Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Early (Early) Winter

Snow and ice has been piling since late November. The forecast has been for below average temperatures and above average precipitation. Both have panned out. I've noticed that meteorologists are remarkably accurate in the high-tech age, although they have a tendency to sensationalize every drop of rain and snowflake as if it's the end of all creation. Weather forecasters have become shameless drama queens for the sake of scoring a few rating points.

Winter, for the record, does not officially begin until the end of this week.

The first really big dump was surprise if only for its intensity. Wet and heavy, virtually everything left standing in the garden was crushed, including the tallest and toughest of the ornamental grasses. Flattened like wet paper, the long shoots and blades now lie limply in ruins upon the earth. Most years I am able to enjoy the shuddering dry canes and seedy plumes lingering into well into March.

Winter interest, that's what we gardeners call it, or leaving a few things to look at for when the gloom seems eternal. Some gardeners subscribe to the scorched earth approach - picking out every remaining stalk and seed head still remaining by late autumn- No Plant Left Behind, if you will - for the sake of efficiency.

Others, myself included, like to see powdery caps of snow atop the Echinacea on a winter's morning, or flitting goldfinches devouring the remnants of Rudbeckia seeds. We find the blank winter garden sterile and sad, nothing to contemplate except frozen, lonely soil.

The mantra for some is to "clean" the garden of pests and diseases by not allowing them to overwinter on decaying plant matter. In the home vegetable garden this makes some sense (crop rotation and soil amendments should always be primary) but in the flower garden, bah.

I've never on my property detected an overabundance of plant disease. I don't trouble myself with a few spots of powdery mildew, anyway, so perhaps I am simply more tolerant than some. One gardener's "problem" is another gardener's shrug of the shoulders.

This morning I took another look around. Some of the miscanthus looks as if it's been hit by a meteorite but in other places things are not so bad after all. Sunflower stalks are indestructible as always, and there are plenty of milkweed hanging around, their silvery-gray pods still stuffed with gossamer. The new waterfalls in my ponds make spectacular ice formations. It's not so bad after all.

With nature one must learn to put things in perspective or find a different past-time.


Wayne Stratz said...

I tend to fall into your way of thinking. Let it be to spring time. If something is that diseased it won't make it to late fall anyway.

enjoyed your writing

Shane VanOosterhout said...

Precisely. I also think that some times gardeners have a tendency to find cause and effect where there is none and then react with vengeance.

Thank you for your comments!