Today is the winter solstice, the day with the least amount of daylight in the year. Starting tomorrow, the amount of daily sunshine will start to increase, imperceptibly at first, unnoticeable until late in January during the coldest part of the year.
The winter solstice is the official end of my gardening season. The gardens have been winterized – each rose lightly pruned and hilled up with a foot or so of horse manure. The potted roses have been gathered together into a large, open-topped wooden crib covered with leaves that allow rain and snow-melt to percolate through. (The winter protection in the garden as well as the cribs serves to keep roses dormant until late March avoiding premature loss of dormancy during mid-winter freeze/thaw cycles.) The long canes of large shrub roses and climbers have been trimmed or pegged and transplanting is complete.
It’s done! Whew.
Each year I tell myself that I will start this process sooner and be done sooner but I never am and it’s always after Thanksgiving before it’s complete.
Looking back at this past season, I’m reminded again that all gardens are dynamic entities, always changing in some way all the time. I like to have a hand in this natural morphing and, for the first time in several years, I replaced a large number of varieties in the back garden last May. Since one rose has to go before another rose can be planted, I put in 16 new varieties and said good bye to a few old favorites that were past their prime as well as some others that had worn out their welcome. Of them all, the big surprise was a new hybrid tea named Good as Gold that I planted with some reluctance since I am phasing hybrid teas out of the gardens altogether. But this variety was new and I was very curious about its color. And what color it was – a true gold with peachy undertones.
The biggest change, though, came from the loss of a very large maple tree that provided shade for both our home and gardens. It was damaged in Super Storm Sandy and had to be removed in November last year. This summer, as expected, the rose garden was infused with morning sunshine that it never had before and responded with robust growth and bloomed almost a week earlier than it has in the past. Plus the insidious invasion of nutrient-robbing tree roots into the rose garden finally ceased. That was the good news. The bad news was the totally unexpected intense mid-afternoon heat that blasted our once-cool shady patio. When temps hit 113F in mid July, it was time for an awning which was installed a month later. I sweat just thinking about it.
Each season brings its own special pleasures. I love opening the gardens in the chilly, very bright sunshine of early spring, then watching them grow like crazy in May and explode into bloom in June. I look forward to the annual bud grafting workshop in August after the second flush. Then autumn roses with their extra bright colors blossom in September, this third bloom cycle is the swan song for the year.
Now it’s over for 2013 and Angelina and I are looking forward, as we always do, to four months off to get ready for next season. We have plenty to do in the meantime with a busy calendar of lectures scheduled for 2014 plus a trip to Ireland in May.
So, on this “shortest” day of the year, as one season quietly slips away, I look towards the next and all its inherent change, expected and otherwise, with the same grand anticipation as I do every year. It never gets old.