A season of bare trees and gray light

A season of bare trees and gray light

Gray is known as a scale rather than a color in the world of photography. I like that word for it; it evokes music. The outside world in Western New York is a tone poem of gray and white right now, with blindingly bright intervals when the sun plays off the snow. It’s a beautiful time. 

With due respect for Marianne’s current project of celebrating the winter garden, my mileage varies. For me, this is not a time for gardening and it’s impossible to think of the white landscape surrounding my house as needing that kind of attention. Nor is winter interest a gardening goal for me. It is a dumb term and I’ve made fun of it many times. Unfortunately, my favorite rant about this, “The myth of winter interest,” seems to have disappeared.. 

But I do love the winter scene: the bare trees seem equal in beauty to any summer display, especially when they’re covered in frost or ice. Niagara Falls, one of my favorite winter destinations, is the place to go for this. 

Birds also seem at their best at this time, especially cardinals. This is when we really keep the feeders going. 

Nearby nature preserves keep their trails more or less cleared and this is arguably the best time to visit them. The snow creates a hushed experience that’s impossible in any other season.

When it’s time to retreat inside, the outdoor conditions have provided the best excuse possible – if such were needed – to fill the house with as much  colorful plant life as possible. Not just plants either. I may be in the minority, but my favorite book by Rant co-founder Amy Stewart is her Flower Confidential, which came out when I first joined in 2007. It was an expose, sure, of certain practices in the cut flower world, but it also couldn’t help but celebrate the glory of fresh flowers on demand,  especially  when there are none to be had outdoors. 

Since reading it, I’ve tried some of the artisanal flower delivery services she mentioned that do out-of-the-box bouquets. And in the interim, I’ve found that supermarket flowers have greatly advanced in sophistication and variety, at nearby Wegmans and – especially – Trader Joes. I came away with a huge selection, including bunches of veronica and godetia, neither of them varieties I had ever seen for sale as cut flowers before. 

TJ’s was also overflowing with forced hyacinths, tulips and daffs, but I always have them on tap at home. 

The truth is I am all too willing to take a break from gardening – at least the outdoor part of it. Fussy houseplants, forced bulbs and seeing how long I can keep a protea going are interesting enough for now.  Winter has a different glory here.

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