The Violet Fern

A Colorful Tale of a Garden in the Making


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Project: Winter Green

Each year I like to dress up my window boxes and containers with greens and other natural elements. Last year I didn’t quite get it together in time before the glacial ice and snow. This year, even though I migrated, I still made a little time to dress up my containers. To me, there is nothing worse, aside from dirty snow and road slush, than dead or empty containers that call to mind the Nightmare Before Christmas.

Normally, I make a dump run and spend my time picking through all the prunings before they are mulched. I have found some beautiful greens at our local dump – cedar, white pine, spruce, birch branches … See what I have put together in years past here, here, here, and here. This year, because I was a bit earlier than usual, I didn’t have anything to choose from so I resorted to a back state road. I was a little nervous that I might get stuck since there was snow on the ground at that time and the road is not plowed. I was also a little nervous that it may be hunting season of one kind or another. However, it was a beautiful sunny day and I went to work clipping some bows – actually the trees I chose could have used a little pruning. A stand of cattails also caught my eye and the fuzzy red “horns” of the Staghorn Sumac. I didn’t make the large haul I usually do but I have a stash of pinecones, too. I didn’t have nearly enough green for the whiskey barrel but I did have a stash of bamboo tiki torch remains. I arranged them in a Christmas tree-like shape. A red bow will hopefully keep them from falling apart from the blows of the Wicked Wind of the West.

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I salvaged these baskets from my gardening job and thought they would dress up our workshop garage. These may very likely get blown apart since our driveway is the runway for the Wicked Wind of the West. I really like the cattails.

The back entrance to our newly enclosed porch gets a basket. I pruned some of my yellow twig dogwood (because I want to be better about it than my cardinal dogwood which has grown too thick), and saved the not-quite-turned-yellow branches for baskets. A handful of pinecones and some sprigs of hops from the garden add a finishing touch.

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I used more hops in my cedar window box on the front porch. Each Spring I am sure to find peanuts in these baskets from the Blue Jays I feed them to. I just love the golden hops.

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My favorite baskets are the “Michael’s find” that sit atop the pillars to our front steps. I think I purchased both of these metal baskets for around $14 and still remember a woman stopping to ask me if they are antiques. I found them almost immediately after we moved in, or I should say I think they found me. The Sumac berries add a little punch to these. I had dreams of cutting my own Winterberry branches once my bushes mature, but now realize that the birds will always beat me to the berries each Autumn and that’s okay.

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At least our house will look a little festive for those who remain in the Northern climate. Christmas here is much more understated than in my Northern home. I think in the North we are bombarded by Christmas because of the darkening grey skies and colder temperatures. People need that Christmas cheer. Here, well the sun still shines. Still, I found an empty cement urn on the driveway to our rental and lots of fallen pinecones during a bike ride. I put the two together – there’s nothing worse than a dead or empty container … And I love the green backdrop!

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