What do you do in the winter?


It’s deep winter.  It’s the cold, dark time of winter. It’s the long stretch of winter when the festivities of the Holidays are well behind us and the thaw of spring is well ahead of us. It’s the time of year when the concept of gardening becomes very theoretical.

I am more conscious of the theoretical nature of being a gardener in winter this year more than ever. I have been making the rounds of orthopedists seeking knowledge and hopefully a cure for what ails my right wrist, which is still in a splint. I have been diagnostically questioned repeatedly “What do you do?” I find this an intrusive question at the best of times, especially on Landing Cards as I wonder what my occupation has to do with my ability to enjoy a sojourn in another country, and am often tempted toward creative answers such as “Nuclear physicist” or “Professional Belly dancer”.  However, given that  “what I do” is pertinent to my injury I robotically reply “Gardener” to each inquiry. My confession immediately prompts the follow up question, “What do you do in the winter?”

Ah yes, what does a gardener do in the winter?  A common conundrum of contemporary culture similar to other unknowns such as “What does a stay at home mom do when the kids are at school?”  and “ What does a writer do when she is not writing?” or “Does the President still govern when s/he is on vacation?” although I have never heard anyone  dare ask a mom or a writer or the President these questions.


What do I the gardener do in the winter? I contemplate. I spend long stretches looking out the windows imagining what there is in the garden, and what could be there in the garden. I plan what changes I will make or might make in the spring. I read – garden history, garden design, gardener biography, seed catalogues, plant catalogues, bulb catalogues, garden blogs. I take photographs  to capture the beauty of a garden under snow. And now that I have created this blog, I intend to revisit gardens I have been to and share stories and photographs of them with you.

What does a gardener do in winter? As each garden is as individual as each gardener, I assume each gardener’s answer will be as individual as each gardener. Tell me, as a gardener, what do you do in the winter?



14 thoughts on “What do you do in the winter?

  1. I go to industry events like New England Grows (it’s coming up soon, looks like they have some great speakers lined up this year like Elaine Ingham, the soil food web researcher). I incubate and plant new thoughts sometimes. Sometimes I stare out the window and dream of warmer locales, especially on really cold days like today. Sometimes I write bad poetry but right now I wonder if those are Echinacea seed heads in that picture? What a stark and pristine image. Do you think they still have seeds in them for the birds? Maybe there are little bird footprints on the snow next to them. Your picture gives new meaning to the phrase “winter interest” as it’s interesting to think about these things.

    I agree, I hate getting asked that question of “what do you do in the winter?” by non-gardeners with their confused stares. I think next time you should definitely say “Professional Belly Dancer” to mix it up a little. You’ve given me a new idea for a winter interest, belly dancing, that sounds warm and exotic, just the remedy for this time of year.

    That stinks that your wrist is still in a splint. I hope it heals up soon.


  2. What a fine post! And I do hope your wrist recovers soon and fully. Your photographs are splendid, your garden must be really wonderful. Me, I eat comfort food and drink red wine. But then I do that in the summer too! And while I enjoy your blog I am even less of a gardener now than ever….more of a looker than a doer these days on the gardening front. But what would I do where I to do it, I ponder. I would plan – and likely never execute, but nothing wrong with planning and dreaming is there? I would imagine the first shoots and green of spring, the birds returning, bulbs emerging, roses coming back to life, a woodpecker pecking away in a dead tree. The snow melting to reveal the dark fine rich earth of the compost pile. A crisp blue sky with some clean white clouds passing by. And maybe some comfort food and a glass of red wine. Perhaps I should plant some grapes?


    1. Not only is there nothing wrong with planning and dreaming, it is highly recommended. All gardens relish lookers as well as doers, so your role as a looker is cherished. From your description of a garden coming awake in spring I can tell you are a keen observer. Enjoy your red wine and comfort food!


  3. Although I (temporarily) live in a country with year-round warm weather, I’ve found myself much less interested in actual gardening in the last month, and I have to force myself to go out and do more than a little dead-heading. I think winter in colder climates provides a necessary break for the gardener’s mind and body — and I’m still on the cycle of Washington D.C.

    I hope your wrist is better soon!


    1. this is an interesting prospective I hadn’t ever thought of…that in a year round gardening climate there is not forced break and, consequently, enthusiasm can wane. Up til now I have always envied those who can garden year round, now I appreciate another point of view. I will look out on my dormant, and at the moment under a couple of feet of snow, garden in a new light.
      Thanks for the interesting post.


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