Winter has never been my favorite season but I have found that since I began gardening, the winters seem far shorter than they did before. I think that it’s because I don’t put my garden “to bed” for the winter in October and throw the covers off in May. Instead, my winter is comprised of small markers, which I look for (and forward to) on an almost daily basis. In December, I was photographing hellebores at the top of the primrose path and now in January I am expecting blooms any day on my witch hazel. I have considered how a single December bloom on a hardy geranium or salvia in our Walled Garden can bring me almost as much delight as when the borders are full to bursting in June. The same can be said for the first snowdrop or squill. Late autumn blooms mean so much because they are fleeting and early spring blooms signal the beginning of the end of winter.
For those of us that need to see something in bloom, there is a plant for almost every month of the year. Even between the blooms, however, there are always small changes going on in the garden. The winter would seem unending if it weren’t for a bud swelling or a tender green shoot popping up in a warm sunny corner. These little signs let us know that the calendar is still advancing and as short as the days may seem, they are getting a little longer now.
I admit to being an avid “indoor gardener”, however, in order to feed my addiction to chlorophyll. Amaryllis bulbs are started at intervals so one is always popping up as another’s blooms are fading. Glasses, vases, (and anything else that can hold water) are filled with coleus or geranium cuttings and I faithfully pick up a farmer’s almanac to see if a long winter is predicted. But, I do my best to remain patient and follow the advice of Henry David Thoreau “Live each season as it passes; breathe the air, drink the drink, taste the fruit, and resign yourself to the influences of each.”