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January 2022

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Dear reader,

Happy New Year! And welcome to the Six Seasons Garden inaugural newsletter. Interest in gardening is on the rise. A recent survey announced people are planning on gardening more in 2022, with the biggest increase coming from millennials. This renewed interest is one of the best things to come out of the pandemic.

It’s no coincidence more of us are turning to nature and plants at this precarious time. Slowing down, kneeling onto the damp earth, and placing hands into the soil are actions that can lower stress, increase serotonin, and bring more moments of peace and clarity. Gardening is also a great tool to counter the non-stop, hurry-up, always-plugged-in state of our society. It gives us the chance to pay attention to both the small details of life and the big picture. My role as a garden consultant is to help clients create beautiful outdoor spaces, but my hope is to encourage them to also create beautiful lives. It is true we must take time to stop and smell the roses, but we have to plant them first.

I hope you'll find lots of useful information and inspiration in each monthly newsletter. Send me your gardening questions and let me know how I can help with your gardening goals and dreams. Thanks for signing up and if you've enjoyed this, please share it with friends.

See you in the garden,

I’m Reading

The Inward Garden by Julie Moir Messervy is a book that’s been on my to-read list for several years. I finally found it at Reader’s Corner in Raleigh last week. (If you don’t know about Raleigh’s best used bookstore, check them out. They always have a spectacular selection of garden books.) Messervy’s approach to gardening is psychological and contemplative. The book begins “Deep within each of us lies a garden” and then continues to help readers discover that inward garden. The book covers common garden elements, such as arbors and benches, and provides loads of helpful design principles and advice. Messervy also writes of thresholds, metaphors, and sacred realms. I enjoy the way she weaves the practical with the magical so seamlessly. It’s an inspiring read and the photos, though dated, are beautiful. I’m sure I will return to this timely and timeless book often.
The Inward Garden By Julie Moir Messervy
Leave some of the leaves

I’m Thinking

The garden world’s new catchphrase is “Leave the leaves,” but I’m thinking Eh, not so fast. I’m not a big fan of generalizations or one-size-fits-all garden recommendations, including “leave the leaves.” I’m not being contrary, there’s a reason. Winter is the primary season in my garden ( I grow lots of tiny winter-blooming plants, like winter aconite (Eranthis hyemalis), snowdrop (Galanthus sp.), and trout lily (Erythronium umbilicatum). If I don’t remove some leaves from their beds, well, I just won’t see them at all. Same with hellebores, crocus, small shrubs, and evergreen ferns. What’s a winter garden without winter interest? Blah. On the other hand, I also see the necessity for protecting habitats and allowing for some less manicured spaces. As a firm believer in following the middle way, I practice this year-round in my certified Wildlife Habitat yard (find more info at I garden under 50 mature trees on a small .42-acre lot—I cannot leave all the leaves or I’d lose the garden, and most probably the ranch house! J Luckily for me, we have a small mulcher/chipper (best purchase ever) that allows me to recycle some of the trees’ leafy bounty. I shred enough to last for most of the year’s mulching jobs. Less than 10% goes out to the street to be picked up by the town (remember: middle way). I do leave a large amount of fallen leaves on my beds that don’t have small plants that would be smothered. I know there are many insects, lizards, and rodents that burrow and live in these beds, and I’m more than happy to share my leaf harvest! Some say leave the leaves, but I say: Leave some of the leaves.

