The seemingly bare month

Happy New Year! Fresh starts and fresh thoughts permeate our feelings and actions in these early days of the New Year. Having mostly survived the chaos surrounding our year-end rituals, these newly quiet days provide a calm, perhaps even serene, sensibility.

The plant catalogues are neatly stacked, inviting us to pursue them with a leisurely approach, for the rush of the gardening year seems far off.

However, upon closer inspection, even briefly, you will find plants that are pushing upwards in spite of the thin light in the air. Push aside the decaying large hellebore leaves and you will find fat, juicy knobs emerging in the cold dampness.

Small new shoots of the Iris graminea are pointing skyward. The pale, slightly pink blooms of Daphne Bhuloa are shyly unfurling, their evocative scent just barely discernible.

Garden workaholics

In spite of the cold, the earth, if stirred, provides a yeasty smell. The nematodes and worms are not sleeping. They are still at their workstations, along with their cohorts, churning and building the complex entity often referred to as dirt, but I honor it by calling it soil.

I treasure it and nurture it and look at it with wonder even when I find its sticky, cold dampness annoyingly stuck under my fingernails or to my gloves when I remember to keep them on. Move aside some mulch or pull a few weeds and soon the soil surface will be moving with their appearances.

Since the solstice, there has been an almost imperceptible quickening in the garden that wasn't there last month. It takes patience to perceive this subtle change, but once the awareness comes, the unfolding becomes perceptible and quite stunning.

The buds fatten, not with the speed of June, but with a January speed. If you truly thought it was quiet and dormant in the January garden, the buds will instruct you otherwise.

Always a job to do

There are jobs to be done if simply observing the garden is too passive an activity for you. There is always the on-going cleanup of the perennials. There are the globs of wet leaves that have been blown into hard-to-reach corners.

The compost pile needs turning, and dormant spray could be applied to the fruit trees. And surely there are still a few bags of bulbs needing to be planted!

The low slant of the winter light uniquely illuminates your garden. Savor it, while you worry and wonder about the hardness of the weather yet to come. The weather will happen - the challenge is to savor fully the exquisite starkness of January.

The branching patterns that will soon be hidden, the lengthening catkins, the birds feasting on the bright red berries - these all will soon be subsumed by the fullness and colorful riot of the spring growth.[[In-content Ad]]