winter planning for the garden

by Sharon Santoni


Hopefully by this time of year, for those of us in the northern hemisphere, the garden will be contemplated from a distance, without requiring any real work.

In an ideal world the borders will have been put to bed for the winter a month or two ago, and the tools cleaned and put away to rest until the spring.

There is less need for the nailbrush as we are not getting our hands dirty, and no reason for backache because the wheelbarrow and forks are safely out of sight.


This however is the season for planning and dreaming.  For being inspired by magazines and books, and for laying out new colour schemes and plant combinations in our minds or on paper, where everything we plant grows beautifully and nothing needs watering!

It is also the season for sorting through seed packets.

As you can see from these pictures I have a special gift for buying seeds and forgetting to sow them.  In gardening stores I get caught up in the beautiful images of huge zinnias, never ending nigella and tall stately delphiniums.  The price tag is never high on a packet of seeds so I blithely and optimistically buy several at a time and carefully put them into my seed box where they look so neat and business like …. and then I forget all about them until next spring comes around and I realize that the seeds should have been sown in the fall.

This year is unlikely to be any different, so I thought that if I use my box of seeds as a photo prop for this little blog post, then at least they will not have been purchased  or collected for nothing.


The same goes for the packets of seeds that I make up from the garden here.   They take no time to do and are good for hostess gifts and, yes,  I always dutifully keep back a few packets for myself … to join the collection.

Of course the whole “I-must-sow-those-seeds” thing could have become part of my new year resolutions.    But …  well lets just say that with age I have become more realistic about my resolutions than about my capacity to sow seeds.

Hope you are having a lovely weekend and also enjoying some ‘armchair’ gardening.   Here’s to our dreaming!



Marika Ujvari January 9, 2016 - 6:29 pm

I absolutely LOVE all your blogs!!!

Marika in Colorado

Sharon Santoni January 9, 2016 - 11:28 pm

Thank you! 🙂

Jody January 9, 2016 - 6:30 pm

Lovely watercolors.

Heather in Arles January 9, 2016 - 6:41 pm

I miss our garden so much right now! It is just a vegetable garden and a small one at that so not much planning goes into it beyond where to rotate what this year but I am already counting down the months!

Brenda January 9, 2016 - 6:53 pm

Love your blogs here in Texas. Read everyone of them. Keep up the good work.

Pandy January 9, 2016 - 7:01 pm

So glad to hear we are “all” trying the realistic approach, lol. I too have almost killed my back and myself with “therapy gardening.” This year I hope to be moving to a beautiful hillside with a gorgeous view….thinking a field of sunflowers, and another of lavender….not so much weeding…hmmmm, I let you know if it works. ; )

So enjoy your wonderful blog. I know it has been such a difficult year. Here’s to new beginnings, filled with love, laughter, sunshine and flowers!

susana from Tasmania January 10, 2016 - 2:48 am

Sharon,everything you send tu us is wonderful,elegant filled with enjoyment and sunshine!Thank you for your lovely blog.

Laura January 9, 2016 - 7:08 pm

I am already planning my garden. I love the pink and purple combination for my annuals.
I will return to those colors is year. I plan on planting some more rose bushes this year also. Last year the deer would eat my roses, flower and leaves, I wouldn’t have believed it had I not seen it for myself. Will try some natural deterants to keep them away. Any advise would be appreciated . Love your blog and always look forward to them. Blessings..

Dana Veach January 9, 2016 - 7:18 pm

Another Texas, USA reader here, Sharon…thank you for the lovely mid-winter encouragement. The thought of colorful flowers and new green growth is a delight to contemplate…even if we never actually get the seeds in the ground…or if, like my sister and myself, we have to continually outsmart the goats and chickens to keep them from mistaking the flowers for food. My poppies and hollyhocks succumbed to them last year…sigh! The Hydrangea, Elephant Ears, some Lavender, and various lilies survived. Here’s to new LIFE in the new year for all of us…world wide!

Josephine January 9, 2016 - 7:26 pm

J’aime lire votre blog, vous êtes une source d’inspiration pour nos vie de tous le jours, merci

Jennifer January 9, 2016 - 7:31 pm

And I thought I was the only person to buy lots of seeds, then never sow them! ;-]

I’m in California, and I confess, I am truly discouraged. Lest year’s garden was a disaster. Even the zucchini died. I mean, how pathetic! 4 years of drought, and several heat waves killed 8 roses, 3 trees and everything in the large planter boxes. So, this is actually the busy time of year for me. I need to reseed the lawn, take out the 3 trees, dig out treasured roses and pot them (gophers!) prune the remaining fruit trees (only 5 left, of 12 that have planted; sob!) and give everything a good feeding, now that the rains have started, in an attempt to save lives.

Please keep writing about your garden; it gives me hope!

