Due to the disturbing nature of what you are about to read, I am warning all Central Canadian gardeners to look away for the following quote. I have been so profoundly disturbed by the contents of this email from my sister in Victoria as I watch the snow drift down, heavily, lightly, in the day and through the night, piling up in relentless heaps on top of my garden beds, that I have to start off the new year by getting this off my chest.
Here it is: “Yes, spring could be here any day. The grass is very green, and stores usually start selling polyanthus in January. I’ll probably fall for a flat of those . . . . Many perennials are putting up new growth already because we never really got much frost yet at all. Rhubarb is pushing through the soil; so are sedums and a few other things.”
Did I mention she lives in Victoria?
So you can see that, with this kind of trauma in my life, I need a coping strategy to deal with it. Where I live, I can’t even work the ground until mid-April in a typical year! After I take my time dismantling my Christmas decorations, there will be several entire months during which I must act out my gardening desires and frustrations in some satisfactorily constructive way, while hearing about such things as the Flower Count. During this difficult time, I mainly plan, plan, plan. This is the period during which I seek out inspiration and flesh out new ideas for the coming gardening season.
Rather than self-medicating to deal with the pain, I take the self-help approach. Here are my strategies for being the Ontario member of a gardening family otherwise centred on Vancouver Island.
Coping Strategies (or, things for gardeners to do in January)
1. Water rhododendrons and wrap them in burlap if you haven’t done so yet.
2. Mound dirt on your roses to 6 or 8 inches if you have not done this yet, then clip off the branches of your Christmas tree and lay them over top as further insulation and protection.
3. Plan your new gardens!! Plan changes to your old gardens to improve them! This is really the single thing that keeps this gardener going during the coldest months.
Flip through magazines and books and tab the pages you love. Stare at your garden beds. Sketch away and make lists of the plants you plan to add, and notes of your ideas.
Garden designers are more available at this time of year than in April, when everyone else is rushing to put gardens in, so take advantage of this fact to get help if you could use some.
4. Bring in the garden. I have already brought in many annuals that I nurse through the winter, but I get teary when I see potted spring flowers in the stores between now and April, a sort of intense visceral reaction that only the truly habituated and hooked can probably understand! Keep buying these little hits of joy throughout the cold months, as needed. Anyone who has studied Samuel Taylor Coleridge knows how satisfying one’s addiction to plants can inspire creativity! Or, if you are a far more patient and professional homemaker than I, feel free to have potted your own bulbs by now for indoor forcing! Enjoy orchids. Grow Amaryllis.
Force branches indoors, as a way of making spring come early. Forsythia is the top choice for this, in my book!
5. Make yourself an indoor arrangement for the foyer or table. My favourite thing to start with for this purpose is a bunch of pussy willows. Also change your outdoor arrange-
ments around as spring comes. I leave my red twigs and birch, but start to add other things. Or see below regarding pussy willows and create new outdoor arrangements with unusual, eye-catching pussy willows as the central feature.
6. Attend Canada Blooms (or your local equivalent) for three benefits: To buy amazing things for your spring arrangements per no. 5, above; to get ideas and inspiration for your garden and indoor arrangements, no. 3 above; and last but not least, to enjoy the uplifting sense that spring is around the corner as you walk through the display gardens and take in the greenery. Last year, vendors at the show, combined with the National Home Show, were selling the most stunning and wide-ranging assortment of unusual pussy willows. And can you tell that I am obsessed with these pussy willows by now?
Besides, it’s a lovely outing for a day with a good friend.
7. Review planting dates for veggie garden seeds that you plan to start indoors.
Those are my top suggestions for dealing with the next couple of months if you are a gardener in a cold climate like mine. It’s all about preserving what you have and planning for what you will have. Appreciating each small step toward spring. And remembering that this is a big country with many hardiness zones, and we just have to cope with the fact that Victoria is one of them 🙂
There are silly things I also do: dig in the snow for fresh thyme so that I can cook with it, imagining it’s summer. Plant bulbs and pansies outside far too early (every year without fail but hey, it’s what I do), and then send my annoyed male family members outside with tarps and blankets to wrap them up nightly when it inevitably gets cold again. Buy green and floral clothing. But it’s step by step, a day at a time. Changing the things we cannot accept. And never acknowledging the things we cannot change.
How do you cope with the depths of winter/relatives in Victoria where you garden? Please comment below, and “follow” (the button at top right) for more winter gardening denial, as I post it.