Winter Solstice in the garden

This morning as I stepped out into the cold to get this picture, I couldn't help but feel the light of the season returning. The Winter Solstice arrived early this morning and with it came this amazing sunrise. Shades of red and orange light up the sky in preparation of the first day of winter. Not only do we have this show in the morning, but it is predicted that we will have snow by tonight up in the mountains. Lots of snow! For now I will enjoy the clear skies and reflect on the season just past, and the new one starting.

Winter in the garden is a time for reflection and solitude. There aren't a lot of chores to be done, and hopefully everything has been heavily mulched with a blanket of compost to keep it warm through the days ahead. But while there may not be physical work involved with this time of year, there certainly can be some written and mental gardening to be done. Planning new gardens for this spring?  Today is the day to take notice in the garden where the sun sets. Occurring at about 4:30 this afternoon, step outside (or anytime this week) and see where the sun casts its final shadows of the day. You might be surprised to see that the tree that shaded a bedroom window for you all summer is now in full shade itself. When planning those new shrubs or perennials beds for next spring, you will want to keep in mind “Will they get sunshine in the winter months also?” or “Will they be in full shade through these cold days to come?” And why should you care? It is important for gardeners to understand how remarkable plants are. They have abilities to sense the world around them and respond to it in ways that many gardeners are unaware of.  We used to be considered Zone 5, but now the USDA has expanded the zones into more micro-climates, but........the majority of the growers that we deal with have not! So while we may now be considered Zone 7A, the plant tags will still say, Zone 5, confusing.....Yep! find your zone hereQuite often I plant things that are considered marginal for our area, perhaps Zone 6 all the way to Zone 8! These selections need to be planted where they will get the most winter sun and warmth, and yet also they may need protection from the heat of the summer sun. Best places….perhaps under a deciduous tree facing the south, where they will get full sun in the winter months to warm them, and have some protection from the summer heat from the shade of the tree. Or maybe by a large rock or boulder, also on the south side. If you are thinking of a plant that can take the heat, but perhaps not to much cold, something like the beautiful Salvia greggii…a lovely addition to the perennial garden, tucking the roots up under the rock as best you can when you plant it, will allow it to gather warmth from the rock all winter, but still enjoy the heat of summer.

Reflect and Relax. I laughed the other evening when a fellow gardening friend explained to those of us gathered that the reason she owned one of those high intensity headlamps you see miners wear, is so that she can garden late into the night during the summer season. This time of year for those of us gardeners that want nothing more than dirt under our fingernails can be daunting. We dream of seedlings and blooms and the fresh fragrance of herbs. But while it may not be time for digging, it is time for reflecting, and remembering the beauty of the garden. All months, all weeks, all days. There is beauty in the garden.

Happy Winter Solstice! May the light find you and surround you in its warmth during this season ahead.