A Few Good Things


There are a few good things that help me survive the winter.  What are my top ten?  If you live in a climate like mine, you know how hard it is to keep warm.  The first 50 degree day in spring will feel like a heatwave, but today a 7 degree day and a 50 degree workplace is chilly.  Good gear is essential. I have no problem finding fleece, a warm down jacket, a decent headband hat and gloves, but keeping my feet warm has always been a headache.  I’ve tried them all-moonboots (remember those?? Unbelievably, you can still buy them.), insulated boots of every description.  The only boot ever to keep my feet warm-sheepskin lined boots.  I bought mine a size larger than my shoe size, and I wear them without socks.  Socks make them fit too tight; any tight fit is a sure route to cold feet. I trade them out for warm and dry sheepskin lined slippers when I get home, courtesy of my number two best defense against the winter-my radiators.  My old house has a steam fired boiler.  My heat is even, and makes no noise, beyond an occasional clanking.  I had the chance to switch to forced air heat when the original boiler gave out-I am so glad I resisted.  Steam heat is such a comfort. My boots spend the night on the radiator.  My slippers spend the day there, and are warm and ready when I get home.  If this sounds silly and self-indulgent, you are right. 

A friend bought me a Kuerig coffee make last winter just before I had a knee replaced.  This machine is a winter luxury.  I can brew a single cup of fresh coffee, whenever I please.  Ordinarily a two cup in the morning person, I like a cup of coffee on a midafternoon midwinter day.  My routine might seem a little involved, but in the winter, I have time.  I brew a cup of plain hot water, which heats up my cup.  I put a generous amount of milk in the bottom, and brew a large cup of French roast coffee.  It is good to think there is something about winter that is luxurious-I have hot milky coffee in the afternoon.

Time-the winter is a good source of free time.  Time to think, muse, read, rest.  Just knowing I could take a nap in the afternoon is a luxury.  Spring, summer, fall and early winter, every day is jam packed with work.  Some days it is a wonder that I stay awake all the way through dinner. My office has an airport style lounge couch-If I had a mind to, I have a place to snooze.  Not that I do, but I could.

Having a winter season is a very good thing.  I do not think I would adapt very well to a profession demanding the same level of involvement all year round.  I am glad I am not weeding and deadheading, or watering pots.  I am glad the snow is too deep to walk in the yard-who knows what I might see out there that would make me wring my hands.  I like being too busy, and then too unavailable to get busy. 

Certain scents recall the garden-I like being able to reminisce with a little spritz.  The garden provides me with every imaginable smell during the season-part of the worst of the winter is that lack of olefactory stimulation.  My friend Julie bought me a bottle of Dirt cologne  for Christmas.  It is called dirt, no kidding.  It has been engineered to provide a substantial whiff, and quickly fade.  Though I was dubious, it did in fact smell like the most delicious compost I have ever smelled.  How do they do that?  I recommend it, should you be a gardening shut in right now. 

Google images-the winter is a perfect time to bleep that up.  Try dahlias.  Try English gardens, antique garden ornament, vintage washtubs, labyrinths, heirloom seeds, stainless steel garden tools, jute twine, ornamental trees, brick, hellebores, garden benches, groundcover, contemporary Dutch landscape design, landscape lighting, Sceaux, belvederes, crop circles, succulents, Longwood Gardens, topiary, hardy roses, asparagus roots-you get the idea.  Should you see an image you like, investigate further.  It’s snowing outside-take the time; click on.  Learn something new.

Those plants that might tolerate my hot dry and poorly lit house-I call these house plants.  Make the rounds-check out what is available.  Every one of your local greenhouses would welcome your winter visit.  What is out there that you might grow? If you are like me, and welcome the winter off from the responsibility of making something grow, the opportunity to say no is a good thing.  Look at those pothos, and just say no. Save yourself-for the alyssum.

Books-my winter is about researching and reading them.  I buy new books. This one-Private Gardens of Connecticut-is really good.  I make a point of rereading whatever of my books I can- every winter.  I remember a lot of what I read, but every time I get an old book down off the shelf, I see what is pictured or written there in a different way.  My books are the strongest evidence that I have that I have evolved, and continue to evolve, as a gardener.  The words are the same.  The pictures are in exactly the same sequence as they were 5 years ago.  But what I see when I read changes over time.  Is it snowing?  Reread.

One of the very best things about winter-having time to watch the corgi channel.


  1. love it! love it! love it! There has been stress around the office “will we be ready when spring hits?” – it’s winter… relax! i could easily still put in 40 hrs a week, but i haven’t – it’s winter… relax!

    • Deborah Silver says

      The shop takes lots of planning-we have a container from England about to clear customs. But I like the idea that I have a bit of some quieter time.

  2. I’m obsessed with Oscar de la Renta’s garden in Connecticut. Mathias bought me the book for Christmas. It IS the ultimate winter antidote.

  3. Deborah –
    On the topic of books, when are you going to do one? Your aesthetic and design principles rival any I’ve seen in books and magazines. I’ve searched high and low on Amazon and in book stores and have yet to find a garden/landscape design resource as inspiring as your designs.

    • Deborah Silver says

      Dear Monica, this is an incredibly nice thing to say-thank you so much. What I like about writing in this format is that I am able to write in real time about what is on my mind any given day. Good garden and landscape design is a day to day, season to season always changing effort. But over the course of a group of essays, my point of view might be clearer to you-and to me. The writing has been a very good thing for me. As for a book-I need a topic. An introduction, a body, a conclusion. Then I need museum quality photographs, a willing publisher; I would need to endure an editor good naturedly. OK, I could do all of that. But were I to write a book, what is your idea for a title? Deborah

  4. Just stumbled on your blog. Such eye candy! I love the Demeter fragrances. You should try Dandelion, Tomato, Grass and my very favorite, Gin and Tonic. (It makes me think of hot summer days) I’m definitely garden deprived right now.

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