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Weather outside frightful? What better time to work in a garden

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POSTED December 28, 2008 1:06 a.m.

OK, so I’m certifiable strange.

Most people spend Christmas Day doing things like sipping eggnog in front of a roaring fire.

Not me. It isn’t Christmas unless I’m digging a few holes in the yard and perhaps sledge hammering out a flowerbed or two.

This isn’t out-of-the-ordinary behavior for me. Just ask my neighbors.

I can’t think of a better way to spend a few hours on a holiday. This time around, I was planting a fairly large Japanese maple plus getting ready to plant 15 Simplicity pink roses.

It’s odd, in a way, that I find gardening so enjoyable given how I hated it as a kid.

I was 7 when my dad died putting my older brother in charge of the yard work. His level of anal retentiveness was off the charts. Roses had to be pruned his way. Weeds had to be pulled his way. The grass had to be cut twice a week his way.

To make matters worse, he kept ripping out the drip system for the numerous flower beds like clockwork every two years or so and updating them. He’s an architect-engineer, which probably explains everything. At any rate, I learned to hate gardening — or at least I thought so.

That is why I was more surprised than anyone else when the last home I had I ended up ripping out low maintenance landscaping including 10 trees and planting 170 roses, 84 assorted shrubs, 15 new trees, and countless perennials.

But why plant in the dead of winter especially between Christmas and New Year’s Day?

Easy. What better way to weather the gray, cold days of January and February than watching roses — and other things you plant — reawakening ever so slowly?

The cliché is slow down and smell the roses. It really should be take time to help the roses grow.

The pleasure in gardening isn’t in the menial tasks nor is it in the finished product. It’s in the rewards you get from the effort you put into it.

Invest the effort in the winter to prune back roses, clear away weeds plus other debris and it’ll pay you back 100-fold.

If you don’t make the effort, you pay the price in fewer blooms, more weeds in the summer, lethargic rose stems, and even disease.

Nurturing it with fertilizer as the weather warms ever so slowly and painstakingly picking off Japanese beetles and wiping buds clean of aphids can be time consuming. The thorns, though, you must deal with are the price you pay for the beauty of a rose.

There is magic in plotting and planting a garden when days are at their shortest. It warms the soul envisioning what will unfold as the mercury rises and the days lengthen.

Winter planting is also the ideal excuse for me to visit my favorite haunts — nurseries. Wandering through places like

New Buds or Morris Nursery lets you gather ideas and ultimately fashion a vision for your garden in your head. It is a surefire way to change your outlook on a dreary winter day. Where others see your yard as skeletons of trees, dormant grass and barren ground you see it as a cascade of color and form.

I guess that is why I never could understand why anyone would hire someone to landscape their garden for them or do it all in one fell swoop. A garden should literally — and figuratively — be a living thing.
Stay inside while the weather is frightful?

No way.

If I did, I’d never be able to truly enjoy the roses to the fullest when they start blooming.

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