black and white photo of deciduous-tree-no-leaves-with-tire-swing-during-winter-season-edenmakers

Garden Coma: What Will You Do While Your Garden Sleeps?

by / 19 Comments / 260 View / November 17, 2008

I need a reality check because I garden in southern California where the sunshine is abundant and the weather is ideal for year round gardening.

I know this is not the case for many of my cold climate gardening friends around the country and abroad, so I want to hear from you, especially you obsessive gardeners!


This is a typical "winter garden" in my neighborhood. The trees may be naked, but there is still a lot going on in this Los Angeles garden.


What do you do in the winter when your garden slips into its yearly coma?

I can't imagine what it must be like waiting for the garden to wake up in the spring.

As a professional garden designer, gardening coach and garden television presenter, my interaction with plant life is on a daily basis.

Gardening is what I do for a living, I'm an Eden Maker!


So how do you get your "gardening fix" when you can't garden?

Do you feel down or blue when the weather cools, or do you embrace the change and enjoy the down time with another favorite activity?

Do you forget about gardening all together?

Do you continue blogging about your garden or find yourself writing about other things during these cold months?

Do you visit warm-climate gardening sites and drool at the photos and daydream about spring?


Shirley Bovshow video on "Creating a Garden Vignette For Your Patio" during the cold season


I often appear on national television talk shows during the winter months and it's not easy being relevant to everyone when I'm soaking in the sun and others are drenched in snow and rain!

So during these months, I read lots of gardening blogs, especially those from gardeners who live in harsher winter areas than I do.

I can't afford to be out of touch with "gardening reality!"


If it weren't for garden bloggers, like Kathy Purdy of Cold Climate Gardening in New York, how could I answer questions such as, "How Do I Over- Winter Hardy Plants in the Containers?".


I read in Mr.McGregor's Daughter that the weather in her part of Illinois went from 71-degrees one day, to a cool 36-degrees the next week.

Talk about bi-polar weather!


A visit to Canadian Nancy Bond's Soliloquy blog always warms my heart, but I felt a slight draft when I read her recent post, titled, "How Wintery Will Your Winter Be?"


Never mind that it was 95 degrees today in Los Angeles.

We don't all live in "la la land," so does it annoy you to hear about "those sunny gardens" when you are underneath a blanket of snow?

Or, does it inspire you for the next gardening season?


Read, "How To Prepare Your Garden For Winter" written by a cold winter garden expert from England on my other blog, "Garden Center TV!"

19 Comment

  1. Winter is a time for garden dreaming. In winter, I can imagine how gorgeous my garden will look next year, without the reality of Earwigs, slugs and mosquitoes. There are no weeds or diseases in my winter dream garden. In addition to reading garden blogs, I read lots of gardening books, especially ones filled with glossy photos. I also surf the online nursery websites, imagining all the wonderful plants I could grow from seed, or deciding where the hottest, newest perennials and woody plants could go in my garden. I make occasional forays out into the garden & dig in the snow to see if the Snowdrops are in bud or even blooming under the snow. And then I go to Florida in February.

  2. Hi Shirley,
    I am letting the garden rest…I am awaiting the rains. Our climate in San Francisco is similar to yours, but it is much more cool and damp here, that is for sure. As soon as it rains, which I hope is this week, I will plant my wildflower seeds I have collected and thosepurchased. Then a lot of transplanting of things that self sown fron this last year..Hoping for more collinsia(chinese houses!)
    I look around and I can see that I want tons of white foxglove all along the shady side. I am building castles in my head of what I want to see…it is so much fun!
    Best regards,

  3. Shirley,
    Yeah, serious about, uh, well…we’ll go with your milder version: not enjoying it. lol.
    And I wouldn’t have expected you to know what wintersowing was – lucky you, you don’t get winter for pete sake. Must be fabulous! Hmmm, I wonder if WSing would still work for you anyway? Got time to experiment?
    And the other hobbies are just a great way to fill that ‘I ain’t trudging through 5 feet of snow’ time and save lots of money being crafty. 🙂

    I think you may have me mixed up with a different Tina –
    I would love to be playing outside in wet soil in the winter, but I’m way up in the ‘lake-effect snow belt’ of NY and am buried under a good 6 foot of snow from December to March. (sometimes into April!)
    I can’t even imagine being able to FIND the soil in the winter. lol.
    Yup, sucks to be me in January! It’s only one, of many, reasons I’m houseplant and seed obsessed. 😉
    See, not only do I get to be envious of Shirley, but you now, also! lol.

