Saturday, February 02, 2013

Dreaming of gardens

The birds are chirping loudly. Even though robins live here year-round, their numbers suddenly seem to have tripled. Beneath the melting snow, tender blades of green grass are tentatively poking out. But the real sign that spring is starting to make its way here: the garden stores now post on their signs that SEEDS AND SUPPLIES NOW IN! It's too early to plant those indoor starter pots, the ones that will be transplanted outside after the last frost, but those stores know what we crave after the holiday season ends. It's cold and snowy, and although the days are growing longer, the land is an ugly brown. Now is when we indulge in the dreams of flowers and vegetable gardens to keep us going until the time comes to sow seeds and mow lawns.

Whoever decided that Thanksgiving, Christmas, and the start of a new year should fall during the darkest 6 weeks of the year was brilliant. Hanging lights and sparkly colorful ornaments on trees and roofs, holding parties to give us excuses to socialize with others and take our minds off the short days and cold weather, providing a sense of meaning and an opportunity for introspection at a time we would prefer to sleep through - it helps us muddle through. But then we wake up on New Year's Day, hung over from heavy food and too many drinks and exhausted from shuttling among parties, friends, and relatives all month, and we're ready for something refreshing. It starts that morning with the Rose Parade, those whimsical floats covered with organic materials and the freshest flowers you've ever seen.   Then, the awards shows, actors and actresses dressed up like irises and roses and birds of paradise. Next, the home and garden shows, which tease us with the newest gardening implements, the most fabulous ideas for turning discarded items into planters, and OH! the hanging baskets and walkways overflowing with blooms!

When I lived in Chicago, this was the time of year that I always visited the Garfield Park and Lincoln Park conservatories, their humid greenhouses filled to the brim with the most wonderful exotic plants and flowers that bloom year-round. Same with the U.S. Botanic Garden in DC, and I volunteered at the Amazonia exhibit at the National Zoo, which was a two-story greenhouse with giant fish, exotic birds, and monkeys roaming freely among the kapoks and other jungle plants. All of those places are free and open to the public every day of the year. Boise has no such place. The Idaho Botanical Garden is lovely, but it is not free, there is no public greenhouse, and it's closed on the weekends November through March. I have played with the idea of starting a crowdsourcing campaign to raise money for the Boise Department of Parks and Recreation to build a conservatory in the Boise area that would be open everyday with free admission. But how much does something like that cost? And at a time when there are so many more problems in this world, problems bigger than just the winter blues, is that something people would really support?

In the meantime, I'm starting to plan my own garden. This year, I think I will plant vegetables on the east side of the house where the grass doesn't grow. It's a pain to mow around the tree stump there, and it gets lots of morning sun but isn't blasted all day, so I think it will survive better than on the too-sunny south side where I planted last year. I think I'll do kale, broccoli, tomatoes, beets, and carrots. Maybe radishes and red cabbage too. And I want to scatter flowers all over the yard. I'd love a couple more rose bushes or peonies, and I'm thinking of potted flowers too. This year, I want to turn an old bathtub into a planter. Not sure where I'll put it, but I have some options. Why, oh why, is it only February?!