Although we humans have invented plenty of diversions to get us through that most depressing month of the year December, mother nature provides the only one I need during January: already I sense that the days are getting longer. It's early winter, bitter cold is predicted, the garden is frozen, and yet this for me is probably the most creative time of the year. I revel in the buoyant sense of optimism the gradually lengthening days bring: I'm looking forward now, looking forward with enthusiasm.
It's also the time of year when I pull out all the old catalogs and books to read about annuals. And not just any annuals. I can't explain why, but every year at this time I experience a surge in interest in poppies, morning glories and nasturtiums. Night after night I fall asleep thinking about ways to use them in the garden, in particular in the garden of my dreams where space is unlimited and frost is unknown. All of this is just a memory, if that, when the actual time for planting these in the garden comes. And there is no real loss in that because there is hardly a place for even a few annuals in the garden now - it's that packed.
And how is the creativity expressing itself? This is the time of year when plans for major garden changes hatch and are brooded into feasibility. This time I think I've finally hit on a plan which will turn the site of the never-fully realized sunk garden into something a lot more satisfying. The site poses a major challenge: the main axis of the garden points right at a gap between two trees - good so far - and the gap allows a nice view out into the surrounding woodland. That sounds nice at first, but that open view has prevented any sense of enclosure in that space. In fact, it makes the space feel like a passageway.
And what's the solution? Right now in my mind's eye I see a curved path extending from the area of the border on the north side of the garden and extending to the back part of the south side of the garden. This border will delineate a border facing south - and facing the main sitting area planned for this site. This curved border will not only provide the much needed sense of enclosure but will also allow the plants to be staged more effectively (since most plants face the south).
This is a major change for the garden. It will take at least two years to accomplish this change because it will involve moving tree peonies, and they cannot be moved until fall 2009. To be effective, it will also involve some grading: back, do you hear that? I was out in the garden with the tape measure yesterday - things are off to a good start.