Friends, ProfessorRoush has reached, at last, his Winter Nadir. I've had it. I've spent far more time than I can spare discussing the subtle beauty of peeling bark on bare trees. I've sung rhapsodies to the grandeur of evergreens blanketed by virgin snow. I've waxed eloquent over the sturdiness and form of ornamental grasses and I've proclaimed the glories of statues and trellises that form the bones of my garden. There is only so much comfort a gardener can manufacture for himself in the depths of winter and I'm leaking hope like a garden hose run over with a lawnmower.
"Bones of my garden"; that's a pretty good description of what lies just outside the windows of my frost-bound prison. I see only the bland, tan landscape of the Kansas Flint Hills surrounding the garden's skeleton, flesh ripped away from the carcass by a carnivorous winter and blown away to distant lands. Left behind are twiggy blobs of roses and dried clematis, sinew clinging desperately to the backbones against the northern wind. Tattered low remnants of iris, withered daylily, and brittle sedum litter the soil. Here and there stand a few lonely statues, joints around which the garden revolves in summer, now reduced to frozen arthritic slumber. Between the bones of the garden lie the paths, circulation routes around the garden's body, as dry and brown now as the plants they used to serve.
I've lost my way amidst the fog and sleet. I need desperately to feel the pulse and flow of life beginning again from the frozen ground. Photos of past summers, like these, provide no condolences, only grief and despair for lost gardens and lost time. I have no remaining faith that my garden will ever again appear green and verdant, lush and bountiful. It seems impossible that the garden can fill again with so many flowers and so much life. My soul is with the garden, frozen in place, withdrawn to a timeless and lifeless plane, shrunk down to a dry kernel of memory.
I must, I know, endure. I search the garden endlessly for signs of life, the first stirring of snow crocus, the first tip of a green daffodil. I amble stooped over the garden beds, at times on hands and knees, pulling back the mulch in the search for the promise of tomorrow. I watch the peony bed most closely, diligent scrutiny in the sure knowledge that life will first beat there again, if anywhere life remains. Wispy and ethereal crocus and tulips and daffodils may indeed be the vanguards of warmer winds, scouts following the retreat of winter. Yet still, it is the impossible extravagance of the peonies, buxom and luscious in youth and vitality, that herald the Spring for me, reclothing the old bones of the garden and gardener once more in bountiful flesh and leafy skin. Hold tight yet the remnants of courage, for peonies shall surely return to save us.