I’m Doing

Winter is my favorite season here in Zone 7B(-ish), Cary, North Carolina. We can pretty much garden all through the year, unless we get one of those freak snowstorms where all southern life grinds to a halt. For a day. Then it melts. I spend most winter days observing trees and shrubs without the distraction of leaves. I cut out visible dead branches and take note of other pruning to do when it’s a more appropriate time. I sow seeds and take hardwood cuttings. I also take this less frantic time to clean, sharpen, and organize my tools. One of the biggest and most fun jobs of January is cutting leaves off hellebores so the glorious flowers can stand out. I wrote about hellebores for Seasons Style & Design magazine. Here’s a link to that story:
Hellebores are stars of the winter garden

Monthly Maintenance Calendar

  • Shop catalogs now for the best selection of seeds and plants.
  • Make detailed plans for creating new beds and revising existing ones.
  • Add mulch where needed to help insulate roots.
  • Plant trees, shrubs, and bare root roses.
  • Plant any bulbs you missed in November.
  • Direct sow seeds of poppies, bachelor buttons, and larkspur.
  • Take leaf cuttings of houseplants including Rex begonia, kalanchoe, African violets, and Jade plant.
  • Take hardwood cuttings of woody plants including conifers, dogwood, camellia, and elderberry.
  • Don’t forget to water new plants during dry spells—even in winter.
  • But don’t overwater. Moisture sensors are a great help in determining this.
  • Keep adding ingredients to the compost pile. Turn it often to speed the process. You’ll be glad you did in spring.
  • Clean hard-working garden tools. This article on Garden Design’s website provides great info:
  • Start a garden or phenology journal. Keep records of temperatures, precipitation, budburst, animal sightings, blooms, and anything else that delights you. Or concerns you. Think Aldo Leopold or Henry David Thoreau. Both kept detailed journals that have proven helpful to scientists today.
  • Take a course. There are so many opportunities for virtual garden courses these days, another good thing to come from the pandemic. Margaret Roach and Ken Druse teamed up to offer the Virtual Garden Club. Sign up here:
  • It’s January—resolve to garden more. Much more.

I’m Visiting

North Carolinians are fortunate to have so many wonderful gardens across our state to visit. JC Raulston Arboretum, one of my favorites and the one closest to my home, provides loads of beauty in winter. I strolled through last month and was in awe of the abundance of plants still in bloom. If you can’t visit in person, they have a great website and social media platforms where they share photos and lots of great information.
For more on visiting NC Piedmont gardens, see
JC Raulston Arboretum
Horticultural Therapy

I’m Learning

Gardens and health are two topics close to my heart. I’m excited to be taking a program that combines both into one certification course through NCSU Department of Horticultural Science and the NC Botanical Garden at UNC Chapel Hill. Therapeutic Horticulture isn’t new, but it has only recently become more mainstream. Hospitals, corporations, prisons, and universities are implementing Therapeutic Horticulture methods to both heal and prevent illnesses. Interested?

I’m Recommending

My favorite garden tool is known by many names including hori-hori, Japanese farmers knife, soil knife, and weeding knife. The sharp, stainless steel blade easily slices through all soils while the serrated edge cuts through roots. It’s perfect for weeding out long, difficult taproots, such as dandelions. I also use it for planting small and large plants alike. The traditional wood handle fits comfortably in my hand and is in good shape even after many years of daily use. I highly recommend gardeners keep a hori-hori in their tool bucket. Whatever you call it, you’ll love it.

Until Next Month...

“To pay attention, this is our endless and proper work.”
~Mary Oliver, Upstream

Garden Oops! Saffron Crocus

Early Thanksgiving morning, I opened the pantry to get out everything to make stuffing. As I pushed aside cans to find the packages of bread crumbs, I came upon these lovely lavender flowers in the back and thought: What the heck is this? Then, I remembered: Saffron crocus. Oops. A couple of months ago, I bought a wide variety of …
Garden Oops! Saffron Crocus

Why Six Seasons?

Six seasons in my piedmont North Carolina Garden
Seasons, cycles, and time have always fascinated me. I enjoy learning how other cultures have experienced these phenomena in diverse ways. In the U.S., we have the four-season astronomical model that’s based on the equinoxes and solstices. Some countries use a meteorological definition for seasons—four seasons each containing three complete, undivided months. Some cultures have six seasons. Some have only …
Six Seasons Garden Consulting Logo Stacked
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