Saturday, January 30, 2010

The White Witch

For many people winter is a period of withdrawal and introspection, but for gardeners it is perhaps the most optimistic time of the year. Once the holidays are passed and visions of sugarplums have faded from memory, imaginations fill with dreams of the perfect garden yet to come. Distracted by the glossy pages of seed catalogues and the imminent arrival of spring promised by the lengthening days, it can be all to easy to overlook February's snowy beauty. As I write this post, the squall swirling outside my window conjures images of C.S. Lewis' Narnia. To my eye the blanket of white dusting the landscape rivals any effect my efforts have yet achieved. Winter's muted palette of browns, greens and white has a sophistication that renders summer's jubilance almost juvenile by comparison.

In June my roses and peonies steal attention from the surrounding landscape. The river recedes mysteriously into the the distance and the trees become little more than a green backdrop. Now I see that this hierarchy is reversed. My gardens appear dwarfed by the breadth of the icy river and the depth of the adjoining woods. Surprisingly, I find that I hardly miss them at all.

Of course I know that soon enough I'll tire of the cold and long for the sight of some cheerful color. I can already hear myself cursing March for delivering so little in the way of warmth. For the moment, however, I'm content to let the perennials sleep while I contemplate winter's subtle beauty.