Archives for December 2012

Monday Opinion: Inside Out

For the past three years, my sister in law Tine has sent me a Christmas ornament of the Eiffel Tower.  That is, she sends the same ornament, every year.  I don’t really know who makes them, or where she buys them, but I choose to believe she buys them in Paris, and brings them home for me.  This may be nonsense-her local Ace Hardware may carry them. Or maybe she found 20 of them in a resale shop somewhere.  I only know I have never seen them anywhere but on this kiwi topiary tree in my dining room. Not that I need any explanation.  They are beautiful-a very delicate pale gold and an equally elegant pale blue.  Like I imagine Paris to be. 

 I will interpret the meaning of this gift for you.  Pete and Tine go to Paris every year, in the spring.  She wants me to go with them to Paris, in late May.  Any year would be fine.  They would stay as long as I liked.  They would take me anywhere else in France I would like to go, for as long as I wanted.  We would see the gardens, of course.  But we would also see the shops the markets, and the museums-and surely, the Eiffel Tower.  Normandy-we would go.  The south of France-we would linger there.  She is extraordinarily patient about this request.  She does not lecture, berate, or attempt to persuade me.  She just sends me the Eiffel Tower Christmas ornament-a beautiful reminder of what could be.

There are so many places I would like to visit-the end of May.  France of course, and surely all of Italy.  The Chelsea Flower showI am certain it is extraordinary.  As for the Netherlands and Belgium-a spring trip would be lovely.  The spring in Spain-what is that like?  Does Iceland have a spring?  South Africa-I imagine the country, the wild flowers, and the gardens turn plenty of gardening heads in the spring.  Don’t forget Texas, or Philadelphia, or Scotland, or Vancouver.  I hear that the Appalachian mountains are beautiful in the spring.  What place on earth wouldn’t be grand in the spring?

It’s a good thing that I have a landscape and garden.  I am always home in the spring, more often than not, working.  Most of my exposure to spring in other places is anecdotal.  Other people’s gardens.  Other people’s trips in the spring.  Other people’s photographs.  via ther people’s writings, drawings, publications and music.  Lucky for me, considering I live inside my own world much more than out there.  A new year brings possibilities with it.  I have a standing opportunity to go to Paris.  And a standing date with the garden, come spring.  




Garden Moments 2012

What are great garden moments?  The shock of realizing after the first snow in January that the garden is entering its black and white phase-like it or not.  I cannot really explain why this constitutes a great moment-it just is. 

A great moment could be as short as the blink of an eye, or as long as 20 minutes.  Moments any longer than this- which are not necessarily great moments- have to do with dental appointments, grocery checkout lines, designing, fixing a zipper, or designing.  Moments that seem to go on forever have to do with traffic jams, speeches, meetings, and the sky in the dead of winter.  This wet and snowy February day, the color was unexpectedly rich and warm.  A warm winter moment.

Great moments in the garden are not necessarily that momentous.  It could be the first time you hear the birds singing in the spring, or the first sign of the hellebores and crocus pushing forth in March.  It could be the sun that bathes a landscape in jewel like light just after a rain.  It could be that moment when you realize that a tree or a bench would be strikingly better over there.  It could be that triumphal feeling that comes when a seed finally germinates, or that heady pleasure that spreads all over everything on a beautiful summer day.  It could be the day you decide without fanfare to become a gardener.  It could be the first day you drag debris to a compost pile.  It could be the moment that a long sought after vine arrives in the mail.  Or it could be that moment in March when it became shockingly unclear whether the dogwood buds would survive the hard frost.

Every gardener’s great garden moments are individual.  My garden is the color of lush in April.  I spend a lot of time drinking this in, after the winter which is always too long.  Nothing much to see here,  but that atmosphere of anticipation is palpable.