Happy New Year, and thank you, Sharon!

Sharon Santoni January 10, 2016 - 11:16 am

Hi Jennifer. I’m so sorry to hear about the plants that you have lost to this dreadful drought
It must be heartbreaking

Jennifer January 11, 2016 - 4:10 am

It’s been raining for weekend now, off and on. I have hopes the El Niño will break the cycle of drought. It *is* heartbreaking. But that’s Mother Nature for you. I will simplify the garden, install some drought tolerant herbs, and baby my remaining roses in pots. Perhaps plant a birch tree.

Ah, hope lives in my heart!

Thanks, Sharon

Marian from England January 12, 2016 - 3:39 pm

ah, Jennifer, the vagaries of mother nature! Spare a thought for the poor people in Northern UK who have had their gardens and homes disappear under flood water and sewage! I’m very fortunate that this year the South West escaped the flooding that happened last year, but I don’t know how I’d start again with a garden, it must be heartbreaking, whether through drought or flood, to have one’s hard work and dreams destroyed. I feel for you and wish you well in claiming back your special place.

margarita January 11, 2016 - 5:36 am

I too live in So California so I sympathize with you Jennifer. The landscape here is becoming more desert like. But we can admire from afar…sigh!

Judith January 9, 2016 - 7:31 pm

Gardening is year round in California. Busy pruning 30 roses right now. But I do have a box filled with seed packets, that never see the light of day, hidden away in the potting shed. And you’re right, I usually discover it behind a row of pots well past planting time. Have a happy time dreaming of gardens to come.

barbaralilian January 9, 2016 - 7:37 pm

That could have been written about me, as I do exactly the same with packets of seeds. i admire plants in a friends garden, then she comes along with the seeds for me, and a carefully put them away to sow, then when I think about sowing seeds the season has past or I can’t find them . love the sketches you have done to show what the seeds are. Always such a charming post to read.

Kathy January 9, 2016 - 8:01 pm

Did you design and paint the seed packets shown? They are absolutely beautiful!

Sharon Santoni January 9, 2016 - 8:43 pm

Yes Kathy, I do this every year, so quick and easy:)

Jennifer January 9, 2016 - 10:25 pm

So, pretty, Sharon. I thought I recognized your work. 🙂

Jeanie January 9, 2016 - 8:12 pm

Those are the prettiest seed packets I’ve ever seen!

Barbara January 9, 2016 - 8:17 pm

We are in western NY in the states, and are having a very mild winter!!! Just this morning I was thinking about our garden for the spring—- so enjoyed you post about buying and not planting seeds. I think we all do that. Happy dreaming!!

Sally January 9, 2016 - 9:18 pm

Hello dear Sharon, and Bonne Annee

You are in very good company, for here in England I am guilty of the exact same thing and have many unplanted seeds, they sit in a neat row, looking like a hopeful shelf full of summer colour…probably all out of date:)
Whilst buying my Christmas tree at the nursery, some indoor bulbs of white hyacinth even found their way into my shopping, too beautiful to resist

I am thinking of mixing my annual seeds, and scattering in a ‘wildflower’ kind of way this year…just to see what comes up. At least I may get a nice surprise
Enjoy your weekend

Sally xx

Sharon Santoni January 10, 2016 - 11:23 am

Hi Sally

Before you sow your mix of seeds you may enjoy reading Vita S-W’s garden diaries…. She tried doing just that and vowed never to do it again!!

Happy gardening


Sally January 11, 2016 - 4:26 am

Hello Sharon
Thank you so much, what a good tip..I have both her books entitled ‘in your garden’ I will look for the articles. I adore Sissinghurst, it was reading and studying Vita’s work that really made me become a gardener.
You remind me of her often

Happy gardening too
Sally xx

Darina January 9, 2016 - 9:28 pm

Love your posts! So inspiring!

Mayree January 9, 2016 - 9:28 pm

Gardening is my passion but must say it is getting a bit more difficult as I age so am trying to evolve into more perennials. However, I do intend to plant more heirloom seeds this year, especially in my kitchen garden so that I can save seeds from year to year. Also, intend to integrate edibles in borders with my favorite colorful flowers. We moved from 3 country acres where we were pretty much self sufficient when we raised our family to a much smaller, city lot, when my husband became ill. (enjoyed having a small herb farm, with fruit orchard and formal beds for several years.) I MUST always have my herbs even if just in pots! Each year my mouth waters as I leaf through the gardening catalogs and view the newest discoveries from the plant kingdom. I have had to give up the fruit, nut trees as can’t compete with the squirrels and critters here. I do love the several varieties of grapes that I still share with them and love my David Austen roses for potpourri. I am enjoying the winter break and hope we don’t have such a hot summer this year and an abundance of water. Maybe an early spring too so I can spread the aged compost and and reseed some grassy spots. Keep on dreaming and planning!

