Every year I’m faced with decisions about where to spend my energy. Each year that decision shifts as my available time, available focus, and available interest fluctuates. Those issues don’t present themselves in linear time. There is no steady march towards some undetermined goal. No inevitable trudge towards downsizing.
Now I’m facing another decision point, one that I face each fall. I ask myself if it’s worth it to continue my seasonal shifts of bringing the garden indoors and outdoors again next spring. Do I let nature make the decision and just buy all new plants when the season begins again? And if I do decide to harvest, what will I bring in, where will I put it, is it worth the effort this particular plant will present me with, and what is the value of each choice given my limited space?
I’ve had years when I lost all interest in saving my deck garden. Sometimes I was so disappointed in the performance of the plants or the mutilating attacks on them by critters. Other years I was far too anxious to retreat to my studio to recreate the colors and ideas of summer on canvas. There have been a few years when a surprise frost beat me to the job and there was nothing left to save. Somehow, after the mourning is over, there’s a sense of relief of sorts since there’s more time leftover for new endeavors, new experiments.
Deciding to bring in the plants, in whatever form, means a commitment to months of work. Just like having pets, such as the cats and dogs my friends adopt, my plants need regular attention. They need the proper amount of water, food, and light. Some need dormancy. Others require bright lighting to flourish. Still others are just taken in as cuttings and need to develop roots. Some require complete darkness for periods of time in order to bloom. Learning the needs of individual plants takes study and attention to detail.
And then there are the critters that come in for a free ride. The spiders. The whitefly. The caterpillars. The cotton balls of mealy bugs. Let’s not forget slugs, earwigs, aphids, stink bugs, thrips, and stems covered in scale. I’ve found all these on my winter indoor plants at one time or another. I ask then is it worth it!
And then, in the winters when I decide to commit to the work, when it’s gray outside and I slowly wander downstairs to my former darkroom, now my plant room, the magic happens. As I open the creaking door to this unheated former root cellar, the smell of soil wafts towards my nose. The daylight adjusted lighting fills me with echoes of summer. My eyes shine with the reflection of colors blooming in the sink, on the countertops, and on the floor.
New growth, new optimism for the coming year. New plans of where these plants will go when the time comes. Gifts shared with friends. Donations to just causes. And some will remain with me to start again another season. A glance into the future. New opportunities. Renewed hope.