Procrastination and the shortest day of the year

Published 8:22 am Thursday, December 13, 2018

It’s early December and the shortest day of the year is upon us. The air is frosty before dawn and the ground is getting cold. All of this is perfectly normal, but there are some of us who haven’t heeded the signs of impending winter.

Not too long ago, a friend sent me a text bemoaning her husband’s gardening obsession. He has a fancy shed at the foot of the garden path and sometimes squirrels away things there that he doesn’t want her to know about — things like hundreds of bulbs and nearly as many pots of small perennials that he hasn’t planted yet. A recent surreptitious visit to the garden shed revealed countless mesh bags of bulbs hanging from the rafters and walls. As usual, his plans have been more grandiose than the amount of time he and his helper have to spend in the garden.

I’m afraid I’m guilty of the same overly ambitious planning. Some would call it delusional dreaming, but they’re not gardeners. This fall I ordered a flat (that’s 50 plants) of shrubby St. John’s wort, a plant that’s quite difficult to find, but that makes a glorious, pollinator friendly summer hedge. I’ve only planted about half of them. Like my friend’s husband, I also bought lots of bulbs, but still have some to plant. I haven’t even started work on the woodland paths or the new kitchen garden. If there’s an early snow, after so many weeks of unusually warm late fall weather, I’m going to be in the garden poking plants into semi frozen holes the night before Christmas.

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Yes, this is crazy behavior, but gardeners are generally optimists and, yes, slightly crazy too. The two traits are intertwined. You have to be crazy to put a dead looking bulb in the ground, cover it up, and then expect something beautiful to emerge in the spring. There are “rules” about when certain things should be planted, but a good gardener knows that those rules can be bent now and then.

And so … I’ll celebrate the holidays by making wreaths and also by planting bulbs and small shrubby things. I say that this apparent craziness is an affirmation that the days will get longer, the gloom will lift, and there will be new life again.

Happy holidays and happy gardening, everyone.

CYNTHIA WOOD can be reached at