Diana Ferguson January 9, 2016 - 10:08 pm

Hi Sharon! Planning a garden is all about looking forward with hope. And we all need to do this, even if things don’t always work out as we plan. Good luck with your garden this year! Diana

Mayree January 9, 2016 - 10:19 pm

Diana,You are so right about HOPE! We must also add FAITH as well …..with faith that the seeds will sprout the first time planted and hope that they will develop into the beautiful plants we dream of. Then, of course, the strength to maintain it all. Ha!

Sharon Santoni January 10, 2016 - 11:25 am

Without hope and faith no one would ever plant a tree ! 🙂

StitchinSweetSue January 9, 2016 - 10:56 pm

happy dreaming to you as well sharon:) xo

Roslyn Short January 9, 2016 - 11:01 pm

Love to see some of those Huge allium bulbs that I saw in Giverny springing up in your garden Sharon .The lovely man from Boat House cafe in Palm Beach NSW has just dropped me off dozen hydrangea plants that were sadly wilting in the heat So now I’m busy planting them for a pretty display next summer The hibiscus & frangipani a have suffered from too much rain .Oh how different are our gardens.Just be in the moment & contemplate& that beautiful Spring garden of yours, Ros

Barb January 9, 2016 - 11:11 pm

Can you please write about the ” French Chateau To Dream On”
I have not been able to put it out of my mind since reading that
blog. Yes, I am dreaming….but why not? Can you share anymore
information in private?
I follow your wonderful creative work and thank you for sharing.
Merci, Barb Ward USA

Jennifer from Glen Rock, Pa. January 9, 2016 - 11:29 pm

I would love some delphinium seeds.


Emm January 10, 2016 - 12:59 am

Packets of seeds as hostess gifts, what a good idea.

You wrote at one point that you were going to put parterres in your lawn — is that still on your agenda, or have you done and I missed it?

Sharon Santoni January 10, 2016 - 11:28 am

Yes Emm. The parterres are doing well thank you, if you type ‘parterres’ into the search bar at the top of the page, you’ll find plenty of pictures

Pamela January 10, 2016 - 1:06 am

Love the water color seed packets. Your garden was beautiful last year and I’m sure it will be just as beautiful this year.
Have a great day.

splendid market January 10, 2016 - 1:49 am

Your seed packets are lovely. I’ve just come in from the garden, pruning away a little more, pulling up some plants gone astray these past few months and poking around to see what is coming up. This is a wonderful time to dream and plan.

Lillian Plummer January 10, 2016 - 2:21 am

Hi Sharon, love your blog and book ❤️❤️ I think gardening from scratch (seeds) is commendable and I envy those who are able to do it. Me! I like instant gratification and head for a wholesale nursery, I just don’t have the planning skill required to think a season ahead. best wishes with the planting. Lillian.

Wendy Winch January 10, 2016 - 4:42 am

Another reader of your blogs from Western Australia love them . They are so inspiring and fill my head with dreams and ideas . Will be visiting France in 2017 can’t wait. Thanks Sharon xx

Esther George January 10, 2016 - 6:29 am

Hi Sharon, looks like we all have the same problem, buying seeds and forgetting to plant them only I went one better, I ordered lots of bulbs last season and over here you put some of them in the fridge before planting, but mine are still in the fridge, things sometimes don’t go as planned. You have to improve the soil just about every time you plant things like Daffodils, Tulips…. I remember one year I bought a bag of charcoal and mixed it in the soil, my god the bulbs turned out absolutely beautiful. We had a few days of really hot weather it fried some of the roses. This month over here we are supposed to lightly prune the roses, it’s a work in progress. Thank you for sharing beauty. Till next time, regards Esther from Sydney. PS love your seed packets.

Annie Maurer January 10, 2016 - 7:18 am

Sitting on a couch on my patio enjoying some armchair gardening right now. It is 30 degrees Celsius in Springwood, NSW Australia today and too hot for gardening. But I have put in a bit of work in the past few months so it is all looking pretty good from here. But alas, I also have a large supply of those seed packets that I forgot to sew….not nearly as pretty as your hand painted ones, though Sharon. Well, maybe next year!

Marilyn January 10, 2016 - 10:37 am

Here in Northern England (Cumbria) my garden is getting more and more waterlogged as the days go by. I’m sure my plants are drowning under the never ending rain but I look forward to the Spring when hopefully the green shoots will appear and the leaf buds develop. The garden books and magazines are adding colour to the dismal days. Luckily I did get my bulbs planted and my little cuttings are in a sheltered spot.

