As January comes to a close, I wanted to share a quote I found that is reasonably profound. Since we have had such cold temperatures, and although they tend to warm right back up, most of the flowers, plants and perennials are looking pretty toasted. Only the evergreens look unaffected. The following words are quite timely about now:

“Anyone who thinks that gardening begins in the spring and ends in the fall is missing the best part of the whole year. For gardening begins in January with the dream.” — Josephine Nuese

I love the whole premise that we can’t just focus on what was, what we see here and now, and what all we must do to clean it up. I love walking around my flower beds this time of year. I remember the beauty of the colors, the incredible number of butterflies that frequented the flowers, the variations of green and textures, the extent of the growth each species achieved, etc.

Yes, I’m looking back and reminiscing about the past growing season, but that helps to propel me into the planning involved for the next growing period come spring. January really is the time of new beginnings, and the garden is no exception. Nuese could understand that observing the wasteland of the January garden meant dreaming, not only about what it was, but what it would become. The beauty of the spring garden doesn’t just happen; it is created through imagination, daring to take chances, broadening our horizons, preplanning, and yes, dreaming of the possibilities.

I think many folks omit this step, choosing instead to hunker down inside until the cold is gone, and step out to see what, if anything, survived — and then feel relieved when it looks fairly similar to every year before. This way works, too, and many prefer it. It all depends on what you choose to see. I prefer not to see the same old thing year after year. I consider plant species and whether I want them to remain. Many plants I dig up and not all are replanted. I tire of some and move other plants around to change color schemes and height requirements, and to simply change things up.

Gardening, like life, is dynamic and constantly evolving — if you choose to let it. Some yards look the same as they did a decade ago, and will essentially look the same a decade from now, throwing in some growth/overgrowth. And I daresay some of our lives are similar, with no evidence of change year after year.

Oh, but the possibilities are endless — and with a dream, some forward-thinking and applied effort — life inside us and outside in the yard can take on new changes we never thought possible. So let’s not wait until spring to step outside of the here and now. Life and gardening are a year-round experience; let’s enjoy it all, every new day of the year, making the most of our opportunities to learn, dream and grow.

Darla Horner Menking is an outdoor enthusiast and Herald correspondent. Contact her at

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