On the ornamental express

Janice Wells
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There was a time when I’d be out before Thanksgiving, scouring the garden and the woods for natural material to make an autumn spray for the door.

The silvery grey of Artemisia has a definite Christmas look. — Photos by Janice Wells/Special to The Telegram

At the very least, I’d make nice centrepieces for the kitchen and Thanksgiving tables with offerings from the garden.

One year, around this time, I actually made an all-natural wreath with reindeer moss, cones, berries, nuts, orange slices and

God knows what else, especially designed with attracting birds in mind.

And it wasn’t “for the birds,” if you know what I mean; it was quite nice.

Maybe I peaked then and maybe I’m being too hard on myself, but I have to admit that my original arrangements have been diminishing in size, number and creativity in the last couple of years.

I certainly haven’t scoured the woods for a few years, and sometimes, like this year, I find myself out in the garden an hour or two before people are due to arrive for dinner, clippers in hand, looking around for inspiration.

There were asters, of course, and plenty of green to choose from. Long after the big trees have lost their leaves, my Japanese quince isn’t showing any sign of hibernating; neither is the Arctic willow. The climbing honeysuckle has some great reddish colour and the rugosa rose has nice yellow foliage plus a few hips.

My poor holly is still protesting the fact that I let the peony cover it up all summer so I didn’t have the face to cut any of it, and then my eyes fell on the euonymus, something I don’t think I’ve ever cut for inside use before.

The one I have is Emerald Gold and it holds its variegated yellow and green leaves all winter long, so I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised that the sprigs I cut in mid October are still looking good almost six weeks later, long after everything else in the arrangement was gone.

I stuck them in with a cracked off geranium stem a couple of weeks ago and now the geranium leaves have perked up and a bud has opened to make a sweet little bouquet that was purely accidental. I confess I didn’t even change or refresh the water.

The holly that Daughter No. 2 and Chef-in-Law planted during their wedding ceremony is just going into its second winter and already has way more berries than my older one.

I decided to take a picture of theirs this week and in the process got up close and personal to her ornamental grass and silver Artemisia, neither of which I grow in my garden.

Last year her garden had only had a few months’ growth by this time, but this year it’s ready to make a few contributions to home decorating.

Daughter No. 2 is creativity personified and a Christmas decorating diva. Right now, brand new baby Reed is the centre of attention, but once she has a chance to really look at what’s out there, I wouldn’t be at all surprised if a few clumps of fountain grass and some sprays of Artemisia find their way into her front door arrangement.

Next year, if the good Lord’s willin’ and the crick don’t rise, I’ll get a lot of my garden volunteers and “out-growns” moved out of town and I’m thinking that clumping ornamental grasses would make a lot of sense for my city garden.

Clumping is an operative word here; I already know about how spreaders, like ribbon grass, can get out of hand.

Medium and tall clumping grasses are well behaved, provide wonderful shape and movement in the garden and can also add colour; subtle blues and striking reds.

I think they are especially nice in the fall, and for a lot of us, that’s when we’re home the most.

This is the beginning of the dreaming season in the garden, the time when you can believe that next year you’re really going to do all the things you intended to this year.

I enjoy it.     


Janice Wells lives in St. John’s. Her latest book, “Newfoundland and Labrador Book of Musts,” was published in October 2010 by MacIntyre Purcell Publishing Inc. You can reach her at janicew@nf.sympatico.ca.

Note to readers: please do not send thumbnail-size photographs, as they are too small to publish.

Organizations: MacIntyre Purcell Publishing

Geographic location: Arctic

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