  4. I think gardening year ’round would be a chore. I like the break. That way I start out anxious and entused come spring.

    I have my indoor plants (see:, visits to the botanical gardens, garden blog reading, plotting the next garden project in my head, reading garden books and magazines, and working on Garden Walk Buffalo PR kits to be sent out in early January to keep me busy. I couldn’t do all that AND garden too.

  5. Hi Shirley!

    i’m lucky enough to be another southern Cal gardener, so i welcome winter as a respite from the heat… i plant my sweet peas, winter vegies, and lots of pansies and snapdragons for quick and long lasting color… also time to prune the roses and fruit trees (i practice backyard orcharding, so i keep them small)…

    Also, whether snowed in or not, there’s always more time for reading garden books and magazines, as I talked about in Read All About It!

  6. Shirley, I’m thrilled to hear that you like our Gardener’s Touch Hand Cream! We’ve got a long road ahead to get it off the ground, but hopefully it will take off.

    You are right, the nursery business has a very short, but intense season here. We are highly specialized…a niche nursery, you might say…so the off season is a challenge. That’s one reason we are getting more into mail order. We can take orders for spring delivery and have some cash flow all winter.

    Other conventional nurseries in the area turn to seasonal crops like poinsettias and kalanchoes. Some sell Christmas trees and other greenery and some even move snow and put up Christmas lights and other decorations for businesses and homeowners. Nursery people are a creative bunch…well, the ones that survive, anyway.

  7. Hi Shirley, I live in the same type of climate as Gail and Tina, my friends, although I am a little south and east of them in a microclimate valley between mountains and near a river. We can do garden chores all year, just wearing more clothes and heavier gloves and hats. Winter is the time to divide many perennials and move things around since the soil is moist and watering is not necessary. Pruning and shaping trees and shrubs will be done late winter. I do have a small greenhouse with orchids, bromedliads and starting seeds. There is always some kind of gardening to do, even weeding of the winter weeds like henbit, sprouting like crazy right now.

  8. Hi Anna-I know you were joking about the mud wrestling, but don’t tell your Mr.Delicious, he may get disappointed!

    I’ve used the mossy trellis design I did for the video on this post for clients in the real world and it has held up and looks great. It’s a conversation starter in their garden.

  9. I completely forgot to talk about the screen on the video. I love that too! The host of the show would have been pleased if that is all you had brought. It is a unique idea and something I’ve never seen before.

    I also need to re-do the pots beside my front door. I like the tree idea you mentioned because I’m tired of the boxwoods that are in there now. Some height would be nice. You did a grand job on the show as always.

  10. Hey Shirley, it’s 5:30 am on the East Coast and the sun is just coming up and just wanted to let you know it will be there in a couple of hours.

    I sometimes forget that not everyone understands these redneck jokes like we Southerners do. I don’t really mud wrestle..well with my muddy boots I do. Mud wrestling is a saying here for when you don’t know what else to say and you’re filling the conversation with something witty. like….I could go cook supper but I think I’ll mud wrestle instead—or…I haven’t being doing anything all day except mud wrestling. You can apply it to anything and everything. It also works rather well like this……If I didn’t have to mud wrestle all day, I get a few things done.

    I cook for Mr.D and he uses his big muscles to thank me. I sure appreciate his willingness cause he also does the dishes. I was already going to build a shed before you suggested Debra’s book. Her book was the icing on the cake.

