Mother Winter (she who should not be named at this point in March) had a harder time making up her mind about her choice in how to precipitate than my daughter had in choosing a prom dress.  First rain, then sleet, then hail then big, wet snow, just as my daughter tried to choose between pink, ombre and blue sequined gowns, in a vast varieties of silhouettes. In both events I could only hope it would be over soon. In trying to look for a silver lining, I suppose I could say that It’s at least a good thing I didn’t commence with any early pruning only to have to go at it again as Mother Witch Winter yielded some of her weapons of mass destruction on my garden today.

Let’s start with the back and how MW poured some salt in what is still a big wound. First, the beloved oak tree came down. Silver lining: Rob took a photo of the old oak right before the tree crew came to take him down and had it printed and framed for me as a gift. In black and white which was totally the right call, the grey tones of the photo against a stark winter back drop a perfect representation of the tree and how I felt about it that day along with the continued sense of loss in the departure of that majestic tree. Then, the neighbors decide an above ground swimming pool is a good idea. Silver lining: None. Today, in that same corner of the garden, my Southern Magnolia lost it’s leader under the weight of the variety of precipitates that clung to the limbs. Silver lining?  We’re working into the negative category right now, scoring less hopeful points than the swimming pool. I guess a silver lining is the comment my son, Blake, said about Southern Magnolias that always made me laugh: if he ever bought a house with a Southern Magnolia on it he would have a good reason to buy a new chain saw. Blake lives in Wake Forest, NC, where there lots and lots of Southern Magnolias. Maybe he doesn’t like them because for him, they are ordinary. Or maybe they drop too many leaves to stay desirable as he would deem them as a tree. I adore them and mine was brought home as a 5 footer in the Volkswagen I had at the time. Nearly ten years later, the tree is about twenty feet tall. I should say “was” about twenty feet tall. Probably about 16 now with the leader gone. Sadly, the height is not the issue. The real problem is the weird collection of sprouts that will come out of the top of the tree with the cracked-open crown. I can only guess that at least three new leaders will burst forth in claim for tree top-ness and the look will be, as modern language would say, random.

Then, MW dealt a blow to the front corner of the house when she took out three really large limbs from my mature Bayberry shrubs. Twisted them right off without thinking twice. Silver lining: they needed deep pruning anyway. I guess MW did me a (sort of) favor. Still, the destruction is significant when I tally in the two large limbs torn off the Crape Myrtle, the flattened boxwoods (which I think I saved by broom them clear.) What is a gardener supposed to do? Stand out doors all day long on a day like this trying to anticipate the next move like this is a military strategy? As gardeners, we try to create these little slices of heaven in our yards. There are only so many things we can control and Mother Winter is not one of them. We do what we can. We can’t protect our gardens, our children, from everything that they may encounter.

I stand helpless, powerless to what Mother Winter, Mother Nature in general might dish out. All things considered I did not fare as badly as many gardens I passed by with Leyland Cypress and Arborvitae completely bent over. Sometimes we know that certain trees, like Cypress and Arborvitae, are susceptible to wet snow and maybe we don’t plant them. We head outdoors with long-handled brooms to brush and shake off the snow loads. Otherwise, we can’t anticipate what might come next.  What I do for the love of my garden is the same thing I did when prom dress shopping with my daughter: admire the beauty I see before me when the garden is wrapped in glittery snow, acknowledge how the years have passed watching both grow up, and hope the weight of things, the world and it’s challenges, is bearable.

"Let's Grow!" 2018