November (Herb) Garden

by Kirsti Frazier, blogger at

The early snow storm we had before Halloween was the end of the zinnia, portulaca, and other annual flowers, and what remained of peppers, lettuce and radish. The montauk daisy’s glorious spray of blooms – now wilted, browned, bruised. On that morning I left the house to substitute at the local middle school, imaging a dusting or perhaps an inch of snow. But the snow fell and fell, making a 4-inch thick blanket on everything.

Early winter snow blankets our gardens for Halloween

I returned to a garden on its way to winter dormancy. 

Happily, I had already cut most of the herbs I wanted to save for winter before the snow came. 

oregano, sage, peppermint and thyme handing to dry

There’s more to this than having herbs to cook with and make tea with. For me, bringing my friends in and enjoying them after they’ve gone underground is a joy and a comfort. There’s brightening peppermint tea from my cheeky, robust plants that only weeks ago were covered with bumblebees. And velvety, sun-loving oregano that had grown large enough to divide. Like gifts left by visiting friends. 

The snow has receded for now, leaving auburn trees and sending flowering perennials into hibernation. Seeing them die back brings up a hopeful tug of anticipation for next year. Bittersweet hangs on some of my trees – a glorious murderer; beautiful, and choking the trees it hangs on. I resolve to cut some to bring indoors for decoration.

The last of the vegetable plants were cut and thrown into the compost last week. Hardier perennials, now mulched in, reach faded leaves toward gray skies.

November garden in New England.

The Magic of a Winter Garden

When planning a garden, do you think about what it will look like in winter?

Last week we enjoyed a virtual talk by club member and garden designer Joan Butler giving us tips and inspiration for designing a garden for winter interest. The winter season is long in New England, as most of us know, so it makes sense to plan our gardens with some features that will be visually pleasing in winter.

Joan talked about how planning a garden for winter interest uses the same design techniques as in regular landscape design, considering form, line, texture, color, repetition, and focal points. A winter garden needs ‘good bones’, which are pleasing shapes and structure that remain once the leaves fall and flowers fade. This includes things such as trees, shrubs, and man-made structures.

Joan also gave us suggestions for plants for our area that are great in a winter garden, either due to evergreen foliage, interesting form, or colorful bark or berries.

We enjoyed this inspiring talk, along with Joan’s wonderful photos that illustrated how a winter garden could indeed be magical with a little planning and design. Thank you, Joan!

Foraged Florals

The other evening one of our talented club members, Valerie Howes, gave a talk and demonstration on making floral arrangements out of material foraged from around the yard.

This time of year the garden still provides end-of-the-season flowers, and some, such as hydrangeas, will look good dried.

In nearby woods or even along the side of the road, one can find treasures such as branches, grasses, berries, and pods – just be sure you aren’t taking something from someone else’s property!

Even invasive plants such as Oriental Bittersweet berries such as in the arrangement above can be pretty, as long as the arrangement is meant for indoors only. Removing invasives from the outdoors and having material for a lovely bouquet sounds like a win-win!

It was a fun demonstration, and many of us were inspired to go out in the yard and see what we could find for our own floral arrangements!

What Are We Up To?

We are kicking off our 87th year as a club here in Holliston!  This year will be a little different – most of our meetings will take place over zoom, and many events have been unfortunately cancelled, such as our popular annual holiday floral event that we usually hold in November.  However, you can still see us active in the community, maintaining various garden areas in town such as the Holliston Public Library garden.


Many of us have been spending lots of time in our own gardens this year.  In a recent project, we have also been surveying our gardens to see what native plants we have, as well as trying to include more natives in our plantings.  This is part of a state-wide effort by garden club members to plant gardens that are more beneficial to our environment.


We do hope that we will be able to meet and hold our regular events next year.  While we wait, we remain thankful for our gardens that offer us a respite in these unusual and often challenging times.

Here’s to an interesting 87th year!

Tips for Seed Starting

It’s that time of year!  We’re inching closer to spring, and starting to think about our gardens.


