Gadbois: Greener on the inside

The thought of five long months of winter ahead of us is enough to dampen the brightest of gardener spirits. I must admit that November, with its darkness and cold arriving early again this year, does cast a long shadow on this gardener’s mood. It is hard to be upbeat when the days are so short, and sunlight is at a premium. 

Gone are the lush greens of summer, the mad exuberant twittering of songbirds in the morning, the pleasantly long days and sunlit evenings spent outside in the warm air and the ubiquitous sound of lawn mowers, hedge clippers and leaf blowers. Here to stay for a while are the shortened days, the quiet hush created by the soft snow cover blanketing the property dampening all sounds and the episodic din of the city, contractor and proprietary snow clearing equipment. Also, sadly, there is less of a desire to be outside in the frosty air.

To temper the seasonal change which has seemed to come on very quickly (“Where did I put my winter gloves?”) I’m challenging myself to spend more time outdoors – to continue taking long walks with friends and our dogs around the neighbourhood and maybe even to don cross country skis and/or snowshoes in an effort to make the most of it and to actually embrace the season rather than to just tolerate it.

What do avid home gardeners do in the winter to satisfy their gardening cravings? They go to their garden club meetings to socialize with other gardeners and to listen to presentations on various related topics; they read their gardening books, mags, online articles and blogs; they order from their seed catalogues; they tend to their indoor plants; they create cut flower arrangements; they attend wreath making workshops; they decorate their outdoor containers with evergreen boughs for the festive season and they visit local Christmas crafts fairs in search of anything garden related. Some lucky gardeners go on trips to warmer climes and if available at destination, they flock to experience local tropical gardens, take a ton of pics and share them at the meetings.

In and around West Carleton, we have a number of garden clubs which serve up an interesting array of guest speakers over the winter months. At the Carp Memorial Hall every second Tuesday evening of the month, there is a meeting of the West Carleton Garden Club and Horticultural Society. Other hort societies in the area are the Stittsville Goulbourn Horticultural Society, the Almonte and District Horticultural Society. All are associated with the Ontario Horticultural Association, a volunteer charitable organization that encourages interest in gardening and related environmental issues with horticultural societies and like-minded organizations by providing leadership and education.

Most societies have Facebook pages which inform about upcoming meetings and activities. Don’t feel like you have to be an expert to go to a meeting or to join these clubs. They’re really friendly places which welcome drop-ins for a small fee and new members with all levels of gardening knowledge, from the novice to the master gardener. Their annual membership fees offer real value for money ($10-20 per annum). 

Where else can you get a friendly venue, expert and often well-known guest speakers (e.g., Ed Lawrence, Master Gardeners, etc), flower shows, plant sales, seed swaps, silent auctions and festive potlucks for such a low price of entry. But the best part of it is the opportunity to meet new like-minded friends in the area, who also share a love of gardening and volunteer to beautify the community. Many societies establish and maintain town gardens and memorials, install pollinator boxes and participate in other garden related activities. Grab a friend and come on out to a meeting! For a complete listing of coming events, check out:

As for me, during the winter months, liberated from spring, summer and fall outdoor planting and maintenance chores, I will have all this extra time to do all of the above and to ponder about what worked and what didn’t in my garden during the past season in order to plan next year’s effort.

In the words of the inspiring neurologist, naturalist and author, Oliver Sacks (1933-2015): “I cannot say exactly how nature exerts its calming and organizing effects on our brains, but I have seen in my patients the restorative and healing powers of nature and gardens, even for those who are deeply disabled neurologically. In many cases, gardens and nature are more powerful than any medication.”

So this winter, let’s get out our hats, scarves, mitts, leggings and great coats and take a daily walk outside. It will be brisk and it will be restorative. See you out there!