A Cure For The Wintertime Blues


This is the time of year when I feel the most out of step with my fellow gardeners and the readers of this blog. You see, this is the start of South Florida’s growing season — the orchids (above) are currently blooming in my garden. Nurseries are overflowing with plant selections and cold fronts bring delightful weather rather than snow and ice.

While there aren’t any wintertime blues here (I had to go back years to find the snow photo below), many other gardeners are buried in ice and snow, just waiting for my weather to reach them.

As a former northern gardener, I understand cabin fever and having to madly hunt for a gardening fix. That’s why I embarked on a search for quality gardening shows that offer more than a host ambushing a homeowner in a parking lot, smarmy comments between cast members, an army of workers transforming a yard into an over-the-top creation, and the homeowner’s surprise.

If all gardeners are like me, they crave real gardening shows, sort of like the classic “A Gardener’s Diary,” which aired on HGTV long before it became overrun with home buyer and home makeover shows.

The answer to my quest came in the form of Monty Don, Great Britain’s favorite gardener and gardening author. Many of this blog’s readers from England are already familiar with him, but he’s a new discovery on this side of the Atlantic — at least for me. I found three of his series on Netflix, and each is a binge-worthy cure for the wintertime blues.

Big Dreams, Small Spaces

Big Dreams, Small Spaces” is the show that gave birth to my bromance with Monty — although I’m not sure it really counts as one since we’ve never met. Unlike American garden makeover shows, this show requires the homeowners to do the labor, with Monty not only guiding them but also rolling up his sleeves.

With each episode, Monty is able to slip in helpful and practical bits of knowledge about plants and pruning, design and landscaping, while the homeowners are sent on inspirational field trips to get even more questions answered.

More than anything else, though, it’s Monty’s enthusiasm that’s charming and infectious. I often found myself rooting for the homeowners to finish their work before the big reveal to Monty — and I couldn’t help but be as proud as Monty of their accomplishments.

Monty Don’s Italian Gardens

When I discovered this show, I thought Monty would bring that same “Big Dreams, Small Spaces” format to Italy. I couldn’t have been more wrong.

Monty Don’s Italian Gardens” is like going on a whirlwind tour of some of Italy’s most enchanting, historic, and beautiful public and private gardens. With Monty as the guide, his enthusiasm brings garden and history to life.

A good rule is to keep a pen and paper nearby so you can make a list of travel destinations. One such place for me is Ninfa, the remains of an Italian village that has been transformed into a garden.

Monty Don’s French Gardens

Photo courtesy of bbc.co.uk.

Similar to his trip to Italy, “Monty Don’s French Gardens” is a homecoming for Monty since he once lived and worked in France. Each episode highlights a specific aspect of French culture, with public and private gardens used as an illustration.

One show, for example, celebrated French cuisine, with a visit to some extraordinary gardens where potagers and espaliered fruit trees were on full artistic display. My personal favorite, though, was the episode on French artists, with a visit to Monet’s garden at Giverny.

In addition to hosting these wonderful gardening shows, Monty Don is also the author of several books. Whether you curl up with a blanket and a cup of hot tea to read his words or to watch his shows (on Netflix or YourTube), Monty is a cure for the wintertime blues — no matter your gardening zone.

Repost: To All The Christmas Trees I’ve Loved Before


Adonidia Palm -- also known as the Christmas Palm.

Adonidia Palm — also known as the Christmas Palm.

If there’s snow falling on this WordPress blog, it must mean that it’s December — and since I’m in south Florida at the moment, I have a feeling these digital dots may be the closest I come to the white stuff this holiday season.

Take, for example, my recent trip to purchase a Christmas tree.

In recent weeks, large tents have popped up all over. It’s as if lots and lots of circuses have come to town. But under these big tops — necessary to protect the fresh trees from the heat of the sun — freshly bundled Christmas trees are lined up like soldiers, the smell of pine is everywhere, and Christmas carols play from the speakers.

It’s also 75 degrees — and I’m wearing shorts and sandals, which are a far cry from my typical bundled-up Christmas tree shopping gear, although I did add a sweatshirt to at least create the illusion that it’s chilly.

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Ice, Snow & A Bit Of Frost


Hydrangea In Ice

I owe all of you a great deal of thanks.  Your kind and supportive comments from the previous post about my health issues and having to leave my garden were appreciated in so many ways.  You and your words brought me great comfort. 

Near the end of that post, I wrote, “I’ve made another difficult decision — to take a very brief hiatus from posting as regularly as I have, to wait for those beams of light to be strong enough to burn through the fog, to get to Florida and figure out how a garden blogger blogs without a garden.

“And when all that happens, you will be the first to know, because inspiration often comes from the most unlikely of seeds.”

That inspiration came soon after your gifts of words arrived.  I was walking around the yard, tip-toeing through the areas of the garden that had re-appeared after a snowmelt and that’s when I noticed something.  There, just barely above the ground, under the oak tree, was another gift — the tiniest bit of green.

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When The Fog Rolls In — And Out


Foggy Night

There’s no other way to describe my brain during these frigid January days than this photo of a foggy, foggy night.  I admit when I first saw the lights beaming through the misty mid-winter air, I thought of a scene from “The X-Files” — you know, an alien spacecraft had landed just on the other side of the trees behind my house.

