The Most Daunting Day Of The Year

Was this the most daunting day of my gardening year?  Absolutely not.  A landscape dusted with fresh snow can be lovely.  As much as I dislike the garden going to sleep, fresh snow on a landscape that has structure from evergreens, the trunks of trees and the branches of deciduous shrubs is beautiful.  This snow in late February was just about the only snow we had all winter. 

When the snow stopped falling, I was enchanted.  The wet snow stuck to everything.  I realized that I had so missed the snow this winter.  Anyone who lives in my area likes the change of the seasons. Our late fall season persisted all winter long.  I hated the sameness of it.  The worst of the winter for me?  The every day grey skies.

The spring season is just about the best.  Every blade of grass, all the new growth on the shrubs and trees-fresh.  Spring green.  Spring never lasts quite long enough to suit me. But more than likely the fact that it comes but once a year has something to do with its appeal. 

See this-this is the most daunting day of the year. The residue of a single late snow still persists in the shadiest parts of the garden.  The grass is matted down, and an unappetising shade of tan.  Every place that Milo digs in when he takes off is a muddy blotch of a divot.  But for my evergreens-desolate. 

The beech ferns-I never cut them back in the fall.  I am sure leaving the dead fronds over the crowns helps them winter the winter better. This is probably nonsense, but I believe it nonetheless.  The european ginger has a purplish hue, and is plastered to the ground much like the grass.  There is not one thing to be done about this-but to endure it, and hope for March to pass. 

This garden belonging to a client looks like anything but a garden.  On March 10, it looked like bare dirt with a hint of white frost, the dead remains of some tufts of ornamental grasses, a few shreds of some Annabelle hydrangea heads, and a birdbath that looks like its lifeline has been disconnected.  A plug in the garden is exposed, a little trash has blown in-there are sticks and branches down from the high winds we had a week ago.  It is hard to believe anything grew here.  This is a daunting day.  

I have started to make landscape calls.  Clients invariably apologize for the state of their garden, but I remind them that this is March.  The last of the winter.  I like looking now-the most daunting moment is also the simplest moment.  Lots of issues are made clear.  Just when I think it couldn’t possibly look worst, the weather will break in favor of spring.  Gardening people like JB, pictured above, know that now is the best time to review, and plan.  The smallest spring project thoughtfully undertaken now will grow faster than you think.  Sooner than you think, there can and will be fewer daunting days in your garden.  It is good to get outside now, and take a look around-even if you must wear a winter coat.   

This client lost 60 trees to the emerald ash borer over the past 2 years.  Very daunting, this.  But enough trees came down such that the lake across the street is now visible.  My clients are liking that they have a glimmer of a view of water from their hilltop property.  The disaster of the loss of many trees presents them with a great opportunity.  The mess of broken branches and debris can be cleaned up.  The view out can be framed.   The site line going over the hill could be a river of chionodoxa in the spring, and a groundcover all summer and winter.  Shrubs with a loose wild habit could edge the remaining trees.  Under the best of circumstances, landscapes evolve.  Some plants grow too vigorously.  Others succumb to any number of ills.  Things change.  There is work for every gardener to do every spring-is this not a very good thing?    

This garden lost part of its reason for being.  A nearby garage was torn down, and replaced in another location.  The curve in the path that once went around the garage makes no sense now.  The trench for the power lines to the new garage will be filled in within days, but the effect of the loss of a major structural element makes the garden seem disconnected-adrift. I will take this opportunity to discuss with her how it is important that gardens have structure that frame and suggest that garden, during the winter season. Never sell short the ability of the human eye and heart to imagine.  Imagining the parameters of this garden as it stands is difficult, not impossible.  Strongly suggesting the possibilities, the locus of a summer garden,  is what makes a winter garden work.    

You can barely see the lake in this picture.  I am standing very near the house.  Given that there had never been a long view, this sculpture set in an ocean of northern sea oats was not only the near view-it was the only view.  On this most daunting day of the year, we are discussing how this may be different, beautiful in a way it never was. Clearly something needs to change here.  My advice?  A daunting day is a call for the old blood to turn over.  Wring your hands if you must, but I find a lot of looking, and a little reverie, goes a long way towards turning that most daunting day aside.


  1. The most daunting day of the year…is sure today !! The third day of weather that feels like mid May in mid March. Deep down I hate this. I feel totally out of wack…like I should have tons of projects going in the garden…a landscape project underway…workers coming over to repair barns and out-buildings…lettuces, cresses, kales — all manner of bitter greens — seeded….pansy pots planted…flower beds cleaned and fertilized…burn piles of winter deadwood raging. Instead I got a mosquito bite today. What the @$%#$^$%^ is going on? Surely we are living in the end times.

    Boffing bunnies, flipping fishes,
    Spawning salmon, juicy wishes,
    Oozing mud with pushing fronds,
    Brown and green by fecund ponds.

    Four-leaf clover comes unfurled,
    Umbrella plant, a phallus curled,
    Mushrooms, orange on black log,
    In this fragrant earth bog.

    Spring has sprung
    The grass is riz
    I wonder where the birdies is?
    The birds, of course, are with the bees.

    The bees are kissing throbbing stamen,
    Thriving, pollinating – Amen!

    • Deborah Silver says

      Dear Michael, living in the end times?? Not happening. Your entire lifetime represents about 1/3 of a weather cycle-we are just being exposed to part of a cycle we have not seen before. The bugs will be with us his year, I am afraid-a byproduct of a very warm winter. Every gardener I talk to is tuned into this oddball March-what the devil is going to happen next! Deborah

  2. I know we are not living in the end times…but it is fun to think about the drama of it all !! Yes…bugs. Totally out of control.

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