Self-Help for Sufferers of January Garden Envy (also known as “relatives in Victoria”)

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.

February 24, North of Toronto

My typical January view in Ontario

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.

A perennial favourite (pardon the pun)

A perennial favourite (pardon the pun)

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.

Flowering crabapple can be cut for indoors

Flowering crabapple can be cut for indoors

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.

Crazy-shaped pussy willows inspire a friend's stunning arrangement

Crazy-shaped pussy willows inspire a friend’s stunning arrangement

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.

It will come.

It will come.

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.

About patinaandcompany

I am a compulsive beautifier of all things habitable. Give me your ugly, non-functional and visually repellent, and I am in my element. Also, an avid and experienced gardener determined to share my horticultural experiences with others. See more at "About"
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24 Responses to Self-Help for Sufferers of January Garden Envy (also known as “relatives in Victoria”)

  1. P.E.A.C.E. says:

    What a wonderfully refreshing post! Sigh… I needed that 🙂 As a snow-buried Albertan, I can totally relate. Thanks for your tips and great ideas, and for the laughs about the ‘annoyed male family members’. Oops.. did I plant pansies in March again, and then another foot of snow is coming? 😉 And the title is perfect! My 24 yr old son sent me pics from his phone of Daffodils in FULL bloom by the first of February in Victoria. Groan. I have to resist going out and brushing the soil away to see if the bulb shoot tips are showing by end of March (’cause they usually aren’t!). So hello from a fellow housebound gardener, playing in my indoor plants, pouring over seed catalogues, and looking at last year’s photos of my gardens. Gotta hang in there! ~Gina

  2. lucindalines says:

    This was great. I love your ideas. Fortunately, I am too worried about the taxes right now, so I haven’t had time to think of the garden. I suspect that as soon as the paper work is out of my hands, I will be thinking of the garden. Great ideas for all of us in the norther hemisphere.

  3. That daffodil picture!! I can almost smell it!
    I would usually cope with itchy gardening fever by starting my Lisianthus. Right about now… It takes FOREVER to start from seed. Then I would try to keep my cat from sleeping on the grow lights or the heat mat (I’m pretty sure they’re bad for her!).

    But I’m not doing it this year. I’ll start the vegetables and zinnia in spring, but I literally am more interested in blog-related stuff than seeds at this point. I’m not sure that’s a good thing, but I’m going with it…

    • Well, why not; you are doing a great job blogging and we would all rather you blogged! Haha, cats, they just know where all of our attention is going and how to put it back onto themselves.

  4. gracefully50 says:

    How funny! I have a great idea! How about personal style posts while you’re waiting for the weather to warm up? Yes?? 🙂

  5. TammyeHoney says:

    I do flowerpot gardening (due to back surgery) which brings the herbs in for the winter and makes the house smell so great…I am able to start my plants early indoors and the weeding is minimal. I have had a lot of success since I moved to Tennessee from New York State where snow used to get real deep till April. I can feel your pain and have lived through it with my decorative pots.
    Best of luck with your ideas on gardening love it.

    • Thanks for the feedback . . . I really sympathize about your back because mine is getting to be a real issue and I cannot bear the thought of not being able to garden. I try to stay on the side of CREATING more and physically doing less, but it is a challenge. Best wishes.

      • TammyeHoney says:

        Then perhaps the flower pot gardening will work for you also. I love looking for unique pots each time we are out and various items that I can create into a pot. Enjoy

  6. Lovely post…you made me smile all the way! And I love the pictures too!

  7. Bernice says:

    What beautiful pictures – from a gorgeous winter snow covered day to beautiful summer flowers! I must admit – I cannot wait for spring!

  8. Lisaman says:

    I can also only grow in April but I do throw out my ashes from the fire place under the trees!!

  9. Hello! I’m at work browsing your blog from my new apple iphone! Just wanted to say I love reading through your blog and look forward to all your posts! Carry on the excellent work!

  10. Pingback: Transitioning your Winter Planters to Spring | patinaandcompany

  11. fiammisday says:

    Nice pics and lovely blog!! I’m a new follower from Florence!! Kisses

  12. Pingback: Could It Get Any Snowier? | patinaandcompany

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