is no fun with no sun! lol

        • Donna says:

          Oh that is awful when all is devoid of color….we had an inch of rain with 50s which I guess I am grateful for since it could have been close to a foot of snow on a work day…I will double my wish for sunshine for you then 🙂

  20. VP says:

    Hi Donna – I like your row covers! I’m growing carrots for their leaves as well as roots this winter.

    Sadly we’ve got ash problems over here too – a fungus rather than a pest though. It looks like millions of trees are doomed 🙁

  21. Sandra Reyburn says:

    I love your website. I also love beautiful flowers but can’t grow them at all. My back yard is vey sweet, but flowers just won’t grow. Thank you for sharing your garden.

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