Growing flowers and vegetables from seed is economical and can be very satisfying.  Many annuals can’t take cold weather, so to have a longer season of flowering or fruiting, it is preferable to start them indoors.  Here are some tips for starting seeds indoors:

1. Start them at the right time.  Many plants can’t be planted outside until after the last frost date (around May 10th here in Holliston).  They shouldn’t be too tiny or too overgrown when you plant them, so check the info on the back of the packet for each type of seed to see how soon to start them.


2. Use a light and fluffy, but moisture retentive ‘soil’ to plant the seeds in.  Regular garden soil is usually too heavy for little seedling roots and doesn’t drain well enough.  If you are using your own mixture, make sure it is sterile.

3. Cover with plastic to retain moisture until the seeds sprout.

4. When the seed start sprouting, uncover and give lots of light. Put them in a sunny window or under some fluorescent shop lights hung two inches above the plants.


5. Use the right amount of water.  Water the seedlings when they start to get dry, but be sure not to overwater!

6. Put on a fan.  Air circulation helps prevent fungal diseases that kill seedlings.  Keep a fan on low near the seedlings.

7. Harden them off before planting.  A week or two before planting outside, the plants need to start acclimating to the elements.  Put them in a shady, protected place outdoors for a couple hours on the first day, and then gradually increase their exposure to the sun and breeze until they are ready to be planted.


8.  Enjoy!

Focus on Native Plants

For the next two years, garden clubs across Massachusetts are joining an initiative to encourage the planting of native plants.  Why native plants?  For one, these plants are adapted to our local climate and soil conditions and thus can be easier to grow.  They are also a very important part of the local food web, providing seeds, pollen, nectar, and forage for our wildlife.


Monarch butterfly on native milkweed

The leaves of native trees and plants play host to many butterflies and moths, and in turn many birds rely on those caterpillars for food, especially for their babies.  However, the vast majority of our native insects only feed on particular species that they have adapted to over time – which means they need native plants.  Our native oak trees are hosts to over 550 different species of caterpillars, for example, while the non-native ginkgo only hosts 5.  Without native plants, much of our wildlife would disappear.

np birds.jpg

Native plants are an essential part of our ecosystem for many reasons, and we can help by choosing natives for our garden.  Find out more on Tuesday, April 7, at 7:00pm at the Holliston Senior Center where our speaker Claudia Thompson will be giving a talk on Using Native Plants in Your Garden… Why it Matters.

Saving the American Chestnut Tree

A century ago, a blight killed billions of American Chestnut trees, pushing them to the brink of extinction. Learn about the efforts to restore this tree to our native forests with this talk by Brad Smith from the Mass/RI American Chestnut Foundation on Tuesday, March 10, at 7:00pm at the Holliston Public Library.

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This event is sponsored by the Holliston Public Library and Holliston Garden Club.

Home for the Holidays … via Europe

Join the Garden Club for a fun evening of holiday floral design and delicious treats on Friday November 15th.

Doors open at 7:00. We’ll have our annual raffle and lots of delicious refreshments before the show starts at 7:30.

Venue: St Mary’s Parish Hall, Holliston. Tickets are $15.00 at the door but can be bought in advance for $12.00. All proceeds go to benefit the Garden Club’s civic activities, which include scholarships, town beautification, and other educational and creative programs.

Plant Sale May 11th

Just in time for Mother’s Day! The Holliston Garden Club will be holding its annual plant sale on May 11th from 9:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. Find as at the corner of Hollis and Washington Streets on the Congregational Church Green.

This year we are featuring an Ask A Master Gardener table and a Soil Testing table.

Bring your questions for the experts, shop our reasonably priced annuals and perennials, and learn how to test your soil!

A New Season

Another summer is coming to a close, bringing cooler nights, the full corn moon, the delights of our harvest season, and the beginning of our Holliston Garden Club year!

Our members represent a range of passions and interests: gardens full of blooming flowers, vegetable gardening, conservation, landscape design, floral design, and more. Dig in and join the fun!

We will be hosting a Holiday Floral Design Show on November 2nd, featuring Candice Morganstern, one of the most accomplished floral designers on the east coast.

And in March, just in time for another season of gardening, we are featuring a Vegetable Gardening Talk with Brittany Overshiner of Upswing Farm.

Check out our upcoming events calendar or contact us to learn more about what we have cooking!