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  • Writer's pictureLaura

Bright spots in the winter

Updated: Aug 21, 2021

There are many things I enjoy about winter. The color of the bare crab apple orchard in the late afternoon sun (a warm brownish pink), the views that open up through the woods to empty fields that we cannot see in the summer, cold snowy days when the steam rises from the river. Being able to sort through paperwork that had to sit and wait during the busy summer and getting to many other household jobs that tend to be set aside during busier months are other joys of winter--and I do mean joys--because finishing a job is a wonderful thing.

The view out over the river to the fields beyond on a grey winter day.

The river in winter.

The crabapple orchard in late winter--beginning to turn pink.

Winter is also a time for forced bulbs. I love forced bulbs. Amaryllis, paperwhites and even occasionally smaller bulbs like snow drops can be forced into bloom in our heated homes to bring joy when the view outside is a little dreary, as it has been this year. I cannot remember a January that has had so few sunny days. Perhaps the sky is reflecting the doom we are feeling on earth this year.

A red amaryllis.

Winter is also a time when I can indulge in reading about gardening. I have a stash of favorite books that I turn to again and again in the coldest days of winter. One of my favorites is 'An Island Garden' by Celia Thaxter. Thaxter was a well-known Victorian poet and while her poetry made her famous in her day, it is no longer fashionable and sounds old-fashioned to our modern ears, but her prose, written in the last year of her life, about her love of tending flowers in her summer garden on a tiny island off the coast of New Hampshire is beautiful and stands the test of time. Every time I open the book just a few words transport me into her world and I can imagine that spring is nearly here. I love her description of starting seeds in eggshells (no easy access to modern plastic trays) and of then transporting all her little seedlings by boat out to the small island off the coast of New Hampshire (who knew NH had a coastline?) where her family spent the summer. She was part of a circle of friends which included Childe Hassam, who painted her home and garden, so that we may enjoy it still today.

Another reading favorite is any book by Beverley Nichols, an arcane (and sometimes snarky) British wit writing in the 1920s and 1930s about his country garden and life in a small English village. I've included a picture of 'Down the Garden Path' because I just love the cover illustration. I have all of his books and enjoy them on a cold winter day.

For growing reference there are many that I turn to--Dirr's 'Hardy trees and Shrubs' is a standard, and there are many others, but the best I’ve found for perennial bloom times and growing is one by the chief horticulturalist at Longwood Gardens, Tomasz Anisko 'When Perennials Bloom'. It has a chart that shows at a glance when each plant blooms and this is how I learned that Scabiosa 'Butterfly Blue' is the longest blooming perennial plant available on the market today--valuable information indeed. (April through December according to the chart in the back of the book.)

A small part of my shelf of gardening books.

Searching for wonderful floral related art is another pastime during these short, dark days. A favorite floral artist is Ling Chang. Her calendars have decorated my walls and desks for years and she also offers cards of her prints. Recently, I noticed that she offers images for use as backgrounds on devices. I immediately reset my lock screen to her beautiful cherry blossom design. It makes me think of the spring days ahead, just around the corner, really. Her 2021 calendar has images of many of the flowers that we offer in our bouquets. She has such a wonderful eye for capturing their beauty. Here's a link to her large calendar. Take a look around her site and enjoy the lovely images. (This is not a sponsored post.)

My mother kindly gave me the Little Calendar by Ling Chang for Christmas.

There’s so much to do in the winter this year that I’ve actually found myself wishing January was just a little longer. How can that be? Usually I can hardly wait for time to pass until the dreary days are gone and gardening begins again, but now that we have the high tunnel there is never a down time. I’m also happy for the mild weather we’ve had this year that has allowed us to work outside every day, at least a little. Perhaps we will still have some snow storms. I can’t begrudge them because I know we need the water to fall from the sky in one form or another and snow is nicer than constant rain.

Paperwhites as cut flowers.

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