It’s so quiet. Except for the occasional howling wind. Not like the long months that came before — filled with the constant sounds of large and small machinery out in yards and fields.

The Accidental Gardener has been exploring the winter garden and imagining the spring garden. And taking long naps. That’s what it’s about, right? Dreaming of spring?

This is the time of dormancy, hibernation, conservation…waiting. The sun is just starting it’s gradual return, bringing the light and the warmth. Perennial plants and trees go dormant in the cold winter months. They’re not dead. While the outer leaves and above-ground foliage may die back, life still lurks in the roots and core of the plant. They simply stop growing and conserve energy until better conditions present themselves. We don’t use this term to describe annual plants with a life cycle of a single growing season.

Dormancy can be artificially controlled to store plants for shipping or to get them to flower at particular times. Tulip and daffodil bulbs can be chilled to send them into dormancy, then brought out at the desired time to force them into bloom. Red tulips for Valentine’s Day? Sure, no problem.

Do you see the little nubbins on the bare trees and shrubs? Tiny bunched-up leaves just waiting to explode. That’s part of the joy of wandering through the bleak landscape. And don’t forget “winter interest”. As you drive through Wallowa Valley, take a moment to marvel at the beautiful scarlet twigged red osier dogwood, set to burst into spring.  

The Accidental Gardener dreams of spring while perusing seed catalogues. It’s an adventure in imagining. There are fun and easy ways to get the garden going before spring arrives. But, as we know, that might not even happen here. We might just go from winter to summer. Big sigh.

Winter Trees

By William Carlos Williams

All the complicated details

of the attiring and

the disattiring are completed!

A liquid moon

moves gently among

the long branches.

Thus having prepared their buds

against a sure winter

the wise trees

stand sleeping in the cold.

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