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Winter In the Garden

May your holiday season, like your gardening season, be joyous.

Winter GardenWe love the first days of winter, the last days of the year. We love these days as much as we love the growing season, but in a different way. We think there’s a reason so many faiths have holidays this time of year and, it seems to us, people are just a bit more considerate, more thoughtful, more generous, and more out-going this time of year. We’ve passed the longest night of the season, the winter solstice, and now the sun’s slow climb in the sky, spending more time with us each and every day until the summer solstice, is something of a beacon of hope, a reason to anticipate the return of our gardens and landscapes from their winter sleep.

But even in their sleep, we love our gardens. They’re special and beautiful places, even in winter, even when completely beneath snow. We’ve talked about landscaping with an eye to winter, providing the depth and textures that evergreen hedges draped with snow and the varied reach of plants we didn’t pull — bee balm, cone flowers, and tall native grasses — as they rise above the white blanket. We’ve talked about the beauty of berries, their warm colors contrasting with the cold gray world. And even when most of the landscape is buried under snow, as it often is here in our hometown, the winter garden is a place of imagination and possibilities. What will it look like next spring? What will we be taking from it next fall?

One of our favorite winter garden activities, as equally enjoyable on Valentine’s Day as Christmas, is to bundle up and go out to it in the black of night and then look up. Because we’ve placed our garden in a spot where it will get maximum sunlight come the growing season, we have a clear, wide view of the heavens. There’s nothing like a sky full of stars, somehow sharper, crisper in the clear cold sky than in summer. If you’re lucky enough to live in a place where city lights don’t erase half of them, you can marvel at their sheer numbers and the variety of intensity they carry. Even if you do live in a bright-light big city, the few stars you see stand as miracles, startling in their visibility. If the moon is casting its ghostly light, hiding some of the fainter stars behind it, the whole world seems illuminated by its silver presence, a phenomenon more pronounced when magnified by snow.

Standing there in the garden under the wide dome of stars always gives us a sense of our place in the vast universe. Yes, we’re a tiny presence, even the entire planet is a speck in the larger realms of creation. But we feel a link with it, we feel the connection our garden has to it, knowing that our little plot is a natural part of the environment, not something that might harm it or those who come in contact with it, that it provides for us as we provide for it. It’s both a humbling experience and an empowering one. And almost every time we come in from such an experience, we break out our garden journals and read of past glories, or pull out a seed catalog — yes, they’re coming already — and browse, or break out a piece of graph paper and sketch out where the corn and the cucumbers might go come next spring. And, appropriately to the season, we feel joy.

So thanks to all of you from all of us here at Planet Natural, thanks for caring about your families and their well-being, thanks for caring about healthy environments and growing things. We can think of no better wish: May your holiday season be as joyous as your gardening season, and may both bring you and your friends and family together.