When you live in snow country, the traditional thaw early in the new year is something that you look forward to, even if it amounts to nothing more than a sunny afternoon when the temperature rises to 36 F and there is only a light breeze. This year, we had a true thaw, almost a week of days when the temperatures were in the 50s and 60s and the nights in the 40s. The snow vanished except for the largest plow piles and ice puddles turned to mud puddles. The dogs went a bit loony, dashing around and sniffing out heaven only knows what and I got to do some late season cleaning up that I’d not gotten done earlier.

There always seem to be chores that just don’t get done in late fall. I had pots that needed to be hauled out to the stack in the lean-to, and some shovels that had been left out by the back door. One of the pots that I’d put over my miniature evergreens had blown away in the last big wind, so I saved out one of the biggest pots to put over it and secured it with an old fiberglass fence post driven down through one of the drip holes. Stan and our eldest grandson built a rough cover for the little Japanese maple shrub in the first rock garden and I put the little sugar maple that I am attempting to turn into a bonsai under the garden bench, which will be left out again. I sat on the bench for a minute while contemplating the gardens, it is starting to show its age and rough use, I suppose we’ll have to look into something newer soon.

I found the box with the unplanted crocus bulbs hiding in the back room under the plant table and fished out four pots in which to plant them. These I carried out to the studio, which is unheated, and placed them in the east and south windows. I’ll bring them into the house in a month or so and see if I can’t push the season just a bit. There was a whole bag of crocus bulbs left along with some checker lilies (Fritillaria melaegris) and I dug a hole in the bed at the southeast corner of the plant room and dumped them in rather unceremoniously. What grows, grows. I’ll have to dig them up and move them after they bloom, as that bed gets dog traffic, but they should put on a nice show early.

Wandering a bit after everything that needed done was finished, I noticed snowdrops pushing up through the soil and some early daffodil shoots. Knowing they would be covered with snow soon enough, I applauded their enthusiasm and let them be. I stopped to pick some Christmas rose, the winter blooming Helleborus niger, but left the johnny-jump-up blooms with their bright faces. They will be there under the snow waiting for the next thaw.

(Editor's Note: This article was originally published on January 24 , 2008. Your comments are welcome, but please be aware that authors of previously published articles may not be able to promptly respond to new questions or comments.)