  11. Dear Kathy,
    You have such a practical approach to the get busy with something else. I often think about gardeners in cold climates and am convinced that you must appreciate the planting so much more than someone like me who has the opportunity most every day. I enjoy visiting your site and seeing what you consider to be ideal container plants- and yes, many of them are my common landscaping plants.

    Hi Nancy,
    Four seasons must be a great thing to experience. I wonder if our temperaments are shaped by the climates that we live in. In the cold areas, you have no choice but to be patient and wait out the season. In So Cal, we tend to want everything now!
    What I like about you is that you find the beauty in nature no matter if the sun is shining or the clouds are thundering!

    Hi Gail,
    Your climate in Nashville sounds like the perfect initiation to “cold weather gardening” because it doesn’t sound extreme. I would probably be able to acclimate there faster than to Nancy or Kathy’s weather because they have “heavy duty” winters. It doesn’t sound like you are in a drought area like I am. Is is humid there in the summer?

    Hi Josh,
    Professionals in the garden trade seem to have a much shorter year to make a living in your area? How do you make it through the slower months. I guess you consider this detail when you go into the business. Online bulb sales sounds very smart and an effective way to keep the business alive. I agree that online communication is a lifesaver and a spirit lifter when we can’t be as active outdoors as we would like to be!
    By the way, I love your hand lotion for gardeners “Gardener’s Touch!”
    When I use your lotion after gardening it brings me immediate relief and continues even after I wash my hands a few times. Great stuff! I hope you sell out of it.

    Hi Jenni from Cinci-
    You are another patient gardener who appreciates the change of seasons. I’m starting to feel jealous now of you guys! Who wouldn’t benefit from a rest. I like the idea of your solarium. You bring in your plants from the outside and enjoy them indoors- what great room mates. Great way to get up close and personal with your plants. Keep me posted on your new vegetable garden, I want to see photos when you are done!

    Hi Carol,
    That was an excellent breakdown and should be a model for all cold climate gardeners in my opinion. I think I could live through the cold winter if I broke it down into small phases instead of just thinking of it as a long season!
    You gave me an idea for a new show that would be relevant to people in cold regions. Designing an indoor garden with your over-wintered plants. I would need all your help though because I don’t have the experience of living with some of these plants indoors!
    I look forward to reading your blog through the winter to see what you have cooking!

    Hi Tina,
    I read on your blog that you are already counting down until Spring! I guess you are serious about not enjoying the snow very much! I did check out you wintersowing link, and yes, I have never heard of it. ( And I have the audacity of calling myself an “expert”?! Ok, I’m a regional expert!) I will look into it.
    I like your idea of “virtual vacations” great way to use the imagination and fire up some inspiration for travel. I also see that you have lots of handy hobbies like cross stitch? I’m envious.

    Hi Anna,
    How do you get your man to be your slave like that? I can’t wait to follow the progress of your shed. I see that Debra Prinzing’s book, “Shed Style and Elegant Hideaways” has served as a muse for you. Isn’t that a great book? Did you plan on a shed before reading the book or were in enticed?
    Mud wrestling? Do you mean “wrestling to get your muddy boots off after the rain?” Anna, whatever you meant, enjoy it you deserve it!

  12. Hey..I’m here planning my shed and that’s pretty much consumed me. Mr.D is rolling his ever loving eyes at me and the ongoing list of shed ideas. I don’t have a winter routine except planning and hoping for the next season.

    But my non-gardening life of wild parties and mud wrestling kicks in. I find that at 50 years old, you feel free to do as you please. I do of course re-use the mud in my garden.

  13. First, I drool and get very envious of ummm…where YOU garden!
    Then I start organizing my seeds for some indoor starting and for something called wintersowing, which, of course, is something else I’m sure you’ve never heard of. lol.
    There is nothing like getting your hands in seeds and soil when there is a blizzard howling outside the window – until you’re outside IN that blizzard plopping the jugs of seed and soil in the snowbank.

