February 29, 2016

Garden Lessons Learned: This, Too, Shall Pass

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She contemplated the idea of skipping winter for a year, or even skipping it for the rest of her life.

Her struggle with the cold, brutal beast had been a lifelong challenge--stretching over decades of "grinning and bearing" chills to the bone, frostbitten fingers, struggles to breathe.

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But somewhere along the way, she realized she'd actually miss winter if she skipped it--even for one year.

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Winter is raw and ravaging in a northern climate. When temperatures are subzero Fahrenheit (colder than -18C), faces hurt, even launching a meme for those coldest of days: "Why do I live where my face hurts when I go outside?"

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Yes, indeed, good question.

She'd asked it every winter.

One year, after spending a month in Florida and returning in mid-March, she was never so happy to return home--where even the end of winter was too cold for fire ants and chiggers.

Ah, and the transitional March air was fresh and sweet and clean.

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Springtime had begun assert itself. Daffodils and Crocuses were poking through the soil. Indoor plants were blooming. The sun was shining so intensely.

Ah, she thought, "I would miss this transition if I avoided it entirely. Experiencing winter gives me a huge appreciation for spring, summer, and fall. And winter affords time for dreams and rest and planning."

The four distinct seasons seemed OK, when she realized how much she would miss winter if she skipped it.

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The thing is, she reflected, "There's a bittersweet feeling watching those last gentle, puffy snowflakes of the year twirl artfully from the heavens to melt on the warm earth ... or disappear after a day or two.

"And winter always ... always, ultimately loses its battle with spring."

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These reflections have been on my mind lately as I've begun to realize winter has a place in my heart. How about you? What garden inspirations and lessons have you learned or reflected on during the past season?

Contributions from both hemispheres and all continents are welcome! To join in the "Garden Lessons Learned" meme, simply write a post or share one you've already written about lessons you've learned during the past season. Then share your links or observations in the comments on this post. I'll keep this post up for a few days, and it will be available always under the "Lessons Learned" tab at the top of this blog. I'll share "lessons learned" posts on the PlantPostings Facebook Page closer to the equinox.

Please also join in Donna's Seasonal Celebrations at Gardens Eye View! Feel free to join in with a post that fits both memes, or separate posts for one or both of them.

Happy spring to friends in the Northern Hemisphere, and happy autumn to those in the Southern Hemisphere!

60 comments:

  1. Maybe "She" should move to Hawaii. LOL. Never once did I question enjoying winter. I never questioned my answer to the meme of where I live. In fact, I even thought of moving to where the winter season is longer. I appreciate the flowers of spring, summer and fall because the seasons are a bit compressed. Way more bloom at one time. Each year, the flowers bloom in different combinations and at different times. I like the surprise of what and when to expect due to our long winter from the advent of late winter ice. It is like a gift when the warm season begin. I know I am different than most gardeners, but I see beauty in all seasons. I see beautiful color in all seasons as well. Never could I live where there is not 4 seasons.

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    1. Hi Donna: Ha! Hawaii would be tempting for sure, but I honestly think I would be bored there. The weather is perfect just about every day. On the other hand, I'm definitely not a lover of winter as you are! ;-) Gosh, I'm as far north as I'd ever want to be. Most years, we have the same compressed spring, when everything blooms at once. Summers are usually perfect. Autumns are fabulous, until November. So, I agree: Four seasons are awesome. Winter could be a little shorter, but it's a good excuse to get out of town toward the end of it! ;-)

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  2. I might complain and whine about winter, even though compared to you our winters are mile. But to not have winter means you would miss the awakening that spring is.

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    1. Yes, yes. That's it: the awakening and transition from winter to spring is so special. I'd be so sad to miss it. Well-said, Les. :)

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  3. Winter is my place too . . .
    So wonderful to hear someone reflect similar feelings . . .
    I would miss it if I couldn't feel the crisp air on my face, tickling my nose,
    making my eyes water and glisten as I walk.
    Many of my friends go away to get away from the Michigan winter . . .
    We tried last year . . . just not for us . . .
    we missed our winter . . . it is home for us . . .

    Spring is happening in Wisconsin if things are peeking/popping up . . .
    Not here though . . . the snow is melting but more predicted for tonight/tomorrow.

    I wish I knew when you post . . . I feel lost when I don't see you and experience your love of plantings, growing things . . .

    I am happy I saw a comment you left and I could hop over to visit with you . . .

    I am wishing you happy spring days . . .

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    1. Hi Lynne: I think I could happily skip February, but I wouldn't want to skip March. It's so amazing to see the changes and to experience the magic of life unfurling. We didn't get the last snowstorm at all, but we're getting a few inches tonight. Then, next weekend through next week the weather is forecast to warm again. Yay!