Talking about gardening is how gardeners relate to one another.  Our warm 2012 winter, and the relentless spring hard freeze made for a lot of anxious talk in my circle.  But in the talk, there was community.  We were all equally miserable, frustrated, and vocal over it. Roses blooming in May made me nervous.  Roses blooming only intermittently, a disappointment.

Of course my most precious garden moment in 2012 was that day in June, in my garden, when I told Rob and the store staff that I had put the store in trust for him.     

July belongs to the hydrangeas.  How I love them!

In August, the annual containers shed their adolescent gawkiness, and begin to look grown up.

In September, the containers are bursting at the seams.  This moment, coming after an entire spring and summer bringing them on, is pure pleasure.

In October, the color is as crisp and sharp as the cool air.  My Norway maple sheds leaves like crazy for a month.  The day I quit raking them up was a surprisingly beautiful day indeed.  All the yellow on the ground made for a moment.   

This might be my most favorite photographic moment of the gardening year.  The end of the season color of the asparagus and rose canes- perfectly melancholy. 

Not ever having chosen to have an evergreen garland at the holidays before, I was surprised at how very much I liked it.  Cozy is good when it’s cold and December.  Having a garden-good every month of the year.

Let It Snow

Snow-just what is it?  Water, high in the atmosphere freezes, forming very small ice crystals.  These ice crystals, in the form of individual snowflakes, fall to earth, blanketing your garden and mine with a white granular substance we call snow.  Frozen rain, if you will.  Ordinarily, I am not a big fan of the snow.  It is cold.  It is difficult to walk and drive through.  Worst of all, it is a sure sign that the growing season has come to a close.  Once the garden goes to sleep, the snow usually comes, and covers all until the weather turns.

Snow can be just the thing-for people who sled or ski.  My appreciation is a little less visceral.  I love the white of it.  Snow makes such a stark and crisp contrast to our relentlessly gray winter skies.  Even the softest light will make it sparkle.  Fresh heavy snow is visually dramatic in form, texture, and mass.

 Snow falling on a windless day emphasizes the shape and configuration of everything it touches.  Flat surfaces build up snow collars.  A chain link fence catches the snow in a way that beautifully describes its texture.  A perennial garden cut back to the ground gets a softly undulating and sleepy shape.  The snow will detail every vertical blade of ornamental grass left standing.

 In my zone, a winter blanket of snow protects many plants from dessicating winds.  Though it is hard to believe that ice crystals could offer any protection, a blanket of snow insulates.  The frozen ground will stay frozen.  Ground that freezes and thaws can heave plants out of the ground.  Insulation is a preventative against all kinds of loss.  Heat loss from the roof or the hot water pipes.  My down jacket-insulation against the cold.  The snow keeps everything uniformly cold. 

 A winter with no snow cover worries me.  I like all of my plants buried in snow.  Comforted and protected-this they need.  The winter temperatures and winds can kill.  As much as I treasure what nature provides, winter can be a formidable enemy to living things without protection.

As for the snow falling today-I welcome it.  Our summer was very hot, and very dry.  In the back of my mind, a worry about the lack of water.  Snow is water in an alternative form.  As every living plant depends on water to survive, I welcome this version.  Once the ground thaws, a bit of that water delivered via snow will be absorbed into the ground.

Last winter was an anomaly.  Warm temperatures throughout-no snow.  This weather deprived me of plenty.  No flowers on the magnolia trees.  Poor bloom on the roses.  Garden disappointment-I hope to not have this next spring.  Today’s heavy snow comforts me.  It is so beautiful.  It is so expected. 

My good friend MK writes me today that the snow is uplifting his spirits.  Discussion not needed- I understand his feeling.  The snow feels right.   Basic to the psyche of any gardener is instinct to protect.  The snow blanket is an essential part of the natural order of things.

Bring on the snow!  I am enchanted as much by its beauty as I am by its utility.  Though I will never enjoy it to the extent that Milo does, I appreciate this particular season for what it is. Quiet, and beautiful.

Christmas Day