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Early winter in the South Sound is always a crapshoot. We can have snow and ice storms, incessant rain, or occasional shots of sweater weather. Plants shoot out unexpected blooms at crazy “off” times. A favorite comment among winter South Sound gardeners is, “This (insert plant name here) is blooming way too early; I sure hope we don’t have a hard frost.” In other words, early winter gardening can include a lot of guesswork around here. Well, we cannot control Mother Nature, but we can garden year-round.

Plant New Things

No matter the weather, some satisfying gardening trends can get you through the rest of winter while keeping an eye on spring rewards. Unless the ground is frozen (which rarely happens here), it’s perfectly acceptable to plant trees and shrubs. Try one of the more delicate made-for=small- spaces Hydrangea serrata varieties, like ‘Miranda’, ‘Miyama Yae Murasaki,’ or ‘Blue Deckle,’ which all make good container plants, too. The South Sound has perfect growing conditions for the ever-expanding forms and varieties of Japanese maples. The bright coral leaves of ‘Shin Deshojo’; the coral bark of ‘Sango-kaku’; or the cream, green, and pink leaves of ‘Butterfly’ are all showstoppers.

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Let's Eat

Vegetable gardeners who planted seeds of broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, Swiss chard, and kale in July and August should be harvesting soon. Root crops, like carrots, parsnips, and leeks, are sweeter as it gets colder, as are rutabagas. Shallots and chives can be divided and harvested year-round.

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The 1970s Houseplant Craze is Back

Did you know plants are believed to improve concentration and productivity, reduce stress levels, and boost your mood? Unless you have already begun your personal plant journey, start with something simple that doesn’t require constant attention. Some tried-and-true plants for beginners include pothos, peace lily, snake plant, cast iron plant, spider plant, and Chinese evergreen. These are low-light plants that don’t require a lot of humidity and are supposedly foolproof. Orchids are a good next step and are surprisingly easy to maintain.

The Book You Need

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Unearthing the Secret Garden, The Plants and Places That Inspired Frances Hodgson Burnett by Marta McDowell

A “horticultural trigger” describes what Burnett unleashed on an unsuspecting generation of 12-year-olds when t hey read her book The Secret Garden. Burnett wasn’t even a serious gardener until she was in her 50s. Bits and pieces of her life trickled into the book, but she wasn’t always the sweet English lady who lived in the Garden of England.

In real life, she was a world traveler who lived in New York, Bermuda, and a log cabin in Tennessee. She wrote more than 40 novels and plays and dozens of short stories. Both Great Britain and America claim her as their own. If you fell under the spell of The Secret Garden, learning more about its author will surprise you in many ways.

Timber Press | $26