Thursday, December 10, 2009

More thoughts on the winter garden

A beautiful medititation on the winter garden from my friend Fran who gardens in Cambridge, MA:

I think of the winter garden as the place for stock-taking. The “bones” of the garden are evident and I, thanks to retirement, have the leisure to reconsider, regroup, and plan. This year I’ll try to do more with autumn flowers. I’m also looking for a good groundcover for a bank where the dogs run—plants that are low-growing, very hardy, and willing to spread. The ground phlox hasn’t been entirely satisfactory, but maybe more of it would work better. I always want something in bloom throughout the year but am far less successful than Karen. Maybe next year. Time to check out plant sites on the web.

Of course, a lot of what I see now is jobs that I should have done already—tie up the broom so it doesn’t get beaten down by the snow, prune here and there, do any odd job that cold and rain and snow will allow. And leaves always remain. Nonetheless, it is rather peaceful since there really isn’t all that much that I can physically do, but I can dream. And when snow comes it covers up all the problems and everything looks beautiful.

Like Karen, people ask me if I would prefer living where I could have a year-round garden and, like Karen, I prefer (actually need) the varied seasons. Seasonal change and weather are very important to me. I love the drama of storms and the comfort of warm sunny days. When spring comes, I really feel that I’ve earned it by surviving winter. A friend, a fellow New Englander, moved for a time to California and said she didn’t know how Californians developed any personality without weather to contend with! I also think that without the winter break from gardening I wouldn’t have that pause that makes gardening something to really look forward to. I await the snowdrops and crocuses as the first sign that, once again, spring will really come.

Reading gardening books in the winter is a special pleasure for me. I plan such wonderful gardens, even if they are only very partially realized. At the moment I’m reading Olive Pitkin, My Garden and I: The Making of a Mid-Life Gardener (1992). I prefer narratives like this one to “how-to” books. Pitkin does most of the gardening herself (aided by relatives and friends), which I admire. I can’t really identify with gardeners whose work is done primarily by others. I also can’t identify with those who seem to have unlimited resources. When the famous gardener Christopher Lloyd was laying in a garden on an estate, a road was in the way of what he planned so the owners had the road moved. That’s a bit more ambitious than I can manage. I’m content with my little city plot of ground in all the seasons that it passes through.

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