Winter Musings of a Passionate Gardener
My garden is located in Zone 8B very near the Gulf of Mexico. Winters are cold enough to make working outside unpleasant on some days, and frequently our tender plants require winter protection. Still, we share common tribulations and jubilations with gardeners everywhere. Many will identify with the musings of this passionate gardener.
Several years ago Amiable Spouse built me a greenhouse. A poor, unsightly thing it was, quickly thrown together one year just before a freeze was predicted. Made from a simple frame of two by fours and covered with clear, heavy-duty plastic, it adequately protected my plants. In moderately cold weather, only a 100-watt light bulb was required to keep the temperature above freezing. In the infrequent times when the thermometer dipped well below the freezing point, a small electric heater provided just the right amount of protection. My makeshift greenhouse did the job.
Still, I was not satisfied. I longed for a proper greenhouse that would be useful year-round. In the greenhouse of my imagination, the squirrels could not bury acorns in my recently dug and potted flat of miniature mondo grass and uproot half of them. The mother wren would not build her nest in hanging basket of walking iris and keep me from watering it all spring. The sun would not deteriorate the roof of an apposite greenhouse and allow rain to pour through. The wrens and squirrels would not have access and cause no end of despair and discontent.
Every year as frost threatened, I fretted and worried until Amiable Spouse found time to cover the greenhouse with new plastic. Luckily, he beat the frost every time and my tender plants were tucked in at the last minute. The improvised greenhouse protected the plants throughout the winter, but the relentless heat and ultraviolet rays of sun the following summer weakened the plastic covering, and a new cover was required each winter.
Finally, after much pleading and cajoling, Amiable Spouse was convinced that an intrepid gardener like me really did need a good greenhouse. More likely, he just got tired of recovering it each year and decided to make his own life easier. At any rate, now I have a much improved greenhouse, and it has been the source of much pleasure, as has the floral design workshop he built right beside it.
The greenhouse and shop are not the only source of pleasure during the late winter. Luscious salads made of fresh lettuces, arugula, tender green onions, radishes, French sorrel, and mesclun greens over sprinkled with violas, chives, spicy green garlic leaves, dill, and snippets of various herbs spice up and add essential nutrients to our winter diet. All these vegetables and herbs grow in my garden and are available for the picking. In addition, fresh greens, such as mustard, turnips and cabbages provide tasty potherbs to eat with fresh pones of cornbread. Enough cool weather remains of the season to scatter a few seeds in the
garden and grow these hardy winter greens to enjoy until the heat of summer kicks in.
Hours of enjoyment are provided by the gardening catalogs that arrive in winter. I keep them beside my chair where Amiable Spouse and I watch television in the evening. During the commercials and never-ending ball games, I study them and circle everything I would like to add to my garden. Always, more items are circled than I can possibly afford. Deciding between this and that forces hard decisions and disconsolate moments; disconsolate because I cannot have everything I circled, but pleasurable nonetheless because I can have some of them. Placing my order and anticipating their arrival adds a bit of excitement to the dreariness of the winter.
Any day now the days will begin to lengthen and herbaceous perennials will push green sprouts out of the soil and into the light. Shrubs and trees have fat buds ready to break forth for another season. The dormant lawn will soon be greening up. The earth is quickening, along with the heart of every gardener eagerly awaiting another gardening season. How glad I am to be a gardener and derive so much joy from such simple things!