The latitude and lay of the land lie flat. Like sky. Trees bare—whose limbs now ache for sun— stretch upward and skyward to find even they share this canvas of gray, monochromatic day. Reflections all this moody shade, nature lies ashen. Dormant yet still teeming with life, nature sleeps to a lullaby’s song. Somber. Etched. Temperatures dipping. Winter dropping.
Skies open wide, gray subsists on all strata, and moods stack visibly against an alabaster garden. A lull of sorts in the rigors and maintenance of Gardens at Effingham, days such as these require a hardiness of one’s soul.
The kittens, at 7 months now, flush beautifully with their full winter coats. Poofy and gorgeously striped, they frequent the food bowl together, an inherent pecking order amongst them, one often under the forsythia while the other one eats. At first this might seem like camaraderie of sorts, or siblings traveling in twos, but perhaps even more so for protection. The sky opens wide, a single, flat, gray slab against which any number of predators might conceal themselves, only to swoop down unexpectedly to feast on plump kittens. And the kittens, while sizable themselves, do not yet have what it takes to fend off hungry hawks.
Most Beloved sleeps too, though inside the big house and cozied fireside. She, too, knows to nestle close as late fall relinquishes its rich textures and vibrant hues, fades into nights colder with days more somber.
We all settle in—cats, gardens, we who tend both cats and gardens. The tea hybrid roses have been pruned back, the P.J.M. rhododendrons and forsythia hold buds that will open come spring, crabapple trees harbor bright red berries that will sustain our birds who stay throughout the winter months. Even our resident frog has ceased his ba-roomp, ba-roomp calls, for he, along with the koi, are hibernating in the pond. Color-drained flowers, long now since bloomed, dangle seed pods and bits of dried leaves to sustain our resident chipmunks, squirrels, birds, and an entire outdoor world that comes alive just when ours is going to sleep.
And so while all seems infinitely gray and now dormant, the gardens are actively preparing for a joyous spring. We have tucked in the gardens, but the gardens are not sleeping. They tend now to a life of their own, one visible above ground only in fleeting glimpses, though one as vibrant and busy as tending to our gardens will be come spring.
Eagerly await mail for seed and flower garden catalogs to arrive
Bring in mail and start an ongoing (and ever-towering) stack of winter dreams
Pile up all garden books, magazines, journals, and catalogs
Gather a soft, snuggly blanket (preferably one that looks good against all my white fur)
Get excited and open several catalogs and books all at once
Oops! Remember you meant to make a cup of hot English Afternoon tea
Wander aimlessly out to and about the kitchen
Put the kettle on to boil
Jump up in the bay window to look out over the koi pond to where the fish are sleeping–and to beyond to where the gardens are sleeping
Bring tea (and a snack) to our favorite overstuffed chair
Realize the sun is shining brilliantly through the windows
Stretch, Yawn, (and feign a general disinterest in what she-who-holds you is doing)
Settle in, get comfy, relax,
Yawn and. . .
Oh my, Where does time go? Seems you’ve caught me napping. Just a quick bit of resting my eyes.
Really, I had all of the best intentions.
Herbs struck my fancy this morning (when I was up at the crack of dawn). Let’s see–we have Greek Oregano, Thyme, Rosemary, Purple Basil, and Chocolate Mint that we brought in last fall. They’re on tray tables in our 3-season room, and we’ve put up “happy lights,” aka full spectrum lights, above them during this winter, their dormant season here in the midwest.
But really, I’d meant to write about all of the new herbs we’re dreaming about planting come spring.
Chives, “Allium schoenoprasum,” are perennials that can thrive here in our gardens. I don’t care for the strong smell of onion anything, be it red onions, yellow and white onions, scallions, shallots, ad infinitum ad nauseam for my sensitive cat tastes. But she-who-holds me uses them in her cooking. Note I said “her” cooking. Not mine. My tastes are strictly salmon and kibble.
Our focus here at Gardens at Effingham is all about growing and caring for our many flowers, trees, and shrubs that provide food, shelter, and nesting sites for our birds and insects. And I have to admit, I do like to chatter at the many birds when I watch them through the windows. I am, after all, an indoor cat (ah, the luxury of being tended to my every whim and need), but I get positively gleeful watching birds flit and flap, hovering and maneuvering through a veritable host of arial acrobatics. Delightful, if I do say so myself.
Chives are companion plants for tomatoes and carrots, (though not for peas and beans), though we don’t grow vegetables–yet. One never knows with she-who-holds me. She seems to love growing all things, great and small. But chives also repel Japanese beetles, which is seriously fantastic since we’ve got a rose garden 39 rose bushes strong.
And as if this weren’t enough to warrant planting chives, chives also repel aphids. Although I don’t know, she who-holds-me seems fond of the enormous ants that come to feast on aphids when our peonies bloom. For when the peonies split open, spilt flowers heavy on their stems, cascading papery flowers layers thick opening wide to the sun, it is the aphids who come first to the flowers.
The ants? They merely follow where aphids have already tread. Both ants and aphids seem integral to whatever balance of nature moves through the cycle of our peonies. They are both host to and hosted on, both reliant upon, dependent upon, a peony’s opening moment of joy, though both, in the offing, at the disposal of that who is next in line.
And so it is I’m both lost in thought and lost in the persistent feeling of that nagging ache of hunger in my tummy. The kibble bowl calls, and just for now, she-who-holds me can dream about what the future holds. My future is here now, in her arms as she carries me lovingly to my bowl. Supper’s on. All is well. And oh my, is that a yawn I feel coming on?