By Michael Leach
Are you a guilty gardener? Do you appear to mourn the passing of the growing season with appropriate remorse and gloom, but can’t quite hide a twinkle in your eye? Is there a certain hollowness in your sighs and tut-tuts about the demise of the gardening season and onset of winter?
I confess to feeling relief after the first walloping frost blackens tender plants. And why not? There are just so many times I can handle the “ings” of gardening: watering, weeding, fertilizing, trimming, raking, sweeping, fretting, pleading, and cursing. (Plenty of opportunity remains for that last item, as watering houseplants is always fraught with spills, drips and splatters. But I digress.)
My advice — rejoice. We are into the season when the landscape becomes a grand dried floral arrangement.
Granted, chores remain. For me there are still evergreens to trim and shape. This I do around Thanksgiving to provide materials for a few Christmasy, winter-theme decorations. Outdoor containers are stuffed with evergreen branches and red twig dogwood stems to make them seem lifelike. Fortunately these branches won’t need a single “ing” for months. About the time they begin looking ratty, it’s practically pansy season, and life is returning to the scene.
Even dragging the heavy patio chairs into the garage, has a certain delight –I’ve almost crossed every item off the chore list.
There is one gardening tie that even a killing frost can’t break. Being fond of fresh food, I cultivate cold-tolerant collards, kale and turnips under row covers in the vegetable garden. They are largely on autopilot. Harvests tend to be skimpy in January but by late February, longer and slightly warmer days prompt them to grow again. Sort of the same thing happens to me in late February.
By then I tire of hours of reading, tucked under a thick afghan on the sofa, whiling away weeks of seemingly endless nights.
We gardeners are rather like children building sand castles. We play amongst our plants for months. Somewhere about mid-autumn the fun wears thin, but we refuse to admit it. Children secretly hope for a big wave to give them a respite, gardeners a killing frost. We return refreshed and excited to our pleasures, whether in the surf or the soil.