05 January 2007

Watching the sleeping garden

It’s a new year…

…and as Babe Ruth would say, it’s déjà vu all over again. One of the earliest entries to this blog (now celebrating its first birthday) was a lament about the weirdness of the January weather. Well, on this day, 5 January, the temperature outside at noon (Atlantic Standard Time) is 48 degrees. Fahrenheit, not metric. Although today is overcast and there’s a suggestion of rain to come, there’s also some golden light in the sky, where the sun is struggling to pierce the clouds and bathe us in more warmth. Yesterday was a textbook January thaw-day; not quite as warm as today, but sunny, crystal blue skies, and the seemingly inexhaustible wind finally had blown itself out and was quiescent. When I went for a walk, I was intrigued by the waves of scent on the air; scents we don’t expect to be able to pick up just yet. The smell of earth warming up; the tang of manure from barns, of hay in the pasture for the horses, of ice melting back into water…these are things I don’t expect to really notice at this time of year—unless of course I’m in the barn cleaning out the horse’s stall or throwing down hay. But normally, the cold seems to freeze scents as well as water and ground and such, and it’s not until a February thaw or later before we get that first warm bathe of scent on the air, promises of spring.

We need to have winter before we have spring! The whole continent is in some sort of weather crisis, of course, as if our seasons have twisted. The west coast is alternately getting pounded with snowstorms and rainstorms. We’re having spring in January. The Midwest (well, Colorado anyway) is seeing snowstorm after snowstorm. A humungous piece of the glacial ice pack fell off the edge of Ellesmere Island a week or two back…meanwhile, our various not-so-glorious leaders hide their heads in their butts and deny that there’s any global warming going on. I won’t rant though, not about those jokers and losers. Not today.

Just two days ago, when the ground and the air were of equal frigidity thanks to that wonderful west wind screaming in off the Bay, I put the Christmas tree to the second-last of its really good uses. After standing for nearly three weeks in the house, festooned with ribbons and bows and balls and ornaments from all over, this mountain-grown tree from a local man’s tree lot has turned into mulch for the somewhat fussy plants of the garden; perennials that REALLY don’t appreciate freeze thaw cycles, some plants that were newly put in last year and haven’t gone through a Fundy winter yet, especially young shrubs like the Callicarpa and the Pyracantha and the ‘Bluebird’ hibiscus. I also put some boughs down around the bed where the heathers and heaths are, because they too are still young and establishing.

That as-yet unidentified euphorbia in the front garden is still holding its leaves but looking more bedragged now after the all-but incessant winds of the past couple of weeks. The hellebores seem to be doing just fine under the spruce trees, but that first real cold snap finished off the cyclamen that I’d planted out; houseplant type cyclamen mostly aren’t hardy here, but they will keep on growing and flowering until a hard freeze. For now, though, I’ll have to content myself with indoor flowers.

And indoor flowers we have only in small amounts, right now. The other day while getting groceries, my attention was caught by several stands of fresh, locally grown plants in the floral department. A small yellow primrose, with its spicy-lemon scent that instantly makes me happy, clambered into my grocery cart beside the salmon and the granola bars. Then a deep-rose cyclamen, reminding me how much it likes cool rooms like my office, followed the primrose. Finally, one of the compact, birds-nest type of sanseveria, a wonderfully variegated one, hinted that it should be included too. So these three small plants are relaxing in the office window, where the cats have shown no interest in snacking on any of them, and where their happy colours bring me instant spring—regardless of what the weather is doing.

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