The bloom is off the rose - literally. For all the talk of this or that being the last thing to bloom in the garden, how about this (really) last rose? I think this is "Compassion," a climber with a sweet fragrance. I drove by the house the other night as snow was falling and saw a spot of orange on the fence. Not much else going on in the garden, but isn't the rain wonderful? My new blue spruce is thriving. The Christmas tree is up in the living room, trying hard to spread cheer in a gloomy season. I debated whether to even get one this year. But I happened upon a guy selling nice Fraser firs that he said were cut around Thanksgiving in Bloomsburg, Pa. Tried to crumble the needles and they held on. Nice and fresh. Seems that there are plenty of reasonably priced - under $50 - fresh trees this year.

A friend is chopping down a spruce tree he planted with the idea that he'd supply his own Christmas trees for a few years, which emphasizes a point we're hearing a lot about this season - that we should scavenge our gardens for materials to use for centerpieces and wreaths. This is a great idea. Maybe you have a holly tree out back or an evergreen, even something as counterintuitive as azalea or dogwood branches. They all look terrific. I've already unpacked several bags of pine cones from last year. They're as fresh as ever, and added quite a Martha Stewart touch to the greens on my mantle. I picked them out of a pile at the Christmas tree lot.

As for my orange rose, it keeps me company in the kitchen, right next to the lighted Santa.