Garden Life: Not all gardening activities have to be outdoors




Gardening combines the art of imagining with the act of doing. It’s about having a dream and then looking forward to the results of your efforts to see that dream come true. I say all this but I still turn around and go back inside the house when the weather is just too cold and too wet. Early sunsets and the drop in evening temperatures are equally effective at driving me back indoors where it’s warm and cozy.

Even if your favorite hobby is gardening, you can still be creative without being outside. This is the time of year when most of us make some effort to decorate our homes for the holiday season. If you’re lucky enough to have an established garden with enough plant material to cut and bring inside, you’ll want to fill your home with swags of assorted needle and broadleaf evergreens. Take advantage of garden materials in the form of evergreen boughs, winter foliage and berries. Try a large vase with whole sasanqua camellia branches in early winter bloom.

Few berries are as bright a holiday red as those of holly or Skimmia japonica.

Holly will continue to be the standard for deep green leaves combined with red berries. Snip small branches of cedar, pine, salal and cotoneaster to fill outdoor window boxes. Cut generous clumps of foliage and plunge them into loose soil in a large planter. With cold weather ahead, the color and scent will stay fresh and welcoming throughout the new year.

I have a large collection of garden books and find this the time of year when I can enjoy them the most. My focus has been on large-format books about garden planning, design and décor. I encourage friends to share their favorite books they bought throughout the year. Through garden books, we learn more about the plants already in our garden as well as inspiration for filling the garden with newer varieties. For private reading, I love the personal garden essays of Henry Mitchell, especially “The Essential Earthman.”

The catalogs we collect from every nursery we visit can be put to good use, too. Catalogs are great resources you can peruse with a friend, sharing pictures and information and personal knowledge about plants for the garden. Personally, I like to use catalogs as a plant reference as well. A good catalog has detailed information on climate zones, planting details and plant culture. Cold, wet weather is the perfect excuse for an afternoon of garden research.

Another relevant indoor project is to update your garden journals and review the record you have kept of your garden’s progress over the years. I suggest you at least write a list of “Garden Ideas” at the beginning of each new garden year. This can be as simple as a list of ideas, hopes or dreams you would like to implement over the coming year or as detailed as an exact planting plan for a new flower border. Any unfinished plans from last year that continue to occupy your thoughts can be transferred to next year’s journal.

For some gardeners, a day is not well spent without some time spent in the garden. When I was creating my garden, there was so much to do that I felt I had to spend some time working in the garden every day just to stay on track with my goals. After all these years I have collected every type of rain coat, snow hat and seasonal pair of gloves to withstand any weather conditions. I don’t spend as much time outside as I used to do. Nevertheless, I do take at least one garden walk every day regardless of the weather.

I was going to say that I walk the garden every day despite the weather but more often than not the weather adds another layer of interest to a garden that you know well. I want to laugh every time someone responds with amazement when I say that I walked through the snow to look at my garden. You see, I don’t want to miss anything. What could be more wonderful than the rare treat of seeing an ephemeral flower bloom that no one else will ever see?

I realize that my question was rhetorical but I immediately wanted to offer a response. This morning, on my garden walk, I discovered the first snow white hellebore blooming against the backdrop of its own deep green foliage. It was beautiful and I am certain that I am the only one in the world that saw this flower today. Perhaps, as a gardener, sharing it with one great friend would be an equally exhilarating experience.

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