Guest Rant by Scott Beuerlein
I am a charlatan and a fraud. Maybe they’re the same thing. I don’t even know. But whatever that thing is, I don’t like it. And “it” is me. And I couldn’t be more disgusted with myself.
For years, in talks, articles, in person, wherever and whenever, there I was spouting off, acting smart, and being a fool. Yes, that was me, the “expert,” smooth talking innocent people—good people, all of them—into planting for winter interest. I was loathsome.
It’s not that I hadn’t been putting my money where my mouth was. I’ve got witchhazels. And hellebores. Snowdrops. Some red twiggy things and more. They’re out there doing their thing. In the past, on those good winter days, I’ve gone out and photographed each of them. Carefully composed, lighting just right, some of these images came out looking like the garden was delightful. I’ve used these photos in PowerPoints to bolster my arguments. Ego-driven. I know that now. I only wanted to sound right. Not be right. I feel dirty.
But the fact is my garden looks just like a no-man’s land right now, and no amount of hellebores can possibly save it. We’ve had eleven days of rain, for God’s sake. And, like, a hundred with no sun. It’s dark when I go to work. It’s dusk when I come home. Every evening, I burst into my house like a bank robber being chased. Literally can’t get to the kitchen fast enough to stir together the first of several White Russians. The clichéd attraction of self-medication. The double-edged quick fix of alcohol, and the hope that a little Vitamin D milk will stave off the blues. I’ve become a poor excuse for a joke. A laughing stock.
White Russians help. I won’t lie. But they are no cure. There is no cure. Winter is winter. Its reputation is well-earned. And I’m an idiot for living in the meteorological hellstrip that is sandwiched between Interstate 20 in the South and Interstate 70 in the North. Too warm to go play in the snow amongst the birches. Too cold for Spring Training or any kind of cheery color. Okay. Alright. Sure, we have evergreens, which are, in fact, “green.” About the same “green”, I tell you, as that guy next to you on the bus who is about to blow chunks.
So every day I drive away and come back. And from the inside I occasionally peer out. I linger at the window long enough to get depressed by flopped grasses and morose, raisined crabapples. Then I go and make another drink, and pray for God to have mercy on my soul.
The Next Day
So the sun was out this morning. Five whole minutes. But it was out. And I happened to be in the right place at the right time and actually experienced it. I did some garden cleanup, and it felt good. Actually, it felt great. What a difference a day makes! I hate my garden far less than yesterday. I can actually find a few things in myself that are almost bearable.
Perspective. Son of bitch. It broke through. My bad attitude? Fractured. Fact is my garden is a refuge. I really, really need it. Is it frustrating when it lays dormant and muddy and inaccessible? You bet. Do I handle it well? Sure don’t. Will the winter garden ever challenge the summer garden? Not a chance. But the winter garden is about the little things. Little big things. Little miracles really. It’s about the sweet, fleeting scent of a witchhazel flower on a cold January afternoon. It’s about buds getting a little fatter every day. It’s about the solitary bee that shows up, moss greening, and a pair of hawks in the trees making it loud and clear that they really want to get laid. Should we plant things for winter interest? Damn straight. It might just save your soul.
Scott is a Horticulturist at the Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Gardens, working primarily on educational symposiums, trialing, and outreach. He is Chair of the Taking Root tree planting initiative and President of the Cincinnati Flower Growers Association. His home garden, after four years of editing, is only now recovering from years of crazed collecting and over-planting.
Posted by Scott Beuerlein on January 25, 2017 at 7:39 am, in the category Guest Rants, What's Happening.