Down To Earth

For gardeners, the season of giving lasts all year long

Posted

I refuse to subscribe to the adage “Christmas comes but once a year”. I’d be some kind of Scrooge if I weren’t all for brightening up the darkest days of winter with celebrations and thoughtful gift exchanges. But gardeners know the spirit of generosity shouldn’t be limited by particular calendar dates, and I have been on the receiving end of gardener-variety thoughtfulness all year long.

Last spring one of my friends noticed my bare paws. Before I could reach into a thicket of rose stems to do some pruning, she insisted I try her favorite pair of gloves. Until that moment I had no idea how comfortable and protective gloves could be and haven’t gone bare-handed ever since she had a pair delivered to my doorstep. My former favorite gloves (Atlas nitrile) may be cheaper by the dozen but I now know they can’t hold a thorny twig to kidskin gloves made by Womanswork (womanswork.com). Those fit my skinny fingers from tip to thumb web and have been comfortable from the get-go in all kinds of weather. The leather has remained incredibly supple despite soaking, staining, and being balled up in pockets. And they are impenetrable. Truth. I have the absence of scars to show for it.

Another friend who watched me (fail to) bag leaves against a stiff breeze was kind enough to offer the use of a tool it never occurred to me to want. You know how I feel about noisy garden machinery (I can’t stand the disruption) and you know how I feel about leaf litter (it’s too beneficial for the garden and its critters to go out with the trash) but I will never again poo-poo a leaf vacuum. Not enough leaves fall in my garden to justify ownership but for those blessed with drifts that pile up against the foundation and carpet walkways, it’s genius. Not only does it suck up leaves before they can blow off the rake into the neighbor’s yard, it shreds them into tiny bits pretty enough to use immediately as a topdressing mulch. Some gardeners might add them to the compost instead, and anyone who puts them out with the trash will at least save a few trees worth of lawn bags.

I get more book recommendations during my shifts at the library than I can possibly keep up with but when a fellow gardener pushes a book across her kitchen table and says, “You might enjoy this”, I start reading. I also take suggestions from my good friend NPR, and so two very special books came my way this year. Both are about lives lived slowly—one author is bedridden, the other is island-bound—and with intense focus on tiny things most of us barely notice.

"The Sound of a Wild Snail Eating" by Elisabeth Tova Bailey, a gardener who had been paralyzed by a mysterious illness, taught me more than I ever knew I wanted to know about gastropods. Fascinating creatures! "The Fly Trap" by Swedish entomologist and 2016 Ig Noble Prize winner, Fredrik Sjöberg explores curiosity and passion through his collection of hoverflies. (Fascinating creatures!) He says, and I think Ms. Bailey and most of us would agree, “... it is in gardens we find the greatest wealth of fauna.”

Add countless gifts of plants to the list. I don’t know a single gardener who can resist sharing their wealth and I know very few who are able to refuse an offered division. I get richer every spring and fall and my intention every spring and fall is to make more room for those gifts by dividing and passing along pieces of my own favorites.

No way does Christmas come but once a year. Not for gardeners who have gardeners for friends. They can’t hold back “bringing us lots of joy and cheer” all year long.

Kristin Green is the horticulturist at Mount Hope Farm and author of 'Plantiful: Start Small, Grow Big with 150 Plants that Spread, Self-Sow, and Overwinter'. Follow her blog at trenchmanicure.com.

Kristin Green

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Jim McGaw

A lifelong Portsmouth resident, Jim graduated from Portsmouth High School in 1982 and earned a journalism degree from the University of Rhode Island in 1986. He's worked two different stints at East Bay Newspapers, for a total of 18 years with the company so far. When not running all over town bringing you the news from Portsmouth, Jim listens to lots and lots and lots of music, watches obscure silent films from the '20s and usually has three books going at once. He also loves to cook crazy New Orleans dishes for his wife of 25 years, Michelle, and their two sons, Jake and Max.