I love the pale tints of winter when the trees are bare against the pinky blue sky and the rich brown contours of the hills surround us down here in the hollow. Our twiggy oculus opens up clear as a bell, like the twist of a telescope.
I can see the Big Dipper now rising in the north when I look out from the bedroom window late at night, up over the shed roof glinting through the tracery of the walnuts. We are so low the Little Dipper never rises above our horizon no matter the season. In summer, the leafy canopy obscures half the sky. Winter is stargazing time.
I get out the National Audubon Society Field Guide to the Night Sky and begin again to study the constellations and stars – Orion, Betelgeuse, the Gemini with Castor and Pollux and Cassiopeia on her throne. Arcturus, Sirius beckon.
Winter reveals the ground as well as the heavens and the harsh outlines of the new creek wall cry out for hundreds of bare root Christmas ferns and bluebells to soften the bank we shored up last spring. We planted Lewis & Clark’s Camassia on either side of the steps last fall. Shown below with Shelton Sprouse our rock man who restored Monticello’s vegetable garden retaining wall and made our hearth on the old new addition some decades ago.
I like planting masses of bare root groundcover in the spring, so much easier to pop in than pints or quarts. Existing native spicebush (Lindera benzoan), along with Siberian iris (I. sibirica) and the yellow flag (I. pseudacorus), flourish in the moist delta abutting the creek. I am wondering whether to add Japanese varieties, non-native of course, but they would love the water. So far, Iris (as well as bluebells [Mertensia virginica] and fern [Christmas and Ostrich]) have proved unpalatable to the deer which is crucial in our heavily-browsed area.
We had a successful bonfire just after the solstice. It was a good burn. Perfect conditions, calm and dry. Some large logs dated back to the Derecho storm years ago. All were reduced to a fine ash and we are ready to begin again. Always a lot of biomass to dispose of in the garden and you can’t compost it all. We are fortunate that our thirty some acres allow us the space to burn.
The garden and the land around us, if we pay attention, allow us space to dream, repair past mistakes and give it another go for a new year in the company of nature. For that we are thankful.