So Long, Winter (For Now)

So Long, Winter (For Now)

In some ways it’s been an easy winter, but in so many others it continues to be brutal. Republicans, #sxsw, the infectious malaise of late-period capitalism: it’s hard to believe that any of this will ever end, and logically, we know it won’t. Still, during these waning days of winter, when our will to live has ebbed, it’s possible to ignore the hellish confines of our existence, at least for a little while. Let’s start by taking a look at these tiny buttercups, whose aura of innocence (they haven’t been reading the news, after all) should help to thaw your cold heart.

Or the magical hellebores, now in full bloom. (And not a global-warming-induced one: hellebores typically bloom in winter.) Theirs is an understated flower that would be lost in the frenzy of spring, but works perfectly as an opening act.

Hey, do you remember what kind of bulbs we planted last fall? I don’t either, but most plants are not easily offended by these mental lapses. Soon they will carpet the rocky terrain of our garden.

Late winter is a time to appreciate beauty in a relative sense. It’s also a time for sweeping up the dead leaves and fallen branches, hosing down the brick path. These are the small accomplishments that help to alleviate the overwhelming futility of 436,567 unread tweets and emails.

Let’s get even more practical for a second: did you know that you can trim the tops of bamboo to make them more bushy and hedgelike? Late winter is the best time to do this, before the onset of new growth (and bugs).

We also trimmed the trees, which should give them enough light to last at least another few years without killing each other.

I’m not saying you need a garden to appreciate what I’m talking about. Step outside and look anywhere: there are so many buds right now, tumescent yet unashamed, ambivalent but accepting. Talk to these awakening plants, they’re amazingly good listeners. “Hello, azalea — nice to see you again! Actually, no really, you don’t want to know anything about the impending theocracy.”

Our clematis is back, too, winding non-invasively through the limbs of our columnar Norway spruce (picea abies “Cupressina”).

The picea abies ‘Hillside Upright’ looks pretty good, considering it doesn’t have much room to spread out. In retrospect it probably wasn’t such a great idea to buy 50,000 trees for a 10′ by 20′ garden, but there’s no turning back.

Admittedly, not every burst of new growth is objectively stunning. Stare at the tree peonies for a few seconds, and they will haunt your nightmares.

Take a deep breath: it’s mid-March, we’re almost there. (Don’t think about what “there” actually means.) Let’s pretend we’re plants, about to say goodbye to winter, ignoring the fact that soon enough it will be back to take us away forever.

Matthew Gallaway is the author of The Metropolis Case and the director of Remembrance of Things Past.