Wednesday, January 13, 2010

The Winter Garden

     Here in east central Illinois, we've still got a fair amount of snow and some long icicles, but that may be melting by next week. It's not really the time of year in which much is usually said about the garden, but I have a few thoughts on the subject. I don't really like winter, to be honest. Now that I'm older and not very sure-footed with my cane, I fear the ice especially, and I've always gotten the blues from the overcast skies we often have well into February.

     But this year, I'm trying to see the bright side (and sun on the snow really helps with that!) and to think a bit about the idea of the winter garden. For one thing, I am appreciating the fact that the bare trees show their intricate structure. And the brown of branches against a brilliant blue sky is a color combination that's hard to beat -- much as I love the rich green of spring, the flower colors of summer, and the foliage change in autumn. I've noticed that the mounds of snow make for interesting shapes in the garden  -- as they fill in containers, top the garden statuary, and smooth the lines of landscape timbers and paths. Shadows of shrub branches on the snow are delicate and beautiful as well.

     Of course, there are the evergreens, and we are so lucky to have them here in the Northern temperate zones. The way they hold patches of fresh snow on their branches is so graceful and amazing. And some shrubs and trees offer lasting berries with bright color. Some years, we've had a lot of color from our hollies (Blue Prince and Blue Princess), although there are very few berries this year. The pyracantha's orange berries seem to be fewer too this time (maybe because of too much rain detering insects when the pollination was supposed to be going on?). The oaks all over town retain their leaves, which have turned to a glossy dark brown; it makes for a nice mix with other trees' bare branches and the occasional evergreen.

     No chance to sit out in the garden for contemplation this time of year, however. Even if we brushed off the snow and sat around in parkas and mittens, there would be little bird song or the rustling of the squirrels as background music for musings and moods. Nonetheless, it is sort of soothing to sit inside in a cozy house with central heating (oh! the gratitude I feel for our standard of living in this country) and look out on the serene scene of the two-seater glider, waiting patiently in the snow.

     All in all, despite my dislike for the winter driving and my fear of falling on ice, I am glad for the changing seasons, for their reminder of time passing, the omnipresence of transitions, and pressure to adapt, and all the rest. I recently learned that the moon plays a big role in creating the seasonal cycle: thank you, Luna! If you, dear readers, live in a seasonal zone, my advice is to stay warm, avoid frostbite, drive slowly, and enjoy your winter as best you can. And don't forget to check out your winter garden!

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