December 31, 2012

Read, travel, think gardens this winter

AMY IVY, Cornell Cooperative Extension

---- — A lot of us have at least a few days off this week for the holidays and you may be feeling a little restless. Here are some garden related things you might do now or any weekend this winter.


If the weather permits, plan your time off around a trip to the Montreal Botanical Gardens. We are fortunate to live so close to such an amazing resource. Any time of year there is always something interesting to see. Their holiday displays will be up through Jan. 6 and they are open every day but Mondays, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. For details on times, costs and schedules, visit the Botanical Gardens Web site (it’s easy to find with Google or any other search engine).

The Botanical Gardens have 10 greenhouses filled with all kinds of plants from all kinds of climates. Even in winter the gardens can be fun outside if the weather isn’t too harsh. Don’t miss my favorite place, the Insectarium, with more than 160,000 live and mounted specimens.


If you’re a gardener, chances are good you received a gardening book recently. Now is a perfect time to start perusing. Or maybe you’re like me and have a growing pile of books you’ve received in the past but haven’t had time to really study yet.

Garden catalogs are replacing Christmas cards in the mail now. If you read them with a jaundiced eye you can often glean a lot of information out of them. Some have excellent growing information while others gloss over the details in an effort to persuade you. Remember the old adage – if it sounds to good to be true, it probably is.

While I’m talking about reading, you might also consider signing up for our monthly home gardening newsletter, North Country Gardening. There’s no charge and it’s a good way to keep in touch with our upcoming workshops and programs. You can also check out our website with links to Cornell resources and our various Facebook pages, too at


This would be a great time to get a garden journal started. Don’t wait until spring when you’re juggling 15 packets of seeds with muddy fingers to set this up.

Vegetable gardeners should keep track of the varieties they grow each year, where they got the plants or seeds from, when they planted the seeds or transplanted the plants, etc.

Perennial flower gardeners often make journals in a loose-leaf binder with a page for each species or variety of plant they grow. Cut out a picture from a catalog and be sure to find the Latin name so you can start learning them. Make notes about what the plant needs to grow well then jot down when you planted it, from where, when you divided it, when its first flowers appeared, when you cut it down, etc. Since it’s looseleaf you can easily insert new plants and alphabetize them by their Latin names.

I can’t stress it enough, the information you write down about your own experiences (and believe me, you’re not going to keep all these details in your head!) will be a huge help to you in the future. Set up some charts or pages now while you’ve got a little time to make it easier for you to record your experiences and observations next spring.

Best wishes to everyone for a fruitful and healthy New Year!

Amy Ivy is executive director of Cornell Cooperative Extension, Clinton County. Office phone numbers: Clinton County, 561-7450; Essex County, 962-4810; Franklin County, 483-7403. Website: Email questions to