Winter Rituals


Some people complain about the avalanche of plant catalogs that begins to arrive this time of the year, but I look forward to them. While winter has its own charms, color is not one of them and I miss it. Aside from the visual stimulation, though, the catalogs also sound the starting gun of an annual winter ritual at our place --- planning the next phase of the garden.

Like any other ritual, it holds the elements of celebrating a particular occasion, focusing on a single subject, sustained concentration, the dreaminess of entering another world (of imagination), the consultation of sacred manuscripts (garden books and catalogs), and locking myself away from the world in my retreat house (snowed-in at the top of the hill). Dan, the financier, hole-digger, and hardscape constructor, participates as acolyte.

Towards the end of the ceremonies, I speak the hallowed liturgical phrases that have been handed down from time immemorial by women gardeners: “Honey, can you please just do this one itty bitty thing in the garden next year?” (This can mean anything from “Can you hand-dig a hole to accommodate a ten-foot tree?” to “I can’t find a fountain that I like; can you build me a custom-made one from all of these mis-matched parts that I’ve collected over the past ten years?”) Dan chants the refrain, “How do you expect me to do THAT?”

I recommend this as a winter activity for all gardening couples. The mild friction and hot air that permeates the house during the services helps to reduce fossil fuel consumption, so it also helps the environment. We’ve found this ritual makes the blood circulate faster as well, keeping both participants warm, and bringing a rosy glow to the cheeks.

City folks can substitute a visit to a botanical garden ,or public historical garden done up for the holidays, a flower show, etc. The necessary heat can be generated by selecting a parking space, choosing where to have lunch, or a polite discussion of why the celebrant is purchasing a $60 gardening book when the family has no garden.

If you have your own gardening rituals, I sure would like to hear about them.

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