The frost has finished off the last of the summer plants. This included the bowl of begonias that I've been dragging in an out of the garage every morning and night in a forlorn attempt to keep a few cheery blossoms going as long as possible.
In late October, it always feels as though there's never enough time to complete all my fall tasks, but then we're blessed with a few fine days in November and I find myself puttering about the garden looking for something to do. I took advantage of the last few days of good weather by making big piles of leaves for compost, then I tidied up the shed and I emptied the soil from the last of the planters before storing them away.
As I dragged away the two large ones from the front porch, I couldn't help but notice that the approach to the front door was now looking particularly barren. It had previously sported an assortment of containers, including the large enamel bowl that had held the begonias, although I'm sure the mail carrier is happier now that she doesn’t require the leaping skills of a gazelle to reach the mailbox. In fact, I'd fully expected her to give up by mid summer and simply toss the mail in the driveway. She's such a trooper.
I wasn't planning to seek out more stuff to replace the obstacle course, but it occurred to me that I should add something to the front porch to make it more welcoming, and a winter planter seemed like a good idea. I've seen pictures of them in magazines, but never got around to making my own. I already had the perfect container, the enamel bowl with soil still intact, so I began to think about what I could "plant" in it.
Red willow twigs seemed an obvious choice because I'd seen them stacked up for sale outside one of the garden centres — so many that I'm convinced there must be willow plantations to supply the demand. Since it was a Saturday afternoon, and I was content to be in the garden, there was no way I was going to fight weekend traffic to fetch a few twigs when there surely would be stuff out back that I could use.
The red twigs were easy because the variegated dogwood that annually tries to invade the pathway at the bottom of the garden was asking for a quick snipping. I continued looking around for potential material. The yarrow still had large seed heads on and might have made the display, but then I spotted the limelight hydrangea. The heads are large, in proportion to the planter, and although a pale brown colour, they still had a faint pink tinge to them — perfect. The planter needed a little greenery — no problem. I snipped a few bits from the blue spruce that's hidden in the back corner. It wouldn't miss a sprig or two, and besides, I have to dig it out and find a new home for it next year before it grows any larger.
As I plunged my bits and pieces into the bowl, I realized the soil needed brightening up a little. In the shed I had just the thing — a lovely, rich brown coir (peat moss would have done almost as well). An inch of that on the surface made all the difference. A few pine cones I'd used as container mulch in summer to fill in the gaps, plumes of ornamental grass, and I was finished — or so I thought.
While walking the dog the next day I picked a few teasel stalks from the empty lot across the street and brought them home. Next, it was a pair of red seed heads from a sumac and finally I was done. Knowing when to stop is important, especially with my primitive Ikebana skills.
I doubt a master like Martha Stewart would even let me weed the flowerbeds in which her plants grow, but I'm happy with my winter planter. Fortunately, the resident Ikebana master has tidied it up nicely and now the front porch looks a little welcoming. It shouldn't be much of a challenge to the mail carrier, but if the weather is nice this weekend, I might plant up another one — or two.