The Garden Life: December sunshine brightens day




Once upon a winter day, everything in my garden came together in the guise of a holiday postcard. There was no snow or sleet. It was not even raining. The sky was clear blue and the lawn was a verdant green. The first bloom of a winter hellebore stood starkly white against the leathery, deep green foliage. The bracing air drew me out and into the garden. The abundant sunshine was enough to warm my face. For a moment in time, everything was exactly as it should be.

I don’t know why I was surprised by this perfect day in early December. Weeks of chilling rains probably had something to do with it. By the first of December, I had succumbed to the dreary acceptance of low, cloudy gray skies. Perhaps winter’s

sudden arrival had my mind turned upside down. Bad weather often feels like envy to me. It makes me wish for something else, even when I already have everything I need. I should know better. I have journals filled with happy winter memories from seasons past.

I do know that winter, especially during the holidays, is not the time to focus on what we don’t have. Sometimes, the garden gives us so much that we begin to take those gifts for granted. So for the moment, I want to put a spotlight on the gifts we receive freely from our gardens simply by being gardeners. Let this be the time of year to peruse and to ponder the generosity that surrounds us every time we step out the front door and into the garden.

While sunshine is not the first thing we typically think of when describing the Northwest, this has been a very good year for light. Isn’t it interesting that we can forget the long, hot summer of 2012 after only a few weeks of winter weather? If summer weather was still with us in December, we would never have lilacs or daffodils in spring. Because of the winter rain, our gardens have enough water to thrive all the way to summer without lifting a hose.

The scent of the garden envelops us in sensual gratification. Gardens smell good. Who doesn’t succumb to a moment of meditative inhalation when face to face with a rose? Gardeners swoon at the smell of good earth, rich compost and newly mown grass. The breeze drifting through a stand of Douglas fir trees has a scent that clears the cobwebs from your mind. Find a forest and take a friend out for a long hike. Don’t take anything but your noses.

Gardens are filled with the song of birds as they nest in spring and forage for food in fall and winter. Squirrels are precocious pranksters, delighting children with their antics as they frustrate the gardener trying to draw a variety of birds to the garden. A family dog at play wants nothing more than to have you play with him. Go down on all fours, scamper across the lawn, skin your knees and howl at the moon. Relish wildlife in all its forms.

How creative we are to surround ourselves with color. This includes a million shades of green. A gardener chooses to live a life in Technicolor, ever-changing. We are painters, experimenting with living pastels, oil paints and watercolors. Deep within, I hunger for Monet’s sense of light and color. I want to paint with cherry blossoms in spring. A summer border of nasturtiums and sunflowers is so van Gogh.

All of us benefit from a close association with family and friends. Those of us who are lucky enough to share gardening with our loved ones know the blessings of a kindred spirit. As beneficial as it is to grow fresh fruits and vegetables for a healthy brain and body, it’s equally important to cultivate fellow gardeners for your soul.

Monks pray to heaven. Treasure hunters plunge into the deepest depths of the ocean. Runners race to the finish line. Gardeners hurry home, slip on a pair of gloves and dive into the soil. There are mornings when we wake to a ray of sunlight shining through the curtains. We want to get up and get out in it. Our hearts are occasionally buoyant, as light as the clear blue sky. When we have a garden to tend, we have a purpose. That is a precious gift worth receiving.

Robb Rosser is a WSU-certified master gardener. Reach him at