      Thank you for your very kind comments! You can subscribe to my posts by selecting "follow by email" in the sidebar, or you can follow me on Facebook by "liking" the PlantPostings page. I follow you by adding you to my Blogger/Google feed, so I see all your posts. Cheers!

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  4. I don't mind winter at all. It helps me appreciate the warmer months. I sure like a respite during February though. A nice trip to a warmer climate is always refreshing for the spirit.

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    1. I mind it, but I would miss it. ;-) And, yes, I enjoy getting out of here in February or early March. It makes the end of winter more bearable.

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  5. I couldn't agree more, Beth. This winter hasn't been too bad in terms of weather, but I do remember lots of years when I thought it would never end. Still, I don't think I would be as excited to see the tiny snowdrops and the buds of the first crocus I found yesterday if I hadn't experienced months of winter first. Beautiful photos!

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    1. Thanks, Rose. True: This winter hasn't been too bad for weather. If I could choose, I think I'd spend February in a warmer place and then come back in early or mid-March. I'm looking forward to seeing the spring-flowering bulbs put on their show in the next few weeks!

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  6. Nothing I hate more than a warm wet winter (like we've have here in London) not least because it usually means a cold Spring (now forecast). I recall snowy winters as a child/young woman but even with chilblains I would not want to skip this season - other than the hours of darkness. Enjoyed this third person post Beth and the images which seem to suggest winter is withdrawing?!

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    1. Interesting. We are having a mild winter, for the most part. Many people near me are reporting Crocuses and Daffodils blooming a month early. Mine are still under mulch and snow, but it won't be long now. Currently, spring and winter are fighting in this part of the country. We just received a fresh snowfall this morning, but it's melting fast in the sunshine!

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  7. We don't get it as cold here but I to love the changing of time into Spring, fresh and exciting. The promise of new things growing and the lighter days, ho how I love the lighter days.
    I would really miss the seasons.
    Lovely post.
    Amanda xx

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    1. Hi Amanda: I can't imagine missing out on the transitions. They're the best part of gardening. I think I'd be bored in an evergreen, ever-blooming garden. Plus autumn is spectacular. The only problem is that winter here is about a month too long. ;-) Thanks for your kind comments.

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  8. The year we had that polar vortex was the only year where I've really contemplated moving south. Most of the time I so appreciate spring emerging from winter that I wouldn't want to do without it. However, as I get older, I'm thinking that a month somewhere south --say, the month of February!-- would be a good idea :-)

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    1. I totally agree, Cassi. Couldn't have said it better! I wouldn't miss February at all, because for the most part it's a repeat of January in our part of the world. That polar vortex year was tough, wasn't it? Wow, the 2-3 inches of snow we just got this morning is already melting in the March sun!

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  9. from 10 Swiss winters I remember once walking into a nasty cold breeze - and it took me weeks and weeks of patiently applying cream till my raw cheeks recovered.

    Sunburn is not great either.
    My weather and I treat each other with respect.

    Our kinder climate is perhaps why I like the seasonal interest of growing bulbs. Watching out for March lilies ...

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    1. Oh yes, I know the feeling. My skin suddenly ages about 10 years when winter starts. Somehow, it adapts, and some of the wrinkles disappear with the warm spring air (some, anyway ;-) ). Yes, sunburn is an issue for us during the summer. Enjoy the March Lilies!

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    2. only took three gardens.
      But I've learnt a lesson.
      http://eefalsebay.blogspot.co.za/2016/03/silvery-grey-tree-Brachylaena-discolor.html

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    3. Thanks for participating, Diana!

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  10. Beautifully written! While the grass sometimes seems greener on the other side of the fence, sometimes we find out that home is best for us!

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    1. Thanks, Peter. Very true. Don't get me wrong: I enjoy a long February trip to a warm place! But I like to get back here to see spring happen! :)

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  11. Beth, i smiled at your post as well as Donna's comment (GWGT). I can't imagine my countrymen who migrated to Alaska or to Alberta, just like the family of my close friend my batchmate in college. They experience -34C in Edmonton, Alberta and her husband always want to return home here whenever that happens. But when the 2 grandkids arrived, he forgot about complaining.

    For me, i sometimes think of being deprived not experiencing autumn and winter, but when i look at the desolate surroundings, i can't imagine to stay there mostly indoors. During my few trips abroad which are normally timed in spring, the temps for me are already very cold at 8-10|C, so how can i withstand winter! I don't feel deprived anymore, maybe in my next life i will choose to live in a more convenient place, also unlike here where our breaths boils during our hot, dry season. It is already heaven in Dec-Feb when we have 23-27C, our coldest where i live.

