It is no secret that I enjoy decorating the garden for the holidays. The gardening season has come to a close-there are reasons to celebrate. I am not watering, grooming, transplanting, replacing, pruning or fertilizing. This is a long way of saying I have respite from the chores that make the idea of a good garden a reality. Though I was content to haul the hose around, I am equally pleased that it has been put away.
A lot of the work that goes into a landscape is as much fun as a dose of cod liver oil. I have never been invited to a party to celebrate a grading project that eliminated a swampy spot in the yard. Nor has any friend invited me to admire their new drain field. A diehard gardening friend did invite me to admire the pruning on her front yard full of old oak trees-I don’t blame her. I might not have noticed, had she not drawn my attention to it. There is some sunlight in the yard now, and the work was very expensive-she wanted me to see. The pruning was in her mind, just cause for celebration.
A garden decorated for the holidays is a whole other experience. There is the opportunity to add some color to a landscape which has gone as gray as the winter skies. Materials from the garden can be arranged in any configuration or shape without regard to lighting or growing conditions. There is no planting, nor is there any watering. Only at the winter holidays can I have a perfectly lush evergreen and perfectly spiralling grapevine growing over the doorway. There are lots of things not available to me in the garden, but I can have whatever look I want for the winter.
The illusion of the decorated winter garden doesn’t ask for a skilled gardener. A holiday display is not limited to the realm of possibility. It is the one time of year I can have magnolia grandiflora, and sugar pine cones, red bud pussy willow, and winterberry-each stem at their peak. Each positioned in a display, just so. All this garland requires is the support of the light fixture, and strategically placed masonry screws, and enough 22 gauge paddle wire to keep every element securely attached.
Frost proof pots that had summer flowers are an obliging vehicle for an arrangement celebrating the season. There are so many beautiful fresh cut materials available-twigs, berries, branches and greens. The variegated boxwood I grew in a pot over the summer has gone into storage. I worry it is not hardy in my zone, so I will protect it from my winter in an unheated but enclosed space. I don’t have to worry about cut variegated boxwood in a winter arrangement. The understanding is that this material has a shelf life.
Growing a garden is one part skill, 3 parts hard work, 3 parts endurance and patience, and 3 parts luck. Sometimes even that is not enough. Plants routinely refuse to perform, even when given the best and most thoughtful care. The winter garden has no dead branches, or insect ravaged leaves. A boxwood or lavender hedge with a dead plant right in the middle is an ordinary sight in a landscape. No gardener has to put up with that in their winter arrangements.
I have read the predictions that we will have a very cold, snowy, and lengthy winter. That season usually begins in January. I may take the holiday ornaments, picks and bows off after New Years, but my winter pots will keep visual company during those lengthy and dreary months.