Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Dreaming Of A White Garden

First published in the February 22 issue of The Oxford Journal by Sara Mattinson.

What does it mean to dream in mid-February about working in a lush flower garden? Is it a sign of an early spring?
On the coldest night of the year, I dreamed about gardening, a dream likely inspired by my mother’s phone call from Georgia wanting to know what zone we live in (she wants to plant moonflowers). An armchair traveller, she’s been reading about Tuscany all winter and already has called to inform us that she wants to plant a rose garden. So while the house snapped and cracked in the minus 27 degree night air, I dreamed about the work to be done when the snow is gone and the plants are growing. 
Winter is hard on gardeners but good for gardens. Freezing improves the soil while snow insulates plants. The bitter cold kill pests and diseases. While cold winds and blowing snow cleanses the   weed-weary spirits of gardeners, it is also Nature’s time for cleaning up her space. 
Gardeners survive winter by obsessively reading plant catalogues, drawing big, dark circles around preferences and enticements, however improbable. The catalogues slip between the sheets with us, our bedtime reading full of luscious, lulling words like begonia and peony, lily and alstromeria. As a result, we dream in splashes of red and pink, yellow and purple, with long strokes of green. Sprouts of colour blooming in the dirt our of minds. 
Winter erases the gardener’s memory. We forget the failures and excesses from the year before, and begin to believe (again) that this year, it will all work out: the ornamental grass won’t spread, the weeds won’t come up, the $30 plant won’t die, the mail order roots won’t rot while we wait for the ground to drain. The long, dark, snowy days of winter allow us to forget the impracticality of gardening, the time and expense, the backbreaking work, the endless watering, the finite results we eat or gaze upon for a few precious weeks. 
In my dream, I was in the large flower garden in our front yard, laying slate rocks to widen the garden paths that are tangled under plants every year by mid-July and digging up poppy plants to transplant them to other garden beds. The dream gave me answers to questions I had yet asked, questions that would have chewed at me, like black flies, in June. What to do? What to do?
There is only one cure to this mid-winter madness of dreaming about gardening: It is time to begin ordering roots and seeds because every gardener knows, winter is over when those boxes of possibilities arrive. 

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