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    1. Yes, I guess much of it is what we get used to, and what we grew up with, and what the human being can handle. -34C is pretty cold! We rarely get that cold, but we often have temps below -18C during January and February. And then we often have temps in the range of 27C-32C during the summer. So, we get the extremes. I like the change, but I'd prefer a little less winter. I'd like to leave winter in February and come back in March. I hope I'll be able to travel to warm places during February when I retire.

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  12. This is the year I really embraced winter and all the season has to offer and wouldn't you know it, it was a short winter.

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    1. Yes, it's been a relatively mild winter here, too. Maybe that's why I'm saying I'm OK with it this year. Ask me again next year, right? ;-)

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  13. Beautiful piece, Beth! My reactions to winter are hardly as insightful. Winter beauty and XC skiing make up for the cold and short days. Thank goodness we still get enough snow in the mountains to ski. What I don't like are the howling winds of late winter and spring, and the lateness of true spring here, i.e. plants with flowers. That's why I often flee in May.

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    1. Thank you, Hollis. I haven't skied in years--we used to go frequently. We usually get enough snow here, but my tolerance for cold has diminished over the years. A quick winter hike or walk around the block works for me, if it isn't too cold. Yes, the winds can be crazy. I can't imagine spring happening that late. It's bad enough that we have to wait until April here (or March if we're lucky, like this year). It's good that you enjoy winter!

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  14. As much as I complain about winter I know for sure I'd miss it. My brother lived in Asia for many years and I was a regular visitor but always appreciated coming home most when I visited for a bit of winter sunshine.
    Although our temps don't fall as low as yours does Beth, I work outdoors all night and know exactly what you mean about your face hurting!

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    1. When the weather is cold enough to hurt the face and make it hard to breathe, that's when I want to get out of town! But, ya, I'd miss winter if I skipped it entirely. It really does help me appreciate the other seasons.

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  15. As I age, winter is less of an adventure for me. A nice fire in the coal stove in cold weather is very comforting and I love Thanksgiving and Christmas. However, after the holidays is an endurance test! There will be another 2 months of iffy weather but I will be able to start working outside in April......that's a long winter!

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    1. Yeah, I know what you mean. God willing, I hope to skip out of the Midwest in February when I retire. At least March starts to show signs of new life and changes. :)

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  16. I for one completely agree that I would not want to live in a climate without the four distinct seasons. Each one has it's own beauty and purpose, in my life anyhow. Winter is a time for recharging my gardening batteries - by late fall, I'm actually anxious for winter to begin so that I can turn my attention to other tasks without feeling the guilt of all that needs to be done outside.

    I so enjoy the warmth of a crackling fire on a cold, cold winters day - if there's a snowstorm raging outside, so much the better! And then there is tobogganing, skiing, skating....yup, I do love winter. And when spring starts to surface in late March, what an exciting time it is!

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    1. Oh, Margaret, I would so agree with you if winter wasn't so cold. It is so beautiful, and a snowstorm can be fun if you don't have to go anywhere. I can't bring myself to say I love it, but ... I would miss it if I skipped it. The best parts are the beginning and the end of winter. The stuff in the middle is too brutal and too long. But that's a great time to travel! :)

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  17. Having grown up in Buffalo and lived in Wisconsin for years, I also ask that question. And I pretty much have come to the same conclusion. Plus I don't have the energy to garden all year round. I like looking out and seeing a beautiful snow-covered garden where I don't have to do a thing but enjoy it.

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    1. Yes, I've come to realize I need a break from gardening, too--at least large-scale gardening. And you're right--watching the beauty of winter happening out the window can be quite pleasant. :)

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  18. There is such joy moving from winter into the buds and shoots of spring... Michelle

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    1. Yes, yes! That's the thing. You don't experience that exhilaration unless you go through the pain and discomfort of winter. Sigh.

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  19. Lovely post Beth. I have no idea how I would cope with winters as severe as yours, but I do find that, living in a mild maritime climate now, I miss what I call "proper" winter, with cold crips days and hoar frost. We get snow on the mountains, and sometimes inland on the island, but it is a huge rarity here on the coast. Still, we do still get four distinct seasons, and I would really miss that.

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    1. Thank you, Janet. I think I would feel the same way. Perhaps I would even head for the mountains for a little snow if I lived in coastal Wales. So, I guess, in a way you have the option to experience a bit of winter if you wish. I've come to realize I'd be bored living in a place that doesn't change much from season to season.

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  20. I like the turn of seasons. I like seeing life return in spring, but winter is still a tough season for me.

    Especially February.

    That said, with daffodils and tulips emerging (or emerged) from their winter's nap and with leaves already starting to unfurl on some shrubs (including new additions like the golden currants), I think I see the light at the end of the tunnel :)

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    1. I agree: February ... blech. Your spring happens earlier than mine. I think I prefer a snowy winter like we have, but I wish it didn't last so long. Your earlier springs must be so nice. :)

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  21. Very well-written post. I could never live in Florida. For one thing, I don't like hot weather. On the other hand, I don't like those winter days when it's so cold your face hurts. This year has been a mild winter, which was pleasant. Can't we have winter that is cold but not cold enough to be literally painful?

