I like to think of myself and my garden as being in a period of gestation during the winter. Once or twice a day I walk through parts of it on my way to feed the chickens, or as I break up the ice on the driveway and paths. It is in this season that I notice how much the trees and shrubs have grown and it always surprises me. There naked shapes oddly seem to look bigger against the white canvas of snow rather than their lush foliage of high summer. Without the distraction of flowering plants, I allow myself to appreciate my labor. I am in a kind of dream state when I do this, the garden’s gradual expanse seems more immense when I can’t reach it all in the deep snow. Memories of planting prized plants come to me, as well as overly optimistic fantasies of ripping out all invasive plants in the coming spring. This is how it is for me in the garden in winter- one foot in this season and one in the next.
For much of December and January, I need to immerse myself in color and I escape into painting because. And I read. Dutch garden designer, plants men and writer Henk Gerritsen’s book – Essay On Gardening, which had been out of print, but recently became available again, is the best book of garden essays I have read since I read Green Thoughts, by Eleanor Perenyi. I don’t want to give too much away, but Gerritsen has one of those rare voices that is so present you feel he is sitting next to you as you read. Piet Oudulf, a good friend of the author, writes the introduction and attributes Gerritsen as the source of many of his ideas and inspirations.
Northerners are so use to spring unraveling in a two steps forward one back kind of a way, we become acutely attuned to the subtle changes; the light is so different now, friends earn bragging rights for seeing the first robins, buds beginning to look like they are taking things seriously on trees and shrubs. When we had a thaw last week I noticed on those 4-5 days of 40 degree plus weather, there was renewed energy in the break dance moves of the squirrels, and crows have moved closer to the house walking across the snow packed lawn with a renewed confidence. My dogs are burrowing their noses into mounds of snow, jumping and running round with a new glee – they can all feel it coming.