Putting the Garden to Bed for Winter

Things I love cont’d…

One of my gardener friends likes to talk about putting the garden to bed for winter. The leaves get blown, raked and heaped for mulch; the last fading flowers cling to ragged stems; stalks bend and hang in the cold wet air. Dun colored birds flit about to peck the last wet seeds.

But the work! This does not feel like going to bed because if it is, I’m the night watchman and my shift breaks all union rules.  This is the time to tidy, to shape, to haul the twigs, branches and dead things out of the place.

I am often accused of having a green thumb. I say accused because although the many flowers and trees make me extremely happy, the amount of work is horrifying. For example, I have several “dwarf” trees that were offered as “growing slowly to five feet.” Hah! My Niagara Falls White Pine for example is now happily batting at the telephone wires. It is gorgeous – soft needles and round branched form. But the telephone company gets fussy. So winter is the time when I stand helplessly with my pruners and try to decide how to restrain the tree’s glowing exuberance.

My red and yellow twig dogwoods are joyfully creating multicolored thickets for small animals and crowding out the less unruly roses. I get that – they are natives who in my garden don’t have to fight for their lives. But they are dirt hogs. And it will take me at least three days to prune them back if I don’t take a chain saw to them. (They shiver in fear…they should!).

My Arctic willow, guaranteed to stay a sedate three-foot ball (it was so cute and beautiful) has now run amok and is twelve feet high and wide. My neighbors asked with a dazed look what it was and why did I plant it there? I can only shake my head and sigh. It will be like taking Andre the giant back to munchkin stage.

And the weeds! In the Pacific Northwest, the pretty little flowers die back in the fall. The weeds, on the other hand, party!  I will yank out literally thousands of buttercups before spring arrives again. My cold, chapped hands will have no succor. And just when I think around March that I’m winning, all the weed seeds that got dropped in the fall will sprout in their legions.

The only putting to bed of my garden will be when my friends and family find me stretched out, a green woman with plants and shrubs growing through my numb fingers and lank hair. And then as I am wracked on the wheel of the seasons, I hope, someone will put me to bed.


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