By Jessi Jablonski
When working on a landscape plan, flower color and plant spacing are a small fraction of the design process. There are many so factors to consider. Care should be taken to think about the garden in all seasons. What will it look like in fall? What about in winter, covered in snow?
Growing up, I was lucky to live a few minutes from Boerner Botanical Gardens. I spent countless hours wandering around the display beds and trial gardens. As a college student, many classes were held there so we could to learn to identify trees — especially in the winter!
My favorite time to visit the Gardens, as we called it, was in fall. The volunteers and staff would be busy cutting plants back, dividing large perennials, collecting seeds, trimming shrubs, taking lots of notes, and would still take the time to patiently answer all of the visitors’ questions. It’s a must-see if you find yourself in Milwaukee.
Wandering around the Gardens late in the season gave me a better appreciation for fall color and winter interest. Trees can be sensitive to environmental factors and may not put on a dazzling display if they have been stressed by rain, drought or pathogens. Shrubs and perennials, however, can bounce back more quickly from poor weather. Have you seen an Amur Maple shrub in it’s full glory? Stunning! The foliage on some Hosta varieties brightens to a sunshine yellow in fall. Ornamental grasses wave in the breeze with all shades of red, purple, orange, yellow, tan and blue. The larger-than-life dried hydrangea flowers stop me in my tracks every time I encounter one.
More and more, I find myself designing gardens for the winter. Our winters last just as long as our summers, if not longer. It is heartwarming to see the flower stalks from the ornamental grasses poking out of the snow as to say, “spring will be here before you know it!” Wild finches have been spotted at the Liatris and Echinacea flowers that were left standing. Cardinals will brighten the day when they swoop down to the bird feeder to eat, then fly back to the Colorado Spruce for protection.
Try to remember that the garden you have planted will flower in the summer, but give them a chance to shine in the off season as well. The winters can get long here. Daydreaming of warmer days will be easier if the plants remind you that spring is coming.
The Plant Lady is a regional horticulturalist with the goal is of making Bluff Country more beautiful one garden at a time. Follow her on Facebook at PlantLadyMn for helpful tips and tricks, or via email at ThePlantLadyMN@gmail.com.
Stuffed Acorn Squash
1 Acorn (or Delicata or Heart Of Gold) squash, split lengthwise, seeds removed
1 lb ground Italian sausage
1 small onion, diced
2 stalks celery, diced
2 carrots, peeled and diced
1 apple, diced in 1/2” cubes
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 large handful greens (spinach, kale, beet greens, etc)
1 tablespoon Italian seasoning
Salt and pepper, to taste
2 tablespoons olive oil, if needed
Preheat oven to 400º.
Place the squash halves, cut side down, in a roasting dish. Add 1/2” water. Bake for 30-40 minutes, or until squash has a little “give” to it when pressed.
Meanwhile, sauté the Italian sausage. If using turkey sausage, add oil to pan first. Brown the meat. When cooked through, remove with a slotted spoon and sauté the onion, celery and apple for about 5 minutes in the reserved oil. Add garlic and sauté 1 minute, then add meat back to pan. Add Italian seasoning, salt and pepper to taste and your greens of choice and stir until the greens have wilted. Turn off heat and let rest.
When squash is soft, remove it from the pan and discard water. Place squash back in the pan, cut side up. Fill the squash cavities with the meat and veggie mixture. Pop back in the oven for 5-10 minutes or until heated through.