The Optimism of a Gardener
Vita Sackville-West, the owner and co-creator of the great English garden Sissinghurst, wrote, “The most noteworthy thing about gardeners is that they are always optimistic, always enterprising and never satisfied. They always look forward to doing something better than they have ever done before”.
As I walk briskly around Blithewold on these cold days, I am reminded of how optimistic gardeners can be. This winter cold is bone chilling but let’s find some good in it all. Walking past the weeping hemlock (Tsuga canadensis), I can thank the cold temperatures for knocking back the woolly adelgid (an aphid-like insect with a white coating that attacks the Eastern hemlocks). The cold may not kill off insects totally but it can keep them in check. We may not see the prolonged -30 degrees it takes to kill off the larvae of the emerald ash borer that are attacking the American ash trees (Fraxinus americana), but somewhere in Minnesota that is happening.
Another way to think about the benefits of cold temperatures is to take note of the plants that seem to come through this weather unscathed (hint: think native species on this one). We won’t know for sure which plants did well until we walk the property in spring. This will lead to savvier plant purchases in the future.
Cold winters allow gardeners that important time to assess, plan, and design for the next season. Let’s not forget the joys of ordering seeds and plants, plus having a good read in a garden book. If you are like most optimistic gardeners, as Sackville-West says, you’ll be dreaming of plans to make your garden better than ever.
If you need inspiration, visit our website www.blithewold.org for winter horticultural classes that are offered through February and March. There is no better place for optimism than with fellow gardeners.
Featured Image: It’s sunny and warm in the greenhouse despite the winter chill