Winter. Yuck.

January 17, 2018

Winter doldrums have set in for me.  This week Columbia weather has been very cold.  It’s actually the second cold snap we’ve had since January 1.  And I know more winter is still on the way.

The official last frost date for our region is April 15th.  That’s a lot more winter to come from today.  Thankfully, we will have some really beautiful weather before that date- it’s just that we also may have a few frosts tucked in here and there.  But usually we have some things starting to leaf out in the last week of February.

the “bright” side of winter

There are lots of articles at this time of year that talk about ways to enjoy winter.  For example, I often read “keep the dead foliage intact for winter interest”.  No.  “winter interest” does not jive with a messy looking garden, if you ask me.  Further more, what the heck is “interest”?  Whatever it is, it cannot replace the glory of a spring garden.

The brightest side of winter for me is to realize it helps my cold bulbs and roots bloom.  Virtually all bulbs and roots bloom better:  Peonies, daffodils, tulips (especially), crocus, snow drops, bluebells – virtually all bulbs I can think of – bloom better if they have really cold snaps.

The only other bright side I can think of is that the cold kills off more bugs.  Fire Ants and fleas are susceptible to freezing beyond their ability to survive the winter.  Of course, that just means their number will be fewer.  They certainly won’t be gone entirely.  And “Palmetto bugs” (disgusting giant cockroaches that fly) can tolerate freezing just fine.

Here are a couple things that really are bright spots.  First, hellebores (aka Lenten Roses) are blooming.  I love mine.  If you don’t have some, get them.  Second, my spring catalogs and magazine issues have started to arrive with great ideas and hope.

Last, I’m reminded that I crave gardening.  After the summer heat and some discouragement about my garden during the fall, I have that inborn hope that all gardeners experience.  “This year….” I will fertilize; I will spread mulch; I will divide these; I will plant this;  I will…. (fill in your own dream).  I love this!  It affirms that I am a gardener, a great blessing.  It’s hope.  I can’t wait to get out there even in this cold.

ways to beat the winter blues

I keep a journal, at this time of year I find it valuable.  I go over things that didn’t work last year and contemplate what I can to to fix things that didn’t work.  I celebrate what succeeded last year and to what I can look forward.

I start my lists.  I list things I want to buy at Seven Oaks Plant shop on their 25% off sale.  I list tasks that I want to do in the spring.   I list varieties that I have of something (like Iris or day lilies) and varieties I’d like to get.

I clean up my garden.  It reminds me of things that were successful last year and are likely to flourish this year.  It looks orderly, so I don’t feel like my garden is one giant mess.  My garden really isn’t out of control.  Of course, I only do this on days where it is 50 degrees or warmer, which is not rare in our winters.

I read my magazines and catalogues.  I subscribe to four:  Carolina Gardener; Country Gardens; Horticulture; American Gardener.  I enjoy them all.  And they arrive in spades at this time of year with great inspiration for spring.  Catalogues are like small books of plants.  They seem to find me – probably through my subscriptions.  Or, just go on line and browse and/or read blogs.

I seek out symposiums and attend them.  York County, Davidson, and Greenville Master Gardeners all offer excellent symposiums.  You can find these on the web.  They are all offered in late January, February or early March.

mistakes I make

Invariably, I put something in the ground before the last frost.  I do this every stinking year.  Especially since Seven Oaks has their spring sale on the second Saturday of March and I’m always tempted to buy annuals and tender perennials.  I’m swearing that I won’t do this again in 2018.

I underestimate the amount of damage a late frost can do.  I fail to cover or protect things that have leafed out and will burn if a late frost occurs.  I had about 1/3 of the leaves I usually have on my Japanese Maple all during 2017, because I neglected to protect it from a freeze.  I’ve had hydrangeas that either didn’t bloom or bloomed poorly because I didn’t cover them for a late frost.

I get carried away on mulching and sometimes mulch too deeply.  My husband helps me put out shredded bark mulch every year, and I tend to over-estimate how much mulch is needed.  I mulch on or about February 1.


Hope is more than just wishing.  Hope is looking forward to the things you are certain will happen.  Winter will end.  Spring is certain to come.  It will bring warmer weather, lovely breezes, spectacular blooms, pollen, rain showers, incredible vibrant shades of green.  At this time I year, I celebrate hope.  And keep my gas logs on.

More about

I am a retired CPA who is now a Master Gardener. I spend my time gardening, doing tile mosaic, and visiting grandchildren.

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