But the more I stared at the photo, the more I thought about the tangled thoughts and clouded emotions and glimmers of light in my head.  There’s a lot happening up there, and very often it’s difficult to make sense or to accept what it all is.

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No Heart For Snow


Azalea In Snow.

Azalea in snow.

The snow is a show;

The drifts are aglow.  

You just don’t know

How I want it to go.

That’s where my playing in the snow begins and ends these days — because I would much rather view snow from inside the house or, better yet, on the television while lounging under a sun-soaked palm tree.

But that is not to be, now that the first snowstorm of 2014 has blown through and the news is filled with images of kids sledding and playing in the white stuff.  One local reporter even fell backwards into a field of untouched snow to make a snow angel.

I wish I could muster up that much excitement for the flakes — the snow, that is, not the reporters.

This weather is one of the main reasons I created my version of a knot garden.

This weather is one of the main reasons I created my implied knot garden.

There was a time when a prediction of snow ignited dreams of a snow day from school.  As a school employee, I still experience that rush — but it’s tempered by the frustration that now comes with snow.

Yes, it makes the world fresh and white — at least for a few hours — and it provides a chilled respite for perennials and bulbs, as well as a steady watering as it melts.  Snow is a necessary evil for those of us living in northern climates.  The older I get, however, snow has become less of a novelty and more of a headache — or, more accurately, a heartache.

Snow is a reminder of what I can’t do.

Snow

Snow waves, courtesy of the chaise lounge.

Eight years ago, winter cold made me acutely aware of an ache down my left arm.  Once I warmed up to room temperature, the ache disappeared.  It was a pinched nerve, I rationalized, that was aggravated by cold.

Spring arrived that year, and the ache remained — only now it was accompanied by shortness of breath and could occur with any physical exertion.  At the end of the school year, I scheduled a doctor appointment, where my EKG was normal.  Fortunately, my primary phoned a cardiologist, and made a next-day appointment for me.

At that appointment, my EKG and blood pressure were again normal, but the cardiologist asked if I would like to take a nuclear stress test.  He described it as a walk on a treadmill to elevate my heart rate.  How hard could a walk be?

Snowy table for two.

Snowy table for two.

I failed that test, and from his office, I was sent to a nearby hospital.  Blood tests indicated that at some point I had suffered a very mild heart attack.  In a matter of days, I was diagnosed with Coronary Artery Disease (CAD) and had eight stents placed in my coronary arteries.

One of the medical personnel who stopped in to check on me insisted that I had a love for the other kind of white powder, if you get my drift, because I didn’t fit into any of his preconceived notions of a heart patient.  I wasn’t overweight, had a relatively healthy diet, and didn’t smoke, drink, or use drugs.

He failed to consider genetics.

Hydrangea or cotton?

Hydrangea or cotton?

Regardless, though, my cardiologist laid down the law: “No snow shoveling for you!”

Huh?

I’ve always shoveled snow — from childhood, when shoveling snow with my father was like a military operation, to adulthood, when it was a winter chore that Joe and I shouldered together.

Today, though, I have 13 stents, a series of medications (which, by the way, seem to make me more cold sensitive), and Joe — who now does all of the shoveling.  That’s where the frustration lies.

I watch him through the windows as he shovels and lifts and tosses, shovels and lifts and tosses — and I’m sad because I’m unable to help him.  To do so would tax my heart.  Each snowy forecast is a nagging reminder that I’m a bit broken and slightly used — and with that comes the worry — the unfairness — that the snow removal responsibility falls solely on Joe.

Snow shadows.

Snow shadows.

Yes, I can help him dust off cars and I can make hot tea or hot chocolate for him when he comes in from the cold — but it’s not the same as sharing the task, especially for those storms that are especially deep.

Complicating this year’s first snowfall is the result of my most recent stress test.  I have a 40 percent blockage in another one of my arteries, which my doctor says can act up because of cold and/or stress.

Clearly, I no longer have a heart for snow — but, thanks to the parade of seed catalogs that arrive by mail, I have dreams of warmer, more color-filled days ahead.

And that’s the kind of medicine a gardener’s heart can love.

Warmer days . . .

Warmer days . . .

The Spoils Of Suburbia


Garbage

Snow has melted, fallen, and melted again — but winter’s debris is still there.  I don’t mean the fallen leaves and broken twigs that litter the beds and lawn.  I’m referring to actual litter.

Due to a combination of winter winds and my home’s location at the head of a T-shaped intersection, my yard is the final resting place for not only the leaves from the intersecting street, but also for my neighbors’ garbage.  Whether it’s been set free from cans on garbage pick-up days or dropped on the street by passers-by, trash loves my yard.

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When Winter White Goes Green


IMG_2746

As the February snow melts and re-freezes, taking on the look and sound of carved Styrofoam, Long Island elected officials are scrambling to come up with answers for how municipalities so badly handled snow removal.  There is talk of contracts, lack of direction, an overwhelming amount of snow, and the resignation of one highway supervisor — so much talk, in fact, that it’s all starting to sound like a snow job as historical as the blizzard itself.

If only they had paid more attention to “The Mary Tyler Moore Show.”  There always seemed to be snow falling on the other side of the massive window in Mary’s adorable apartment — you know, the one on the top floor of Phyllis’s house.   I often dreamt that I would like to live in Mary’s apartment — if only to have Rhoda as a friend.

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