Greetings and warm wishes to all of you for a very happy holiday season!

Harlequin’s Gardens may be closed, but HG Gift Certificates are available year-round, so it’s not too late to purchase Gift Certificates with a promise of spring for all the gardeners and homeowners on your holiday list – see our Gift Certificate page at http://www.harlequinsgardens.com/gift-certificates for ordering instructions.

 Mikl and Eve also continue to provide consulting services through the winter.  Most years, there are plenty of days that are warm enough and free of snow on the ground to make garden consultations and tree-health consultations practical.  In return for giving us a small trickle of winter income, we offer a coupon for a 15% discount on a purchase of plants in the 2011 season.  Here’s a link to our Consultations page for more information: http://www.harlequinsgardens.com/consultations/.

Every year, a lot of people ask us what we do in the winter, when the nursery is closed.  Sometimes we wish the answer was “Oh, we usually spend a few months on the beach in Mexico or Costa Rica”.  But in reality, we begin by putting all the plants to bed and packing up the remaining products, while simultaneously compiling and placing early orders for seeds and plants for the next season.  We erect fences around our display gardens to keep the rabbits at bay.  Every year we collect seeds from many of the plants we grow and from native wildflowers and shrubs. We have to clean the seeds (separating them from the chaff and debris) before the end of the year because we begin sowing seeds in the greenhouse in early January.  Some seeds sprout quickly, so transplanting has usually begun by the first of February. Plant descriptions are researched and written, ordering continues, we work on improving and updating our website, and make plans for the classes and events we will offer in the coming season.  And there are always some repairs and building projects.  To sum it all up, we are preparing to re-open Harlequin’s Gardens on April 1, 2011 as a better resource for gardeners and the larger community than ever before.

With all the holidays coming up, you may not be thinking much about gardening, but there are some things that could be done on a warm day (today’s forecast calls for a high of 60 degrees!).  It’s not too late to finish planting bulbs, and to top-dress your perennials and shrubs.  A thin (1/2”) layer of compost applied in fall or winter will be absorbed into the earth with rain and melting snow.  This mimics the fall top-dressing done by Nature and is an easy and gentle way to build soil, especially if done annually.  Organic matter, especially in the composted form, does more than hold moisture and supply some mild nutrients.  It has the dynamic effect of feeding the earth worms and beneficial soil microorganisms that make nutrients available to plants – which is far more relevant than the simple presence of nutrients.  In addition, this soil life secretes a sticky substance which binds small clay particles together, making aggregates of soil that increase porosity and tilth (ease of digging).

So far, it’s been very dry this fall, so remember to thoroughly water your evergreens – especially broadleaf evergreens – at least once a month, preferably early in the day.  For a more complete discussion of winter watering, see our Thanksgiving Greetings blog.

Happy Holidays!

Mikl & Eve Brawner and the staff at Harlequin’s Gardens