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    1. Thanks, Jason. I like the heat, but not the abundance of bugs. I realize they're part of the ecosystem, but that's the part of Florida that makes it unappealing to me. Yes, we have mosquitoes here (and many other bugs, of course), but it's a little less scary to hike in the woods or picnic on the lawn here in the north (in the summer, that is). You're right--this winter has been OK. That painful face/hard to breathe stuff--like we had with the polar vortex year--not good.

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  22. Ohhh, I was completely with you in the first paragraph – but after that I couldn’t agree :-) I have tried both, I had proper, face hurting winters with snow on the ground for 5 months a year for the first 35 years of my life living in Norway. Now I live in London and I can potter around in my garden all year, including January and February and I have flowers every week of the year - and what do I prefer?? I don’t miss the snow, I don’t miss the cold and I wouldn’t mind moving to an even slightly warmer climate like France – but I am not moving again!

    And moving is what my lesson for today is about I suppose, as I am continuing to work on my new garden I can see how some plants have survived the uproot from my old garden and some that didn’t – taking a garden with you when moving house is always going to be a risk, but if I had left the plants I would not had any so at least I had to try. The smaller the plants were when lifted and potted up, the better they have taken to being stored in pots for almost a year. But some of the bigger plants have survived too. I dug up huge clumps of hellebores that are now flowering. Lifting and storing plants in pots when moving house has been a trial and error thing, just like most of my gardening :-)

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    1. Yes, I know--what am I saying, right?! Ha! Ask me again next winter if we have a really rough one. ;-) I would miss the snow--I know that. But I probably wouldn't miss the cold. Your new garden looks great! I may need some tips if we ever get around to moving from this house. I'll always want a proper garden, but this house is too big--too much to clean. Trial and error suits you well, Helene.

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  23. Cold winters are also bright winters. Some of the most beautiful days of the year are these very sunny, very cold and very dray days of mid-winter.

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    1. That's a good point, Alain. My favorite winter days are the cold (but not bitter) sunny ones with no wind. With the proper outerwear, it can even feel refreshing!

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  24. With the non-winter in Central Texas, it's hard not to agree that winter lost to spring this year. I would like to have had more and deeper freezes, but I'll have to wait until next year, I guess. Your photos, especially of the leaves with snow, are lovely.

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    1. Thanks, Tina. We definitely had a proper winter, in the bigger sense of the word, but much milder than "normal." That's probably why I'm not complaining about it at this point. Plenty of snow, but not too much. Some cold, but not extended periods of subzero weather. More like a zone 6 or 7 winter, I guess. :)

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  25. I enjoyed your reflections and photos. As much as I dislike winter, I am thankful for the types of plants and pollinators we have here, and the mildish spring and fall.

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    1. Thanks, Sue. I like your perspective. Some of the plants we enjoy wouldn't be happier in a climate where they couldn't have a period of dormancy and cold. I'd be sad to miss out on seeing those plants. And yes, Midwestern springs, summers, and falls are pretty awesome!

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  26. I'm a four season person, too. I wouldn't be happy living in a tropical environment. Winter gives me a chance to spend time on all the things I ignore when I'm gardening. As for my lesson learned, the canopies of my crepe myrtles need to resemble lace instead of a brick wall to keep my shade plants happy. When even your shade plants are complaining about the dark, it's time to do some pruning!

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    1. Yeah, I finally realized this, too, about the four seasons. I like to visit tropical climates, but I wouldn't be happy living there year-round, or even for the entire winter. Good lesson about the pruning. I think we need to do the same with some of our trees here.

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  27. I finally finished a post and tied it in somewhat to the lessons learned meme. Thanks for hosting this once again!

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    1. Thanks for joining in, Rose. Life lessons so often blend with garden lessons. Peace and warm blessings to you and your family. :)

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  28. I just returned from a 2 week trip out west to see family...and as I returned, I missed the transition as the snow is melted birds are back and the first bulbs have bloomed. So I will stay here too for winter, and take short trips during winter....here is my post:

    http://www.livingfromhappiness.com/wildlife-lesson-squirreling-around/

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    1. Glad you had a great trip to see family like I did, Donna. Thanks, as always, for collaborating and participating! :)

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  29. I'm having to do more heavy gardening work removing overgrown vegetation, my lesson has to do with finding out the result of planting lots of plants in a climate where plants tend to grow like crazy.

    http://weedingonthewildside.blogspot.com/2016/03/peak-hellebores-plus-march-14-2016.html

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    1. Hi Hannah: I'm catching up after being away. I'm looking forward to reading your post! Thanks for participating!

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