January Book Excerpt #1

January…the month to resolve and more realistically reflect…to read, dream and plan…just imagine, a month in the garden to be spent however you choose…  


In the cold gloom of winter, the garden seems to be a place stripped of its summer gaudery when a multitude of plants compete for attention. Now, the pleasure is in the details and the planning for brave blooms and hardy greens…a magical place where winter shrubs are bejeweled by frozen mist and ice… where flower-like clusters of winter berries and seed heads trimmed with frost sparkle like precious gems.

New Year, New Ideas…

For gardeners, this is the season that ‘sorts the sheep from the goats’…now one learns whether one’s garden really has the necessary structure, or whether it is just a jumbled mass of flowers for the summer season.

A clear plan or design is important to a garden as well as an understanding of the choices involved in creating a garden.

It doesn’t need to be severely structured, a soft weaving of ever-greenery throughout will do.

Every few days I take time to walk around, looking at my garden from every possible viewpoint, then, after deciding what I need to add or change, I make my notes.

Being away for over a month has allowed me the opportunity to do just that…observe my garden from a new prospective.

 Upon my return, after several freezes and a week of rain, I was quite pleased! Immediately my eye was drawn to the texture of peeling bark on the river birch trees, the unexpected brown sticks of phlox, coneflower, rudbeckias and salvia leucantha.

I focused on the surfaces and textures of the evergreen framework and the many shades of green, brown and red foliage.

Hellebore’s neat, glossy, evergreen leaves and bashful blooms mixed with the lacy texture of autumn ferns, made a nice bushy clump at the base of several large azaleas.

Clumps of onion and garlic chives mixed with aromatic green and purple sage meander around naked roses, pungent French thyme, crispy salad burnet, sweet swags of lemon thyme dotted along the path, chamomile spreading between the stones, silvery green lamb’s ears line the gravel path to the potting shed, rosemary in brilliant blue bloom cascades over the stone wall, beautiful clusters of Provence lavender along the front door walk, plucky and cheerful pansies throughout the planted area…tall bare shoots of hydrangeas surrounded by shiny emerald green holly ferns and mounds of oxalis, tiny fingers of ivy, both green and variegated, reach up to cover the cold brick wall.

 On the east wall, ‘Mme. Alfred Carriere’ persistently refuses to leave the spotlight and is already teasing me with a few new leaves, as are the ‘Old Blush’ roses in the wind protected back corner.



A week later…It is early morning beneath a gray sky. Suddenly the sun bursts through the clouds and the light covering of frost sparkles like sugar sprinkled on berries…and oh, how the lamb’s ears shine…

The impatient winter jasmine, coaxed into buds by several mild days, releases her fragrance under the warming sunlight.

Encouraged by fragrance, warmth and a few blooms, I’m eager to take a break from central heating and begin…again.

I rake up a few remaining leaves out front and toss them into the shredder along with some other yard debris. Mulching with this material reinforces the natural cycle of my garden, the embodiment of recycling.

Several hours later there is an eerie rustle among the trees and then quiet stillness just as it grows dark and cold. Inside, warm and cozy by the fireplace, I begin to look through my stacks of new gardening books and magazines. With January’s chill comes an opportunity for quietude and reflection…

I can’t always remember ideas anymore or where I saw great photos, so now I cut out the pictures and put them in my journal…forming an inspirational collage which goes with me when I shop for plants.


A Morning Visitor…A very young wild turkey appeared just a few days after my mother died…we named her Duchess since Carl had always used that title when referring to my mother. She, Duchess, is proudly parading about the yard pecking at any insect she can find and feeding on seeds. Watching her in the icy chill of this winter day, I find renewed faith that time will pass quickly, I will recover, and the garden will once again awaken to the warmth of the sun…