A Gardener’s Thought On Winter
by The English Lady
Hello everyone and thank you for inviting me into your garden on this winter morning. When I went outside this morning to fill my bird feeders it really felt like winter and the color of nature’s winter landscape reminded me that we were in late January. Put your coat on and let’s take a walk outside when the sun is shining. I so enjoy the peace of this time of year whilst my garden is hibernating. Many of you say to me, Maureen don’t you feel that the winter landscape lacks color? No I do not, so may I suggest a different way of looking at it even thought our state is snow covered with a beautiful hue; pure white and glistening.
Early this morning I looked out my bedroom window to see the breathtaking color of the rising sun. The eastern sky behind my white oak glowed crimson and purple and as the color deepened, the sun rose majestically and before my eyes became an orb of welcoming light. And soon enough the rising full moon will cast its silver light over the sleeping landscape, at which time my nighttime landscape will become as bright as day. Winter offers unique qualities; a season of short days, quiet reflection on my day, lovely memories of the past year, and dreams of tomorrow. And because such a large part of who I am belongs to the land, many of these thoughts are centered on the outdoors.
Winter is never dull or colorless, though I admit it can be cold. But it will do you good to get out of the house and take a brisk walk, one that quiets the mind and invigorates the spirit. My walk takes me around a lovely lake with its mirrored surface reflecting the ever-changing canvas of the sky. I walk and breathe in the fragrance of crisp air and earth, the smell of warm fires, and enjoy the deep living green of hollies, hemlocks, and pines. The ground hugging junipers on a gentle sloping garden to the lake are tinged with bronze, blue gray, and purple. A white birch grove in a garden glints in the sun and the gently peeling taupe and cream bark of my river birches is a soft compliment to the rich brown mulch below. My winterberry “Southern Gentleman” is bursting with bloom to beckon the birds. Further down the road, on a steep slope of a garden that falls down to the road are the graceful, ground hugging willow leaf cotoneasters with its small dark green leaves and brilliant red berries.
I am not sure why this quiet and sleeping season so stimulates me to wax philosophic. However, my best friends, who are now retired and have moved to California, suggest that my feelings are partly due to the fact that I do not have the heavy labor of my youth when I worked on the large acreage, which was the family tradition in the U.K. I’m now blessed with a dynamic crew from my company that can maintain my garden whilst creating the new gardens and projects I have already designed. All this while I design new projects, lecture, broadcast, and write articles on my most favorite subject. I also take this time to appreciate the special aspects of winter and that for me is to enjoy the brisk air, the night’s silence of the ground covered in a snowy blanket, the slower tempo of my life, and the anticipation of another spring just around the corner.
Have you noticed the colors of the birds in winter; they really stand out against the muted browns and greens of the foliage and branches. Now is a good time, if you have not already done so, to put up one or more bird feeders and offer our feathered friends a varied menu. Many hours of enjoyment will be yours for the effort. Tucked in the stone chimneybreast behind my bedroom wall I have what I call my ‘bird condos,’ where during the spring all types of birds have built lots of nests. They wake me at daybreak in spring and summer with chirps, shuffles, and squabbles over territory and in winter, the ones that have not flown south continue in residence.
I’m not saying that winter is my favorite season; spring is exciting and filled with new birth; summer, lazy and playful; and fall, an exuberant fanfare of color. But in my four-season garden, winter has an uncluttered charm. Well I’m off to fill my bird feeders so I’ll see you next time in your garden.