In mid-December, while shopping for Christmas items at Lowes (a local big box home improvement store) I happened upon a cart full of fall bulbs. Deep discount bulbs - no surprise given that the October planting season was far behind us.
But I knew that that bulbs are remarkably resilient things, and that the ground was not yet frozen. I bought up a bundle of them. (Actually I had to constrain myself from buying the entire cart. They were down to a dollar per package! It was horribly tempting.)
The bulbs were from Jackson and Perkins, and their packaging allowed me to see the condition of the bulbs. I picked out the ones that were still sound, some with little green shoots poking out. Happy with my crazy shopping luck, I brought them home and put them aside, fully intending to get them in the ground the next day.
Didn't happen. The bulbs sat for two weeks, waiting. Meanwhile I ran around and tried to get ready for the holiday. I did have the presence of mind to bring some large pots, a couple of buckets of dirt off one of my hold piles, and a few bags of packaged topsoil in to the unheated sunporch.
It seemed then quite appropriate to plant them up on the longest night of the year.
Here you see my dining room/library. There are plants all over the place. Since the sunporch had been dipping down past the freeze mark, I had to bring in my overwintering plants. You can see the two parrot feather pots (Myriophyllum aquaticum) and the larger pot of 'annual' lobelia (Lobelia erinus 'Crystal Palace' - perennial in warmer climes, this one is.)
I'd like to say that the rest of the house doesn't usually look like this. Heh. (There. I've said it. Does that make it true?)
Hoggle and Bailey, and the cats Luther and Fahfrd (Fahf's out of frame) were all fascinated by this entire process. Dirt, on the floor! And smells! Oh the smells!
I had a lot of bulbs to plant. This lot is of daffodils and jonquils:
The tulips (Apricot Beauty) are in there too, but the hyacinths (Gipsy Queen) I potted up separately. (I abhor the smell of hyacinths - they get given away at the first opportunity, nasty things.)
I really packed them in the pot for the spring display. I will have to figure out a way to mark the foliage so that when they are done, I can transplant them into a more permanent home in the lamp post border. We'll see how that goes.
The species tulips looked so lovely right out of the box.
Like candy, I thought.
They ought to be a welcome splash of color in the spring. And maybe I will learn to let them self-sow. I've been dead-heading my existing turkestanica, and consequently the show grows more meager every year.
I also potted up a round of iris - reticulata and danfordiae, and a bunch of white windflowers (anemone blanda). All of this, in pots, is going to brighten the dog's yard and the front porch until such time as they go into ground proper.
This potting up of the bright and sunny colors of spring seemed to be exactly the right thing to do during the long dark night of the solstice. Planting as a prayer, as a active form of hope: all those little green sprouts poking out of their cold dark bulbs, just waiting for the sun's warm to leap forth and bloom upon the earth.
Winter up here is normally celebrated as white. And yes, the snow does fall on a regular basis. We were even surprised this year to have a significant snowfall for Thanksgiving. "Over the river and through the woods" being more typical for Christmas 'round here.
But in the mornings, long blue shadows lie across the land over the cover of snow, and in the evenings - they come so early - day dwindles quickly into long blue twilights. Dark night is the theme of the season, more than the unreliable snow. For the snow falls and then fades in a manner of days, but the cold, and the long dark nights, will be with us for the next few months.
This year has been one of many changes. This journal has seen less attention from me as I have been out in the world, madly living. My mother sold her house (that which was my Grandparent's prior) and moved in a brave moment to the Boston area to live with her sister. I spent the early part of the year trying to help her divest herself of much of her belongings, and then the middle of the year bringing my house to a place where I felt comfortable hosting her going away party. The garden, subsequently, waited in the background.
In the latter half of the year, the trial that I had been dreading for several years loomed over my head, and then miraculously went away. And Mark's grandmother, having reached her stated goal of ninety, quietly slipped on amidst the presence of her children.
All of the highs and lows that make up a life have been mine this past year. But here, as the year winds down in the cold short days, here I find that December is blue.
I'm not alone. I look at the many friends I have met through my sidebar links and I see the same patterns repeated. Stress. Sadness. Loss. Grief.
In the blue days of winter, we are housebound. Severed from our ties to the earth, everything seems to take on a larger aspect. Those blue shadows loom. Not for nothing is this a season of lights.
From the early fires of midwinter festivals to the candles on the tree, from the yule log taking a full night to burn to the hope given by an extraordinary star, we fill the winter with light. We drape our houses in lights, burning away the darkness, filling our yards with candles, with stars, with thousands of surprising fireflies - blinking and winking and driving the cold away as we gaze in amazement.
While the garden rests, we fill our eyes with another form of color. And wait for the garden catalogs, full of tools, full of plants, full of seeds and the promise they hold of the next season... of new life springing from the cold ground... of the hope that dwells deep in all of us...
Outside these walls today, the snow is falling. Tomorrow will be a bright day.