JoAnne Skelly: Winter still no rest for gardener’s thoughts

Autumn is a time of rest from the gardening chores during the rest of the year. However, once we pass the winter solstice and we have more light each day, my gardening spirit slowly reawakens. At first, I dream about forsythia, quince and spring flowers blooming. As the days grow longer, I think about landscape improvements and pruning. I write long to do lists and try to find last year’s journal entries to refresh my mind about the details of gardening tasks.

I’m looking forward to seeing if the hyacinths I recently planted emerge. A gardener plants trusting the efforts will be successful. Who else has the faith and patience a gardener has? If the bulbs were healthy, if I planted them at the right depth, if they get enough, but not too much water, will I be lucky enough to have blooms in February or March? I’ll have to wait and see. I also planted crocosmia bulbs, something I have never grown before. Will they come up and flower?

Over the years my gardening efforts have failed many times or produced results I didn’t anticipate. Planting tulips in ground squirrel country is usually doomed to failure. Planting 25 one-gallon junipers that eventually spread five and six feet became a removal nightmare 20 years later. Planting incense cedars on the south side of the house seemed like a good idea initially, but now, 30 years later, they block the sun from melting the ice on our main walkway.

Yet, I can’t help but work in the yard. With all the potential problems such as ground squirrels, rabbits, aphids, bears, deer, overwatering, underwatering, diseases and weeds, I keep coming back to the garden and landscape year after year. Perhaps it’s an addiction. If so, it’s a delightfully healthy one. In the spring, when the daffodils line the front walk; when the crabapples and lilacs bloom; when the lawn greens up with new growth, I’m rewarded for my efforts and faith in the garden gods. In the summer when the roses and the perennials put out a profusion of flowers, I remember why I’ve tended this plot of ground for 30 years and why I hope to continue to do so for another 30.

For a few more weeks I’m content to relax and enjoy the peace of winter. Soon though, I won’t be able to help myself and I’ll be out in the yard again.

JoAnne Skelly is associate professor and Extension educator, Emerita at University of Nevada Cooperative Extension. She can be reached at


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