Actually, so far it hasn't been a very cold winter, barring a few anomalies of ice and snow back in early January, when I tucked myself into the house and stayed out the three-day freeze. I don't do ice and snow well. The latter looks pretty as it falls, sometimes enough to pull on hat and boots for a (short) walk in it, but its co-conspirator has never been my friend. I suppose it's because of my south Florida beginnings that I suffer this February impatience for winter to be past. When I noticed the quince flowering, I took to the garden.
During this latest warm spell, each day I've chosen one part of the yard to focus on. First, I simply wandered about, getting a spring feel for things, admiring the tiny buds on the tulip poplars and dogwood, peeking down under the winter cover of leaves to see what's budding or what's lost its lifeline. I picked up fallen twigs along the way, tried to calculate which way the grasses will spread among the flagstones that lead to the picket-fence bench my nice neighbor Steve made for me, and invent new scenarios for spaces heretofore neglected.
I don't have an elaborate or formal yard; neither the landscape nor the neighborhood, or, for that matter, my own inclinations, are suited to it. It's a hilly town, for one thing, and my street in particular rolls along with it, leaving one end of my yard at street level and the other a good ten feet above. The slope in front is a challenge I puzzle over every year; this time I'm saving it for last, concentrating first on the high ground looking outward from the porch.
Did I mention I am sitting out here writing this? Porch weather is the best season of all. Shiny faces on the evergreen leaves dazzle and the signature blue in the sky holds all our gazes upward and outward. Inspiration rides high as I rock along to the small breezes that float through. What's especially pleasing is the new view I've created in the formerly unused corner by the kitchen door.
After the porch was finally finished last fall, I'd thought about, actually planned out, a raised kitchen garden of herbs and lettuces, but yesterday I had my doubts. I called in Cathy, who zipped over in record time when I texted her that I wanted to talk garden, and she threw out some ideas that made me re-think things. Here where soil (think thick clay...it's not for nothing we're famous for our pottery) needs replacing nearly every time you want to plant anything, a fully raised plot suddenly seemed more trouble than it was worth. Given the fact that we are on the deer highway, as I call it, despite the fact that we live right in town, I could see my raised garden vanquished each night. I have enough trouble keeping a few hydrangeas or daphnes I love. Isn't this nice of her, I can hear them whisper at dusk about my ground-level herbs, a whole platter to choose from!
Just try a few pots first, Cathy advised, and see how that goes. Those words were my cue: seeing how it goes is the way I do everything. So I grabbed the keys and headed out to the garden center. I told myself I'd just be looking, but barely an hour later came home with not only pots, but bags of organic soil, and a leafy trellis for some sweet peas to climb up the wall behind. I dug up pavers, filled the pots, then went back for some large gray beach stones to spread around the pots. I liked it.
This morning, I'm even happier about it. It rained a little overnight, and the wetted stones were a darker, brooding shade that spells calm to me. I am now wondering if a small ripple couldn't wash over it now and then, creating a peaceful hush. What a fine sound to listen for from the porch.
What is today's gardening going to be? Wandering again, this time to find the best places for my growing collection of bird feeders. I already see flutters of wings in the thorny ailanthus...nesting maybe? There is a limb just beyond where I sit that seems ripe for hummingbirds, perhaps.
I think what I am working toward is a garden of peace, though at the beginning I wouldn't have realized it. Goodness knows, we could all be working, in all sorts of ways, toward that.