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January in the Garden with Second Bloom

"Anyone who thinks that gardening begins in the Spring and ends in the Fall is missing the best part of the whole year; for gardening begins in January with the dream."

Josephine Nuese

Hellebore is a mainstay plant for winter interest. The foliage is evergreen, and they are one of the few low-maintenance plants that bloom in late winter.

The holidays passed in a frenzied blur this year. As hard as I try to 'be in the moment' the days of November/December always seem to rush by too quickly. There are never enough moments to get everything done...create 'magical' memories for the kids, cook all the favorites, and maybe, just maybe manage to shower. The only thing that keeps me from complete insanity is my yearly watching of the movie Bad Moms to remind me that no one else can do it either. When January rolls around, I have the sadness and exhaustion of a holiday 'hangover', but I am also increasingly grateful for a moment to slow down and breathe again. The kids go back to school, my house gets cleaned, and I can take the time to focus on refilling my emotional and spiritual tank. This inevitably brings me back to the garden.

I've never been particularly good at rest. As peaceful as it is supposed to be, for me it usually leads to wrestling matches with old demons. Staying exhaustingly busy is such an easy and socially acceptable way to avoid my own thoughts. We live in a society that encourages constant overstimulation and gives us all of the technology to achieve it. I joke about how much I hate technology, but really, I just long for the deliberate and thoughtful lessons of nature to replace the assault I feel from the rest of the world most days. Like everyone else, I have to fight the temptation to lose myself in the franticness, avoiding the deeper and more vulnerable areas of thought and contemplation.

In the garden, a pause to rest never causes me to perseverate on difficulties but instead fills me with comfort and rejuvenation. It has taught me how rest can be simultaneously calming and reinvigorating. Late winter forces us to pause the more physical garden work and turn to the art of dreaming, hoping, and planning. The stunningly photographed catalogues help us to build mental images of what we want to create for ourselves in the spring. As uncomfortable as it can be to sit in the vacuum of silence, it is there that we find our inspiration.

What to do this month in the garden:

  • NOTHING! Maybe this year you need to just rest. Make a conscious decision not to do a damn thing but recover from the hectic holiday season. Nothing on this list is so pressing that it can't wait until next month, but if you need the garden tasks to refresh your soul, I'll list a few more possibilities...

  • Dream. Take out your gardening books and leaf through them for inspiration. My mailbox has started to fill with seed catalogues, and this is the time to dogear all of the pages of things I hope to try this year. Then place the order by the end of January to make sure you get the varieties you want.

  • Top up bird baths with fresh water daily and melt ice with warm water on frosty days. Provide high-energy food to help them through the winter months.

  • Remove and bin hellebore foliage marked with black blotches, to limit the spread of leaf spot disease.

  • Check stored bulbs and corms regularly for any signs of rot.

  • Finish clearing old crops and debris from the vegetable garden, but only compost healthy material.

  • Have a tool cleaning day. Spring will feel even better with sharp tools to start the season.

Winter Heath (Erica Carnea) are such a welcome surprise in the winter garden. The splash of color comes when most other plants are dormant.


Something to read:

The Inward Garden by Julie Moir Messervy

Since January is a month where we spend a great deal of time inside, I find it valuable to think about the 'inside' of our gardens as well. "The Inward Garden was first published in 1995, and with it, Julie Moir Messervy introduced a movement in landscape design that inspired individuals to embark upon a voyage of discovery of the natural world outside and the contemplative spirit within. Unlike other authors who focus almost entirely on practical design elements of gardening, Messervy beckons you to identify the atmosphere and mood of a very personal garden you can create."


Something to listen to:

Franz Schubert's Winterreise

Schubert’s famous song cycle Winterreise, meaning “Winter Journey,” is the musical setting of 24 poems by Müller. In this work, Schubert explores winter in its bleakest and rawest form: the singer wanders aimlessly, whilst dreaming of his love and of springtime. He wakes, however, to the cold darkness of his wintery reality. This beautiful yet heart-wrenching tribute to love is one of the best pieces of classical music for winter.


Marsha & Celia

With love, Celia & Marsha

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