Thanksgiving Day 2012 has come and gone. Unfortunately, too many of us think of this special day, which was created as a day for expressing our thankfulness for our many blessings, just as “Turkey Day,” the day when stuff ourselves as much as we stuffed the bird of honor on our Thanksgiving table. Yet, we have so many things to be thankful for. As a gardener, I’ve been thinking about some of the things we have to be thankful for.
I recently came across “A Gardeners Thanksgiving,” written by the Rev. Max Coot. I gleaned some of his metaphorical lines that reminded me of good friends and the blessings they are to me:
“Let us give thanks for a bounty of people ... for feisty friends as tart as apples ... for crotchety friends, as sour as rhubarb and as indestructible ... for handsome friends, who are as gorgeous as eggplants ... for friends as unpretentious as cabbages, and as endless as zucchini ... for loving friends, who wind around us like tendrils and hold us, despite our blights ... for old friends, nodding like sunflowers in the evening time ... for all these we give thanks.
During Myra’s and my first (and only) vacation in Hawaii, I thought, “Wow, wouldn’t living in Hawaii be paradise, where I could garden every day of the year?” Well, not really — it would be too much of a good thing. After a few years, it could even become a curse because of the monotony of perpetual summer and never-ending garden chores. Here in the Yakima Valley, we are blessed with four seasons, which is what I am truly thankful for.
Fall brings beauty
Gardening has come to an end for this year, except for raking late leaves and maybe a final tidying up of the yard and garden. Almost all the crops from my vegetable garden have been harvested, and the freezer jam-packed with fruits and vegetables. Winter squash are safely sequestered in the house and a winter’s supply of carrots is cozily covered with a heavy blanket of leaves out in the garden, just waiting to be harvested whenever we need them.
Fall is the time when our Valley is crowned with the beauty of a gorgeous kaleidoscope of colorful trees and shrubs that dressed up in the finest of finery before disrobing for a winter of well-deserved rest. There are magnificent reds of fantastic red maples. And there are also dignified reds, tans and browns of stately oaks adding to the show. Burning bushes have donned a fiery red wardrobe that lights up even the dullest days.
There are also lots of stunning yellows festooning our Valley in fall. Golden yellows of cottonwoods line all the rivers and creeks that course through our Valley. Many other species of maples brighten our days with golden glowing beauty. Beautiful browns, russets, tans, bronzes and even purples color various other tree species. Autumn in our Valley provides us so much loveliness, for which we should be ever grateful.
Winter is the time when many plants take a long winter’s nap. Deciduous trees, shrubs and perennials go into dormancy and evergreens slow way down and doze. Annual flowers become dormant, not as actual plants, but in their seeds.
Winter is also a time for gardeners to rest. It’s time for us to relax and have dreams about next year’s gardens.
But there are lots of things going on in our gardens for us to appreciate. Deciduous trees and bushes reveal the bare side of their structure that is another kind of magnificence. And wildlife is easier to observe, particularly the winter birds at work gleaning seeds from flower heads from this year’s flowers and insects in crevices of tree trunks.
But the real show-stopper of winter in our landscapes comes after the first big snowstorm. Evergreens become beautifully decorated and deciduous trees and shrubs take on a delightful new character when lightly bejeweled with snow. Admittedly, old snow loses its charm when it lingers too long — or even when one snow follows on the heels of the previous ones for too many times.
With that said, it’s a blessing that we have a season for rest, very much like our deciduous trees, bushes and gardens have.
Spring promises renewal
Without a doubt, spring is a favorite season for many folks. The swelling tree buds and the earliest bulbs pushing up through the earth are a preview of what is yet to come. A day with a hint of spring is often set back with a drop in temperatures, which reminds us that winter has not completely finished.
But spring edges forward with promises. The first crocus bloom pushes up through the ground. One type of spring bulb after another bursts into bloom, tree buds get bigger and bigger. Then one morning when we get up, we see a tinge of green covering our trees and shrubs. It’s time to get out in our gardens and enjoy our favorite avocation once again. Spring is a time of promises fulfilled and we are thankful.
The summer season is our longest season with daylight longer than in any other season. More hours of daylight means more time to savor gardening. It also signals us that we have more tasks to take care of outside, but working in our landscape is what gardeners enjoy, isn’t it?
Toiling in our gardens is good for both the physical body and for the soul. The act of working the soil brings joy to those of us who have a passion for gardening, and helping Nature produce beauty and sustenance is what gardening is all about.
Though we may occasionally dream of living on a tropical isle and having virtual summer year-round, the cycle of the seasons — spring, winter, summer and fall — gives us something to look forward to. That’s why we are blessed to live in the Yakima Valley. That’s why we have so much to be thankful for.
• Freelance gardening columnist Jim McLain can be reached at 509-697-6112 or firstname.lastname@example.org.