An Update From Our Garden – Surviving ‘Til Spring

The Woolen Mills is stocked with wonderful bolts of wool.  A yard and a half of 52″ fabric makes a terrifically affordable throw blanket for winter’s mornings on the deck.

The slow transition through winter’s darkness, the daily rains, the muddy yard, motivated us to follow Loren Eisley’s advise, “In days of frost seek a lesser sun,” by turning a covered deck into a daily destination; a space that would welcome us to the morning and extend the festive feel of the holidays into the much needy month of January.  We’ve had to plan some of this ahead; not cut up and toss away the tree, save the wreath –  sans its berries –  prep some containers in the fall; buy some big pieces of wool fabric and bind to use as blankets.

The birds and squirrels have joined us; they come to the whistle I make each morning.  We’ve gotten to know them; they’ve become emboldened with trust.

Early risers, we seldom miss a morning; tea, coffee, and sometimes toast in hand,  the birds and squirrels are waiting their invitation before eight.

The glass-topped table has made possible the Christmas Rose to bloom early.  We picked up silver ornaments and put them in a tray with sticks and shrub pieces thinking they would have the feel of a New Year’s celebration.   The brass torch, off its pole, has made a good stand-in for an early morning campfire.  White leafed perennials always brighten a gloomy garden.

Years old, our Buddha has blown over and encountered a broken nose several times.  We burn cedar incense most mornings but bought some rose-scented incense last month that brought the fragrance of summer to a December morning.  I’ve been sounding two rings of the bell each day when the hummingbird arrives to eat and is once perched and having dessert.  Twice this past week it showed up just after I rang the bell – sort of thinking perhaps that ‘breakfast’ is being served. I read recently that in the winter a 3 to 1 portion of water to sugar / instead of a 4 to 1, better meets their winter feeding needs – and maybe makes our house more competitive than the hanging restaurants of neighbors.

The forced paperwhites seem to like the protection of the table, jar, and wall beside where Kathy sits.  She recently found this winter/spring wreath and liked its feel of transitioning away from winter and thought too, that reindeer have every right to not be shut away just because Christmas is past.  We have LED lights in the jar – they make the deck look like a lounge at night and compliment warm glasses of Baileys – and sometimes when we’re brave and in the company of not only the wool blankets and polar fleeces – ice-laced martinis.

The wreath got a winter-looking makeover – berries detached, we added birch and olive branches and some boxwood stems.

…and the olive tree wears a reed coat around its trunk to protect it from the really cold nights.  Its crop of olives from last summer is looking good.  Maybe they’ll survive.

Ahh…the Halloween crow.  We make pans of suet for the birds; put the pans on this chest to cool.  The squirrels used to come and get in the suet pans if we forgot to bring them in, but they stay away from the crow so we leave her out as a pan-guard.  The tile was done by artist Suzanne Vaughn – it makes Kathy think of summer.

We take the ornaments off our tree on New Year’s Eve and leave the lights on.  We put the tree on the deck to light the nights for the month of January.  On its branches, we tie pieces of fruit, suet, and sprinkle seed on its limbs every morning.  So many birds come to feed at this buffet, their motion sometimes make the tree look alive and at night it not only keeps the wrapped banana trees company and a statue that sits where our old cat Flip used to sleep in the sun, but it also feeds the festive needs of our souls as we and our garden transition through the dim light of January.

We hope the New Year has started kindly and gently for everyone.  It’s not too late to plant some winter pansies, arrange a few favorite things around on a porch, grab a warming throw blanket, a handful of birdseed, and a cup of coffee, and say hello to even the bleakest of winter mornings.