Marian from England January 12, 2016 - 3:49 pm

I feel for you Marilyn. We love Cumbria and have spent many happy times walking the fells in your beautiful county. The pictures we’ve seen of the flooding are so very sad and I do hope you escape it getting any worse. Whereabouts are you? We live in Wiltshire and this year have been lucky (so far!) to escape serious flooding, but you never know and I suppose we must all be thankful for our gardens when they bloom well and just keep on going when things get tough. A garden is always a work in progress, never finished. Good luck and I recommend getting hold of Monty Don’s DVD of the series he filmed in France, visiting various gardens – guaranteed to blow those blues away! Best wishes.

Brijou January 10, 2016 - 11:03 am

Quels ravissants sacs de graines

Laura Wilson January 10, 2016 - 3:57 pm

This is a lovely, dreamy post. It is super cold here and we just saw The Revenant last night, so I am feeling especially frozen! Your post makes me remember spring WILL come.

Vivian VanDenberg January 10, 2016 - 4:57 pm

Hi Sharon,
I rarely comment on blogs but today I must…. this post just made me chuckle. This is so me! I do the same thing with seeds every year and now have a huge box full. You have inspired and encouraged me to get them organized, shared and planted. You have such a beautiful garden and now I am determined to have a lush garden in the summer of 2016. Our winter is getting very cold here in Ohio so I will be doing my armchair gardening also. I love your posts and I really enjoy your book My Stylish FRENCH Girlfriends. Aren’t girlfriends just the very best? Keep doing what you do so well and thank you.

Karena January 10, 2016 - 5:03 pm

Sharon it is so nice to see some springtime beauty!
It is bitterly cold here in Kansas City…..

The Arts by Karena
Life Lessons: So Honored!

Nancy January 10, 2016 - 6:01 pm

Love your seed packets!
this year I am cutting back on the growing…usually at this time, the seed catalogs come in and I am planning huge gardens….this year, not so much.
I have favas starting in the garden (we are in So. Cal)and garlic, kale, parsley, and arugula growing. Come spring I might feel the need to plant some other goodies…we will see.

Mary Alvarez January 10, 2016 - 7:09 pm

I am sewwwwwww into armchair gardening…Thanks for showing me myself in you!

It was fun!

Iris January 10, 2016 - 10:16 pm

As I write this I am sitting by the fire watching the snow squall blowing outside my window. Gardening is left to the planning and dreaming stage for now. Your post is greatly appreciated at this time. Your drawings on your seed packets are lovely. I have never had much luck with seeds except lambs earcwhich I started from seed many years ago and today have a lovely boarder comprised of those same lambs ear plants. Maybe I will try growing from seed again. Love your blog.☺

Marian from England January 12, 2016 - 3:58 pm

A lovely post Sharon! There are so many of your readers who do the same and I am another! But you have inspired me to try making my own seedpackets ready for some seeds later in the year. Then we’ll see what happens with them! I dream of a pretty herbaceous border in our newly designed cottage garden, but am afraid I’ll get it wrong and not sure what to plant and where. But I guess you’re right in that looking through books and magazines now will give me lots of ideas. Best to start with what I like I suppose! Have a good week and I hope the weather is kind to you. It’s freezing here today!!

D. A. Wolf January 13, 2016 - 5:12 pm

Seed packets with handmade labels as hostess gifts. I would never have thought of that. Lovely idea. In fact, for friends who are gardeners, an excellent idea for any special occasion. (I’m filing this one away for future use. Brilliant.)

Taffy Holvenstot January 15, 2016 - 7:55 pm

Hi Sharon,

I’ve been following you for several years but don’t often have the time to comment. I am already subscribed to your blog and just subscribed to your YouTube account. The videos you’ve been producing are so charming! I also just shared about you on my facebook account, so I hope to be entered twice!
Sometimes I save up your blogs or posts and then when I get half an hour I’ll watch them all…it’s like a mini dream vacation. Haven’t been in France for 2 years…time for another trip!

Donna Lovold January 15, 2016 - 8:18 pm

I already do subscribe to your blog and love it!! My husband and I tried to arrange a stay in your lovely cottage last year but alas, were too late in reserving it would love to come again, perhaps with my daughter this time? Signed into youtube as well…didn’t know that was available!Love your book!

Patricia Wilson January 24, 2016 - 8:03 am

Sharon, so good to hear I’m not the only “forgetful slacker gardener.” Like you, I have packets and packets of seeds I’ve forgotten to sow. The good news is that seeds can often lie dormant for years, but when planted will spring to life as though they were new and fresh. Hopefully, we lackadaisical gardeners will follow suit, long enough to make our gardens at least pretty and magical, if not perfect.

I’ve reached an age, Sharon, where I no longer make “resolutions” about anything, including gardening. I set “goals” instead. While I do at least my minimal best, oftentimes, I surprise even myself with what I’m able to accomplish with no pressure, just pleasure.

Patricia Wilson
Columbia, CT

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