Today is January 31st-if you are not thinking about what you have in store for your garden, and what your garden has in store for you come May, you are unavoidably sidetracked, or sideswiped. Either scenario-you have my sincere sympathies; this happens to me every year too. I think I have all the time in the world to dream until the date finally registers with me. The winter months can fly by faster than you think, in spite of all the endlessly daily grey. I am corresponding with a grower out west about his large scale espaliers, putting together a list of 12 inch annual basket combinations for Bogie Lake Greenhouse to grow, sketching every possible permutation of a shape for a swimming pool that will gracefully accomodate both a lap swimmer and family recreation in a very tight buildable space, and going over and over in my mind a design for a house only 6 feet from the road, whose flat back yard space is minimal-the rest dropping off precipitously. The shop is completely torn apart for cleaning, painting and rearranging; spring shipments are beginning to arrive. No doubt the best thing about January 31st is that I will not have to live through it again for another year. But it also means I only have 6 weeks to be ready for plenty.
What you are planning, and planning now, is of utmost importance. The garden waits for no one. Gardeners are tinkerers-they have to be. In my zone there is some winter time to choose this over that, make changes, establish an order of events. The seed loving people have been hard at work for weeks already. You can’t grow every available string bean or cosmos-or can you? I could not live in a climate without a winter season; I not only need reverie time, but I like it. I am set in my ecosystem, for good or for ill. California gardeners-how I admire them. They have something every day progressing or declining-no neutral. No time out or off. Of course this is my idea of what it is like to garden in California-unsullied by any experience. Where am I going with this? The planning for a garden informs the work. Though nature can wreck my plans in a capricious blink of her eye, an investment in some planning time is like a little insurance. That baby blue spruce that would look so good next to the walk will become a big Mama spruce sooner than you think-how will it look in that spot, 25 feet tall and 10 feet wide? It takes the same time, sweaty effort and money to plant something in the wrong place as the right one. This is an obvious example of what is a good idea to think through before you act. Other design issues are not so clear, and just take time to get the good and beautiful solution. When I do not have any ideas that to my mind seem worth lifting a hand for, I say so, and take the time to come back. It is possible that one’s first pass at something is the best pass. Its equally as likely that the 4th pass will be better than the 5th. You won’t know this unless you take the time.
It seems to me that very good design is a significant part of every good product, novel, music, art or cuisine that comes my way. And that some form of reflection plays a big part in the making. Beautiful and thoughtful are good together in the same sentence, and on the same project. It is true that time I give to my garden or yours means that something else does not get time. It could be the most expensive thing about a garden is the time it demands. Making the decision to devote the time is the hardest part. I meet people all the time capable of imaginative and intriguing ideas. Committing the time to giving form to those ideas is another thing altogether. So should you be stuck indoors, or just stuck, play along with my plan if you choose.
I am never more focused on design than I am right now, on the verge of February first. So that process what I will be talking about. As this weather leaves me cold, the first thing I do is turn my eyes towards my interior landscapes. The gardens of my dreams. Inspiration is everywhere, provided you take the time to let it work you over. (Yes, my garden works me over.) I am thinking that if I take the time to look at my process more critically, it will make my gardens better. It’s a place to start.