In Carding, Vermont, Edie Wolfe is well-known.
She’s the daughter of Danielson Wolfe, the only Senator Vermont’s ever elected from this part of the state.
And she’s the long-time executive director of the nationally renowned Carding Academy of Traditional Arts.
She’s been in the mood for a wee bit of writing and asked if she could take over the Carding Chronicles this week.
As I age and my knees grumble whenever I weed and hoe, I’ve come to believe that my favorite time to garden may be winter.
Actually, winter gardening in Vermont is more a fantasizing than factualizing. But it’s a fantasy that keeps you going when it’s gray, grayer and grayest outside.
My friend Agnes Findley is a devoted fan of winter gardening. Her season starts way before Christmas when her mailbox sags with catalogs—seed catalogs, bulb catalogs, hard-to-find shrub catalogs, tool catalogs—you name it. If it’s colorful and flowery and enticing, chances are good that Agnes can lay her hands on a catalog with “just the very thing” in its pages.
Another friend, Ruth Goodwin, likes to draw and re-draw her flower beds, filling them with mounds of daffodils and bleeding hearts and zinnias, all at the height of their colorful power and nary a weed in sight.
Me, I straddle the line on this fantasy gardening stuff just a bit. I do draw up lists in the fall of what needs to be moved from here to there, what plants succeeded and which should never be attempted again. Then I scour a select few of the many catalogs that Agnes recommends and bookmark all of the plants I want to add to my outdoor collection.
Then I put them aside for a while to see if I really mean it or if the mood will pass. My gardens are pretty mature so I can usually let the mood pass without a qualm.
However, I did make a purchase the year before last when I renewed my crop of daffodils, grape hyacinth, and narcissus, a hundred bulbs of each. My back and knees grumbled from the middle of September through mid-October as I filled in every patch of open soil with bulbs but I was determine to have lots of yellow in the spring.
I forgot all about them as soon as Thanksgiving hit and my flowering cacti decided to bless me with elongated pink and white blossoms stretching out to impossible lengths on every windowsill in my kitchen.
It was quite a show, I have to say.
And then I found a great deal on poinsettias with variegated leaves so instead of my usual single plant, I brought four of them home.
In January, I visited every gardening shop and florist I could find just to inhale the scent of moist earth and in February, I joined a bunch of other folks at the Tennyson farm to boil sap into syrup. I swear, if anyone ever figures out how to bottle the scent of steaming maple sap with a hint of wood smoke, I’d buy it.
March is a long, long, long month in Vermont, the longest on the calendar, in my opinion. So I bought primroses at the grocery store. They helped a little.
In April, I started spreading out the snow piles in my yard with my metal rake. By that time of year, it’s no longer snow but ice crystals. I’ve never been quite sure whether spreading them out makes them melt faster or it’s just a way to deal with our frustrations over the pokey pace of spring.
Everyone’s yard looks pitiful in April with the grass yellow and prostrate and the new molehills glistening in the sun. But in addition to cursing the leftover snow, I also spent time wandering slowly among the thawing flower beds and that’s when I remembered the daffodil bulbs from the previous fall.
At first they’re nothing more that tiny green tips hovering close to the soil. But then…and then…I had the most glorious display of yellow ever seen in my yard. And the scent was heavenly.
Now we’re back to January, the time of year when I tell myself to enjoy the fact that there are no weeds and no sore knees.
But I will confess to daffodils dancing in my head.
The Carding, Vermont novels, in order of appearance:
The Road Unsalted
Thieves of Fire
The Dazzling Uncertainty of Life
Light in Water, Dancing