In most parts of the country and much of the world, winter gardens are quiet sleepy things, slumbering beneath layers of snow and frost. The ground is hard and unworkable and hours of sunlight few. In my garden, the days are shorter and days of sunshine fewer but the effects of the season are much more subtle. Winter in Orange County California (zone 10a) is similar to how most of North America experiences its summers – mild and short. Our summers here creep into our spring and fall and our winters are rather shy and don’t stay long.
However, because I am outside every day, whether I’m gardening or making artwork, I am very in tune with these subtle shifts and able to befriend this timid season. Each morning when the sky is grey and the morning shadows long winter seems to show herself most. I pull on a jacket over my sweater, slip on my wool gardening shoes, and step outside with a mug in hand. Steam billows from my coffee as I meander around my small garden patch. There to greet me is a sea of green with small splashes of color.
The vegetable bed is overflowing with every shade of green found in the broccoli, snap peas, lettuce, kale, cilantro, and celery, but I know there are warmer colors hiding just under the surface in my carrots, radishes, and beets. The flower bed is also very green as many spring seeds and bulbs push their way through the surface. My calendula was the sole consistent flower that lasted through December and January, with my cosmos and gomphrena finally fading away. The calendula struggled a bit with powdery mildew, and for a while, I thought they would fade as well.
But with careful tending, I was able to save them and now they are full of delightful yellow blooms. But while the calendula were on a bit of a hiatus, my pansies and violas kept me company. In my garden, these delicate blooms range from the lightest shade of periwinkle and lavender to deep purple. Before I started growing them myself, I never knew they came in quite so many shades. You can find them in warmer tones too like pink, yellow and orange but since the seasons are subtle here, I like to grow flowers with colors that remind me what time of year it is. This is a helpful visual cue of change, even when the weather remains the same.
But this winter I’ve come to enjoy more than what I’ve been growing and started to take notice of the change in wildlife as well. In the early hours of the morning, I delighted to watched the geese fly overhead in their iconic v formation. As the winter progressed, they flew by less and less. But what the garden lacked in arrowhead flocks in the sky, it made up for in pocket sizes birds paying regular visits. My husband and I began to identify these charming visitors and distinguish between their songs. I love watching them hop around my garden beds searching for bugs to eat. Watching them balance on leaves of broccoli and not weigh it down at all, reminds me of how light they are. This is especially apparent with hummingbirds, our most recent wildlife addition.
Since mid-February, it seems there is always one flitting about and taking a rest on my bougainvillea or blackberry bush. They are in the garden so often that I’ve begun to distinguish between their markings and give them names. The last wildlife addition came just after the hummingbirds and though we never see them, they are a delight to listen to. Most evenings, even while in the house, we can hear little a little frog chorus croaking away.
Though the garden is still growing in the winter, my gardening tasks are few reflecting the slower season. They have mainly consisted of deadheading flowers and preventing powdery mildew from spreading. This fungus, is largely caused by bad air circulation and humidity. While I don’t live in a beach city, the ocean isn’t too far off and it is fairly humid here. Plus, the patio has high walls that prevent great air circulation. I did two things to combat powdery mildew, the first was to spray the affected plants with water every day. Even though humidity can cause this fungus it can’t grow with rainwater. I also used neem oil once a week spraying it on in the evenings as it can cause leaf burn during the day.
My last task was to sow late spring and summer seeds. Since my zone doesn’t have any frost dates, I can pretty much sow seeds into the ground whenever but I do like to try and sow seeds indoors for two reasons. The first is that it gives me a head start on heat-loving flowers that can’t stand any cold weather. The second is that it helps me with space. I don’t have a lot of growing space and use it well especially when it comes to veggies. Starting them in seed trays allows me to plant already sprouted veggies into the ground after harvesting or the vegetable is done for the season. I haven’t done this a ton in the past but hope to utilize it more!
I also feel compelled to mention that I sowed a bunch of seeds indoors in February and I killed them all. Facepalm. I had them on top of the fridge and they were growing great. But I had a lot going on in February and simply forgot about them. I started another batch but did not put them back on the fridge. It is a great spot for the seeds but not for me. I am pretty short so when they are up there, I can’t see them, like at all. Out of sight out of mind, right? So the second round, I put them where I could see them. They have germinated well and I haven’t forgotten about them yet!
Winter was a lovely season and it was such a delight to use my violas, pansies, and spring snowflakes in my latest collection! The transition out of winter is a short one, and though it isn’t technically spring yet, my garden is telling me the shift has begun. Daffodils have started to bloom, my Iceland and California poppies have buds about to open, and my ranunculus and snapdragons will bloom any day now. The summer flower seeds that I direct sowed a couple of weeks ago have also started to sprout. The mornings are less cold, and the sunlight less slanted. Some mornings I don’t even need a jacket. Spring is here and I am so excited about it.
Can’t wait to share my spring garden goodness with you! If you want more garden beauty, you can check out the Winter Garden Collection or follow me on Instagram where I share about my garden every day.
I hope this post made you fall in love with gardening a little more and gives you the confidence to grow things yourself!
If you are interested in viewing the Winter Garden Collection click here!
Or if you want to read more of my other garden posts click one of the links below: