Contributed by Laura Wilson, HVGA co-founder
Winter may be chilly and dark but, for me, it’s as special a garden season as all the others.
For sure there are many things to miss. More than the smell and touch of soil and plants, my body misses exercise and being on the move. This year I’m also really missing my compost pile. I tried a new countertop container this year, and more kitchen scraps got composted than ever!
While winter is the least challenging physically for the gardener, it can be the most ambitious mentally and creatively – when I can diligently challenge and grow my gardening brain. Thoughtfulness is a gardening trait I value most highly and strive to cultivate.
The forced slow-down of winter is a welcome time to reflect and dream – which doesn’t always happen despite our best intentions in-season. All of this sitting quietly must help us absorb the new ideas, information and techniques winter reading brings – to be put into action naturally when back in the garden come spring.
In the past, winter would leave a trail of garden plan sketches and plant lists throughout the house. But grand plans have been put on hold for our home garden, and focus is instead on my adored community garden plot where I play with maximizing vegetable, greens, herb and cut flower production with a potager-style emphasis on making it pretty. Fun!
This year I’m especially excited to try growing purple pak choi, Calendula “Lemon Cream, the classic “Black Seeded Simpson” lettuce and my first attempt at growing melons with “Jenny Lind”. Unfortunately, my enthusiasm for next year’s plot had all seeds ordered before the year ended – so now what? With garden plan-making and seed ordering already done, I’ve had time to seek out and enjoy garden inspiration in other ways.
Books on my nightstand, some new, and some long waiting to be read include:
- The New American Herbal by Stephen Orr;
- Rick Darke & Doug Tallamy’s The Living Landscape;
- Heaven is Garden from Garden Fair lecturer, Jan Johnsen;
- and still sitting around from Christmas 2013 – The Layered Garden by David Culp. This is the kind of “homework” I like!
Garden videos and podcasts are my go-to way to make loathed tasks, like dishwashing, into a pleasure and I’ve recently seen a handful of videos that are well worth watching.
- Growing a Greener World features Margaret Roach on Making A Garden For the Birds
- The Queen’s Garden, recently shown on PBS
- Life in a Cottage Garden with Carol Klein follows British gardener through four seasons.
Each new garden season begins with a short list of new things to to try, which will mostly serve as a written reminder of the big ideas I dream up all winter. Goals for this season include:
- An annual attempt to compose and grow the Best. Containers. Ever.
- Perhaps this will be the year I get to play with propagating?
- 2015 feels like the perfect time to start a topiary collection.
- And, if I have to write it on my forehead in magic marker as a reminder, I will finally make pickles.
Garden visits and seeing new plants is truly the best way to learn more about gardening and grow as a gardener. The second list I make is of new-to-me gardens and nurseries to visit, and events to attend. Here’s how it’s looking so far for 2015:
- Garden tours: Middletown Garden Lovers Tour and Rondout Valley Garden Tour
- Nurseries to visit: Willow Ridge Nursery in Fishkill; Claire’s Garden Center in Patterson, Green Bee Greenhouse in Cornwallville; Well-Sweep Herb Farm in NJ (And every year I ask myself “Will I ever get to Logee’s?)
- Gardens to visit: Berkshire Botanical Garden, Naumkeag and The Mount; Untermyer Gardens; Opus 40; and Innisfree when the primula are in bloom
- Events to attend: Stonecrop’s Alpine Plant Sale; Mountain Laurel Festival at Broken Arrow Nursery; Vanderbilt Garden Victorian Tea (I can’t wait to make a bombastic garden ladies hat! Though not required.).
Realistically, I’ll get to at least 50% of the places shown above. Trying to get to a only few new gardens or events each year has worked well for me. If you’re in need of a garden resolution for 2015, try and remember: sometimes you need to just leave the weeds at home and head out for some garden outing fun!
So don’t let the ice get you down. This style of winter “gardening” leaves me feeling happy, charged-up, ready to hit the thawed ground running – no matter how long it takes spring to get here – and, as always, knowing that this season is going to be the best yet.
In between plant shopping, garden touring, list making and HVGA planning, Laura Wilson gardens in Wallkill, NY and at the Town of Montgomery Community Garden.