I have spring fever so bad…just as we enter into the longest month of the year – February. Now, I know you are saying to yourself, “That Amanda isn’t so bright, February is actually the shortest month!”
To me though, February can be difficult to get through. Winter has been going such a long time, and I am dry and itchy. Tired of gray skies and dull colors. Weary of wet and mud and slick grass and salty, dirty roads. Tired of the fusty, dusty winter house smell, a tired, sad smell.
This time of year it is tempting to eat chocolate until I pass out and hibernate until spring has sprung. In the world today we don’t make any allowances for late winter. In the olden times, that our bodies are designed for, this would be the slowest time of the year and we would do our indoor chores and sit by the fire, craving something fresh and green to eat and enduring until warmer weather came. But now we continue to go, go, go – in these tired bodies, with these stupid, sleepy winter brains.
My drug of choice for this time of the year is gardening catalogs. Have you looked at one lately? The pictures are so lovely, they are practically garden porn. The colors are luscious, and the descriptions of the plants, the flowers, the fruit…each one is irresistible. “Yes,” you think, “I must plant those, and those, and ooh, pretty! Yes, I have to have an entire field of those!” I am like a child at a dessert buffet, my eyes, starved of beauty, want to buy ALL THE SEEDS and have ALL THE FLOWERS. Then I start to consider the actual amount of space I have to fill and realize I’d need a garden the size of Versailles to plant all the seeds I am getting ready to order; this crazy woman puts down the garden catalog and slowly step away from it, aware that she’s am not entirely rational while in the grips of spring fever.
The catalogs do a lot to keep me happy though. Even if I don’t buy ALL THE SEEDS, just looking at the pictures and reading books about gardening, and watching videos on the Youtube about growing things – it helps. I bought a beautiful book called The Layered Garden, by David L. Culp. It is about planting things in your yard that give you something to look at all year long. Not just planting something that blooms and is gone, but having interesting shape, color, and form going all the time. Also, planting up, and under, and using all the contours of the ground and the resulting microclimates to make things last longer. I love the book, if all it had going for it was the beautiful pictures - that would be enough. But I like the writing style of the book and the fact that he gardens in Pennsylvania, not too far from where I am.
So many (too many!) garden books are written by people in California. Not that there’s anything wrong with California, or California gardens, or people who garden in California – the lucky bastards. But when Southern California gardeners talk about their 12 month growing season, and the heat, and the sun, and all the advantages of living in a gardening paradise (sob!) I might have a tiny problem with Envy. And with sifting out the nuggets of gardening advice that apply to people who can’t grow lemons and avocados in their front gardens. And next thing you know it I am dissatisfied with my lovely little Maryland garden and am feeling stabby towards snooty Californians and their 365 days of sun and I’m beating myself silly with the gardening book and wailing, “Why do I have to live heeeeeere?”
Ahem. So, back to my point, David Culp knows what it’s like to garden with actual seasons, and cold, and snow sometimes. And he likes it, and has managed to make his winter garden just as interesting and complete looking as it is during the other three seasons. And that’s refreshing and leads away from the dangers of Envy and into the delights of learning to work with what you have and making it the best it can be, even without 365 days of sun.
I’m also reading Douglas Tallamy’s book about planting natives in your yard to attract and sustain native birds, bees (and other pollinators), and animals. It’s a good book with an important message. If anyone wants a copy, let me know. I am going to send a copy to the first person that asks for it.