    Check this out, Shirley:

    I also do ‘virtual vacations’ on my blog to tropical places I’d like to visit some day. It gets a bit obsessive. Seriously, I hate winter. Snow is nice to look at until you lose power for a week and get snowed in – then it isn’t so pretty anymore!

    There’s always some sort of puttering to do in winter. Giving the houseplants waaay too much attention is always in vogue. 🙂

  14. We get through winter in phases. Right now we are in the first phase… putting everything away because winter is hard on lawn furniture, garden decor, etc. We are mowing the lawn a final time and hoping for a few good days to do these things. That’s why we laugh at some of the “outdoor living” setups on garden shows. They are completely not practical wherever there is “real” winter.

    The 2nd phase is during the holidays. It’s a settling in period of time as we get used to the cold. We are too busy to miss the garden too much, but occupy our time with amaryllis and narcissus bulbs, houseplants, and gardening books and blogs.

    The 3rd phase, post holidays, we start looking at seed catalogs, making lists, planning for the garden.

    The 4th and final phase takes place in late winter. We start to whine a bit, to pine for spring, to wish the winter was over… gradually we start sowing seeds indoors, and then before we know it, there is a nice late winter day and we are back out in our gardens pruning and looking for plants that have heaved out of the soil and for the first blooms on snowdrops and crocuses.

    Through it all, we keep blogging. We might not have much to do in the garden in the winter time, but we have plenty of time to think and write about gardening!

  15. I am planning a larger vegetable garden for next year while it’s snowing outside right now. I can hardly wait until I can start my seedlings. I’ll miss it while it’s cooler but it gives me time to plan and think of how I can start over when spring arrives. I’m fortunate enough to have a solarium that I keep some plants in over the winter and that I use to start my plants before transplanting them to the garden.
    I love the change of the seasons and I wouldn’t change where I live. At times I’d like to be able to grow plants that are not suited to where I live but that’s just the breaks. Who needs a banana tree anyway really?

  16. Being a nursery owner, winter is certainly a slower time, but there is always much to do in preparation for the crazy spring season. We are getting more into mail order and the last month was spent readying the hosta portion of our online store for spring orders (check it out!).

    After going hard for 4 months, the slower winter is a welcome relief. I just don’t like the cold, snow, and the fact that the garden is no longer green. I do ok through the new year, but January and February are a real drag! Keeping in touch with garden friends and colleagues via the internet is a life saver!

  17. In Nashville we have four distinct seasons, but our winters rarely get so cold that the ground is frozen for months at a time….Right now we still have blooms on flowers and leaves are falling onto the beds. The trees will hold onto their leaves often until December….more cleanup. We can garden most of the year. What that means is we can plant trees and shrubs, dig new beds or even plant bulbs late into January. I need a break and our wet late winters afford me that! The clay soil is just too messy to work and it is awfully cold out there when it’s wet! This winter I plan to read my favorite blogs and get inspired. Since I only began blogging in Feb 2008 I haven’t the faintest idea what I will blog about..But I know that my blogging friends will keep me sustained, entertained and inspired. But not jealous!

  18. Like Kathy, I’m happy to live where there are four distinct seasons. I don’t even mind winter as it has its own beauty, to be sure. But hearing about your plants when we’re under a cozy blanket of snow is wonderful! It does inspire one for the next spring, and it all helps to shorten a (sometimes brutal) winter. Great question.

  19. Who could take offense at sunshine? I’m thankful I live in a climate where it rarely hits 95F! Sure I could do with a little less winter, but if there wasn’t a dormant season I’d never get the house clean. When I see photos of gardens in warmer climates at this time of year, it’s like visiting an oasis in the desert, and the plants are more likely to be familiar to me. Your winter plants are my summer plants. Your summer plants might as well be from Mars. Maybe I could grow them in a pot. Maybe they would get too much rain. I’m not sure, and my growing season is so short, I haven’t taken the time to find out.

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