Writer makes compelling case to keep garden going year-round
Anew book, “The Garden in Every Sense and Season,” has landed on my desk at just the right moment.
In her collection of essays, author Tovah Martin, an organic gardener and garden writer, urges readers to love their landscapes year-round — including fall and winter, not just the “easy” seasons of spring and summer.
Although I would definitely classify myself as a passionate gardener, I usually start to feel worn out by fall. I’m behind on weeding, and everything from annuals to perennials to vegetables is overgrown and past its prime.
As for winter, I struggle to muster much enthusiasm when the garden is dormant and temperatures hover below freezing.
Martin, however, skillfully and sensitively shows that fall and winter are as appealing, if not as showy, as spring and summer.
“I have learned that unless you consciously experience your garden, you might be blind to its beauty,” she writes in the introduction.
To achieve that goal, she urges readers to become attuned to their five senses.
While viewing colorful foliage or smelling a fragrant flower is an easy way to enjoy a landscape, Martin also tells how to make the most of of sound, touch and taste.
She shares plenty of tantalizing observations about spring, such as the satisfying feel of sowing seeds; and summer, such as the enthralling humming and buzzing of pollinators on a hot day.
But her observations about the other two seasons are where readers can turn for inspiration at this time of year.
Of autumn, she writes, “Put your nose to the air to smell the telltale wood smoke; go for a walk to find the wild grapes; … pick some apples.”
In an essay called Crunch Time, she shares her appreciation for the sounds of fallen leaves.
“To penetrate my property Author Tovah Martin enjoys the sound of dry leaves being raked.
“The Garden in Every Sense and Season” (Timber, 292 pages, $24.95) by Tovah Martin
from October to the first snow, you are going to wade through a sea of leaves, which entails a whole lot of shuffling, crackling, and crunching.”
(She lives in Connecticut, which, like Ohio, is inundated with leaves from deciduous trees every fall.)
As for the coldest time of year, it “could be an interlude when you dream about more profuse seasons, or winter can be just as sensually suffused as any other time,” she writes.
She admires the sparkle of frost, the silhouettes of bare trees and the wonderful warmth of sunbeams.
“There’s nothing like a good, strong sunbeam in midwinter,” she writes. “Better than a heat vent, sunbeams are like a poultice.” One of author Tovah Martin’s goats seems especially glad to see her on a snowy day.
Through the miracle of citrus fruit raised indoors, she even finds a way to exercise her sense of taste.
“Although I would never claim that citrus is easy to grow, you can do it,” she writes. “Winter here is spent snacking blissfully on my calamondin orange, which sits in the brightest window I can manage.”
Wow, that makes indoor
gardening sound almost fun. With her support, getting through winter might be a little easier this year.
“Real gardeners don’t hibernate in winter,” she writes. “They just draw the focus closer around them.” Standing Ovation little bluestem
USDA Hardiness Zones: 3 to 8 Origin: North America
A plant with lateautumn interest is the Standing Ovation little bluestem grass (Schizachyrium scoparium ‘Standing Ovation’).
The upright, lanceshaped leaves are steel-blue all summer before changing to a lovely purple with hints of orange in the fall.
In the late summer, this grass has small, purplebronze flowers that bloom close to the stem; these flowers eventually transform into white, cottony seed heads.
The flower stalks remain for much of the winter, giving this plant a more vertical look.
This low-maintenance ornamental grass is drought-tolerant once it is established, and will flop with too much fertilizer and water.
True care is only to be cut back to 1 inch above the ground in late winter.
Little bluestem was one of the most dominant grasses found in tall-grass prairies.
See the beautiful fall color of Standing Ovation little bluestem in the Scotts Miracle-Gro Foundation Children’s Garden as well as the Crane Ornamental Grass and Conifer Collection at Franklin Park Conservatory and Botanical Gardens.