Winters seem so short nowadays

February 7, 2012

By Jane Garrison

One good thing about getting older is that winters go by very quickly. Of course spring, summer and fall do as well, but that doesn’t negate the fact that winters are now truly bearable — even enjoyable.

For gardeners, this realization is a real boon. We don’t have to stare out the window at the dripping rain and soggy soil for very long each year. We are always just a blink away from getting out there and rooting around in all that good dirt.

For many plants, our winters are more like a rather uneventful camping trip in the mountains than a hellish experience. In fact, some of them seem to like the discomfort and the inconvenience that winter has to offer. We know the bulbs like it — the narcissus, crocus, hyacinths and tulips. They don’t seem to be bothered by anything, snoozing from summer through most of winter, and then peeking out of the ground as the weather improves. They inch up during good weather, and stay put when it’s cold. Mine are up already with the warm temperatures we’ve had.

Some plants go beyond understanding. Winter heath starts blooming before Christmas, knowing full well that ice and snow are on the way. Sarcococca is blooming now, through rain, snow, ice and wind. Winter sun mahonia is out there in the freezing temperatures, pretending not to notice. Sedums are boldly sticking their heads up out of the ground daring winter to take its best shot. And we know if it does, the sedum will win. Primroses are amazing and almost look out of place with their bright colors in among the grayed earth tones of winter.

Although I appreciate the enthusiasm and bravery of the winter bloomers and growers, I don’t feel I depend on them to get me through the winter anymore. The low sun angles on the deciduous branches create a hopeful look and a very artful one as well. Even the dripping rain and the dramatic gray skies seem exciting. It’s now fun to look outside without feeling obligated to be out there doing something. The pruning of fruit trees and roses is coming soon enough.

For now, I’m going to enjoy this beautiful winter weather and the surprises it brings.

Jane Garrison is a local landscape architect and master gardener who gardens in glacial till on the plateau.

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