For nearly three-quarters of the year, we commune with the garden. Those are blissful times: times of activity and growth, experimentation and familiarity, rejuvenation and repose.
Late autumn to early spring bring quieter times: times of lamentation, times of a different sort of repose, and times of planning (with all those garden and seed catalogues coming our way, how could one resist the urge to chart and plan the spring and summer garden?).
But winter brings with it a different kind of opportunity—an opportunity that all gardeners must heed. It is the opportunity to study the architecture of space.
Winter lays bare the beds, the garden rooms, the hedges, the walkways, and the walls. But so exposed are the parts that makeup each. Take this walkway, for instance. This dusting of snow accentuates the shapes of the stones. Here I see a shrunken Egypt and an elongated Sinai. Two stones below or toward the foreground we see undulations caused by millennia of successive waves—a reminder of a past so alien and almost unimaginable.
I see the stone walls that outline my beds have sunk into the ground by at least 4 inches. Height recedes. Verticality morphs into an unwelcome horizontality.
Frost-induced reduction of the ajuga makes stark the sinuous walls. My fetishistic collection of rocks once again appear, their herbaceous screens having retreated in the wake of winter’s onset. And the redesign of the east side shade garden bed becomes more apparent as only the anchor specimen plants—the Sawtooth Aucuba japonica Serratifolia (Serrated Japanese Laurel), Kerria japonica (which I moved from the heavily shaded southwest corner), and the Nikko Blue Hydrangea—are left to inhabit the winter garden, accented only by the improbable, preternatural greens of the Autumn, Christmas, and Holly ferns.
And today, indoors, despite the cold and the frozen ground, I live in the garden and commune with it. The window wells are being insulated, and the windows reinstalled (which means I shall live for the next few days sans windows in particular parts of the house). Nothing separates me from the garden, and I feel the same cold the plants feel. Even for me, this is too close for comfort in the winter garden.