I heard a bird sing
In the dark of December
A magical thing
And sweet to remember.
‘We are nearer to Spring
Than we were in September,’
I heard a bird sing
In the dark of December.
-Oliver Herford, I Heard a Bird Sing.
Wow – it’s winter already and now we can finally call it a wrap!
Late fall/early winter is like a spring movie in reverse, when everything we had put out – hoses, ornaments, flower pots, porch swings, tools, etc. – has to be put away again. Then we batten down the hatches before the ice and snow arrive.
This year we had a bit of a temperature swing thing happening, so the stinkbugs didn’t know whether they were coming or going and neither did I.
My mantra is always “the more I do now, the less I have to do later.” So before my trip to Maui, I was ‘making hay while the sun shines,’ busily working on my garden projects in the cold. I figured that was it for the year, but I still had another week when I got back to gather about 100 bags of leaves, 60 more buckets of road sand and take four full truck- loads of branches to the dump after my tree guy came to top off all the leaders to give us our beautiful view of the lake back.
When it’s truly time for me to call it quits, I clean and vacuum out my poor old car out, which is usually full of sand, granite dust, grass, leaf bits, dirt and soil. (Thankfully, I have a very tolerant husband.)
Now we can chill out and enjoy the beauty of the snow on red berries, the swans on the lake, the warmth of the fire and flake out on the couch with a nice cuppa tea and a good book or magazine. But winter – as we all know – can be a bit of a trial too, dealing with snow, slippery ice, squirrels moving in, lines freezing up, power outages, damaged plants and having the possibility of a heart-stopping ‘near ditch or dip’ experience like I did this month coming along Mara Lake on a slushy road – yikes! There’s something to be said about being a snowbird.
Christmas arrived a little early when an unexpected gift was mailed to me (a little garden columnist perk) in the form of a brand new book titled, Down To Earth – Cold Climate Gardens & Their Keepers, written by a couple of gals from the Elk Valley region in B.C. So I will read that one first. (I always make a little joke that scientific opinions are so polarized about climate change and whether we’re going to roast or freeze in a mini ice age, that I don’t know whether I should be planting cactuses or buying a greenhouse.) The one book to me that’s a must-have, is the Chicken Soup for the Gardener’s Soul, which has so many beautiful and touching stories in it that truly capture the spirit of those who care and tend the earth’s plants and soil, as well as their fellow human beings. So make sure you have a box of hankies handy if you get one.
When we were little kids growing up in North Van, our parents would always take us to the Park and Tilford Brewery near the Second Narrows Bridge on Christmas Eve to take our minds off Santa and see their beautiful display of lights on the trees, the seemingly hundreds of poinsettias and to hear the musicians sing and play music with crystal glasses, which made a lovely ‘tinging’ sound.
My favorite big girl thing to do now is to linger as long as I can in our lovely garden stores, which are so pretty and full of goodies and tools that I can buy for my gardeny friends and family and also to make a wish list for myself. My circle need not look any farther than a bookstore and one of those places to buy something for me to put under the tree.
This season has so many great things about it – the socializing and yummy food, pretty lights, excited children, Christmas performances, beautiful music and displays, sleigh rides and hot chocolate, and all else in between. It’s also a time to be thankful, and, for me – and I’m sure for so many others – I’d like to express my thanks, appreciation and gratitude (once again) to all of the gardeners, farmers, horticulturists, landscapers, landscape maintenance people and municipal crews, along with the countless others who own or are involved in the nurseries, florist shops, farmers markets, seed supply, food, soils, plants and bee keeping, the garden stores, hanging basket suppliers and our educators for giving us your gifts of fresh food, flowers, plants, knowledge, seeds, creativity and skill to this beautiful and bountiful place we call home in the Shuswap.
Happy (and safe) holidays everyone.