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The gardener in winter

01/16/04 12:00AM By Henry Homeyer
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(Host) Commentator Henry Homeyer says that one of the best antidotes to serious winter weather is to get together with gardeners and turn your thoughts to spring.


(Homeyer) Recently arctic air descended on us from Alberta (or wherever Mark Breen and Steve Maleski store it) so you might not be thinking about gardening this week. Jumper cables and dry gas? Perhaps. But weeds, seeds and bumblebees? Probably not.

However, I think winter is a great time to learn about gardening. We have the time for it - and I, for one, need to keep my spirits bright by thinking about spring and learning more about plants.

I'm not a big fan of the world wide web as a way to learn. Yes, there's a ton of information out there, but it's hard to know what's accurate and what's not. And call me old fashioned, but I like to hold a book or magazine in my hands and turn the pages.

Joining a garden club, on the other hand, is my idea of fun. I belong to several. They are peopled by passionate gardeners, many with decades of experience to share over a cup of tea and a lemon bar. Most clubs have monthly meetings with speakers to entertain and enlighten you. Membership is open to all, and dues are minimal.

There are specialized clubs, too. The Hardy Plants Club of Northern Vermont, the Twin State Orchid Society and the Green Mountain Bonsai Club offer the chance to meet people with specialized knowledge who grow plants you might never have considered.

Some plant nurseries and garden centers also host classes in gardening during the winter. These are good for "wannabe" gardeners who need to develop self confidence. I have friends who refuse to garden because they've had bad luck with house plants. It's easy to kill houseplants, but this isn't a measure of your abilities as a gardener. There is no such thing as a bad gardener, only bad soil or plants that aren't adapted for your particular environment. Even good gardeners can't make most roses bloom well in the shade, for example.

I have more gardening books than I need, but in winter I often head off to my local bookstore to peruse the shelves of the gardening section. There's always something interesting to learn from books, and the big ones with the full color photos make me drool. Of course our local library has a good supply, but I like to have my books within reach 24 hours a day.

If your gardening spirits are lagging, perhaps the best thing to do is invite a serious gardener to visit and have a cup of tea. I have a collection of gardening buddies, and we get together to talk plants. We update each other on new plants we've read about in catalogs and magazines, and talk about projects for the spring. And for a little while, at least, we forget about the temperatures outside.

This is the gardening guy, Henry Homeyer, in Cornish Flat, New Hampshire.

Henry Homeyer is a gardening writer and columnist.

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