Encounter a White Landscape . . . “Seen” by Pēteris Vasks

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a snow-covered winter scene showing a row of leafless trees growing at the boundary of an agricultural field that stretches all the way to the horizonIn his evocative 1969 meditation on winter titled simply “Confirmation” (Apliecinājums), Latvian writer and translator Māris Čaklais said,

How good it is that once again we believe in the snow,
which is like the dawn of dawn.

As you know, snow comes in only one color: white, and dawn brings only one thing: light (and as that light builds, day). So what is it that’s getting confirmed here? Read more

What Are the Hardiest Gardenia Varieties?

Since January is the month Alexander Garden was born, let’s take a timely look at the popular shrub that commemorates him.

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a photograph of a gardenia plant growing in the snow in January

The Frost of Death was on the Pane—
“Secure your Flower,” said he.
Like Sailors fighting with a Leak
We fought Mortality—

In the past few years, many people who have grown gardenias outdoors have shared Emily Dickinson’s lament for the unspecified vegetable victim from poem F 1130. You may wonder just what the hardiest gardenia varieties are. The answer is developing, so let’s consider what we know about what’s available. Read more

French Cantatas for Winter Winds: Discover Boismortier’s Four Seasons

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The North Wind attempts to blow the traveler's cloak off him. Illustration by Milo Winter from The Aesop for Children (1919).
The North Wind attempts to blow the traveler’s cloak off him. Illustration by Milo Winter from The Aesop for Children (1919).

People frequently declare our time the Social Era. You’ve heard that term before, haven’t you? We won’t find naming winter storms among Nilofer Merchant’s new Rules for the Social Era, but lately our human tendency to personify everything inanimate has been applied in yet another way.

We’re far from the only culture with this tendency to look at the world around us and create characters. Every culture has! If we look back in time, the wind and weather provide good examples. (Pssst! Would you like to add a word to your vocabulary? There’s a term for making characters of wind and weather. Doing this is called physitheism.)

I hope that crazy word didn’t blow you away! It is pretty abstract, and might leave you groping for examples. So what were some of these breezy, gusty epithets, and how far back in history do they go? Read more

Admire a Crystal Forest with William Sharp

a close view of a twig covered by ice with other branches in the background

“Up to the age of thirty, or beyond it, poetry of many kinds, such as the works of Milton, Gray, Byron, Wordsworth, Coleridge, and Shelley, gave me great pleasure . . . But now for many years I cannot endure to read a line of poetry; . . . My mind seems to have become a kind of machine for grinding general laws out of large collections of facts . . . If I had my life to live over again, I would have made a rule to read some poetry and listen to some music at least once every week. The loss of these tastes is a loss of happiness, and may possibly be injurious to the intellect, and more probably to the moral character, by enfeebling the emotional part of our nature.”

Charles Darwin

A Crystal Forest (1913)
by William Sharp Read more

Human Nature and Nature’s Humanity: Snowy Wreaths and Frosty Branches Portray a Poet’s Elderly Friend

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a view of birch trees in the snowA human being would certainly not grow to be seventy or eighty years old if this longevity had no meaning for the species. The afternoon of human life must also have a significance of its own and cannot be merely a pitiful appendage to life’s morning.

Carl Jung

The Silver Locks (1809)
by Felicia Hemans

“addressed to an aged friend”

Though youth may boast the curls that flow
In sunny waves of auburn glow;
As graceful on thy hoary head
Has Time the robe of honor spread,
And there, oh! softly, softly shed
His wreath of snow!

As frost-work on the trees display’d Read more

Use These Strategies and Resources for a Fantastic Garden Year After Year

Books to Read, Things to Do, and LOTS to Look Up and Learn About!

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grey twigs of a magnolia tree covered with snow Our first item is brought to you by the department of obvious department. January makes an ideal time to assess the need for Read more

The Best Resource for January Garden Tips

a snow-covered scene painted in Hungary with open countryside, low hills, and trees in the distance, all under a fresh blue sky; the artist is József Rippl-Rónai (1861–1927)
Winter, also known as Hills in Somogy, Undated
József Rippl-Rónai (1861–1927)

In the past I’ve mentioned the potential value of discarded holiday greens and–if you’re snow-free–to look out for discarded or unwanted mums. There’s always more and more . . . and more timely seasonal advice to say, so that’s why I wanted to let you know there’s a resource that covers it all. Read more

Improve a Dismal, Off-Season Yard With the Easy, Shade-Loving Evergreen Bush Almost No One Grows and Appreciates

a view of leafy bushes even in late winter or March: the dwarf evergreen plant sweet box

The reason this is called Sweet Box is it’s related to boxwood, which is the evergreen shrub people customarily make into balls and hedges. I knew about boxwood since I was young but I only saw the connection made last year. I never would have made it myself because the leaves and growth habit differ so much. I never would have thought of this plant as a boxwood (relative) for shade or a boxwood (relative) with fragrance. By the way, actual boxwoods stink. Smell one in case you never noticed! Read more