Looking forward and making plans

Winter vingette inspired by The Gentle Art of Domesticity

Kelly, a frequent commenter, wrote:

“I shouldn’t wish my life away but I can hardly wait for spring!”

Like a smooth stone in the pocket of my favorite gardening jacket, I carried her heartfelt expression with me all week as I went about my everyday chores of home and hearth.

After much reflection, I don’t believe gardeners wish their lives away.  Instead, they manage their time during winter like a mini-gardening sabbatical with photos of gardens past, books, blogs, magazines and catalogs, while they wait for spring.

In our dreams, spring is a magical place, a fabled Shangri-La,  where breezes are ever gentle, and no mistakes have yet been made.  Tempted by seed and plant catalogs, their photos and descriptions transport us from an icy landscape to a place where sweet peas bloom, and lettuce never bolts before we tire of it.

This year, the weather throughout much of North America contrived to be extra cold and snowy thus giving gardeners more time for hibernation.  With a fire in the fireplace, a cuppa of hot tea, or a glass of fruity red wine by our side, we peruse catalogs, make lists and plan the spring and summer gardens of our imagination.

For vegetable garden designs and inspiration

What will you plant this year?  With my dear, HH, I’m finally replacing the seldom-used, swing set and children’s climbing tower (eyesore) in my backyard with a permanent vegetable garden outside the kitchen door.  Based loosely on some of the designs in a now, favorite book, Designing the New Kitchen Garden: An American Potager Handbook, by Jennifer Bartley, I can hardly wait to start.  I should put pen to paper, drafting designs, but knowing me, I’ll go outside, hold the book aloft, or weight it with stones while HH and I lay out the design upon the grass.  One must-have is a bubbling fountain as the centerpiece. Then, paths of gravel with raised beds edged in something non-permeable is another want.  I am tired of rotting boards, and I’m thinking of less maintenance as I grow older.

The play set no longer used

This is an ambitious undertaking, and I’m surprised I’m doing it now.  I guess Jennifer’s book was a dream starter for me.

Another source of inspiration this winter is Jane Brocket’s The Gentle Art of Domesticity: Stitching, Baking, Nature, Art & the Comforts of Home, in which she addresses all my loves:  reading (about what she calls the “gentle arts”), old movies, knitting, quilting, gardening, color and baking.  The intense color palette with which she plays is similar to her blog, but against the stark, white pages the contrast intensifies the experience.

Not long ago, with a sweeping motion toward my overladen bookshelves, one of my relatives labeled me a book addict.  Guilty as charged.  I can’t imagine a life without books.  They are a balm to my winter weary soul.  Taking the natural hibernation of this quiet season and using it to learn more about gardening and other things I love, I’m not wishing my life away, I’m simply making plans and preparing to put them into action.

The Gentle Art of Domesticity

I’m glad I’m able to buy books and that, sometimes, publishers send them to me for review.  I reviewed Jennifer’s book on Examiner last fall, and I purchased Brocket’s book for myself as an extra-special, after Christmas treat.

These are just two of the many books I’ve perused this winter.  What have you read lately which inspired you?


  1. Dee, I love Jennifer’s designs and now I also lust for the homemaking book. It sounds like she is truly a kindred spirit.

    We’re ripping into old gardens too and are going to spring for some split ledge rock borders, which as I said to my husband, “will outlast us!” They’re worth it.

    January love to you.

    Oh, and the smooth stone in the pocket would probably be an acorn for me.


    Sharon Lovejoy Writes from Sunflower House and a Little Green Island

  2. Jean says:

    I read a review of the kitchen garden book and it inspired me to make more planting beds just so I could move all of my flowering plants out of my boxes to make room for strictly veggies (maybe that was your review??). Unfortunately, I still haven’t gotten around to it! So far I haven’t read any gardening books this winter, just magazines. But I’ve been reading lots of other types of books and you could label me a book addict as well. Proudly! And I just ordered a bunch of seed and plant catalogs!

  3. Rose says:

    This is such a thought-provoking post, Dee! Spring is indeed that mythical Shangri-La–somehow we forget in January that early spring can be just as vicious as winter, with strong winds, endless rainstorms, and even tornadoes. As much as I long for spring–especially in February–I really enjoy the down-time of winter. It gives me a chance to focus on other projects that need to get done and to dream and plan for the coming season. My “garden” in February is always much bigger and more full of blooms than my garden in June:)

  4. VP says:

    Happy New Year Dee and many thanks for popping in over at my place.

    I’m becoming convinced that winter is a ‘necessary evil’ which allows us to pause reflect and set to in the spring with renewed enthusiasm. If we didn’t have that time to dream, I suspect our gardens would never look as good as they do and heaven forbid, perhaps constant gardening might also become a bit of a chore?

    I’m also a bookaholic and yours look to be excellent choices and inspirational too. I’m currently reading a book on public planting, about the work of Lynden B Miller in New York. It’s a fascinating read which also has lessons for us here in Britain. After that there’s the pile of around 20 books which arrived courtesy of Santa. Thank goodness we’re having a bad winter here – it’s the only way I’ll get the chance to read them all!

  5. Phillip says:

    Winter gives me a chance to renew my energies, both physical and creative. I enjoy the downtime and it makes the coming spring even more exciting. I’m planning on setting up a small vegetable garden at my mother’s house and I brought home a book from the library that I haven’t gotten to yet. I think it is this one but I will have to check.

  6. Brenda Kula says:

    I’ve got a few books going. And of course the seed catalogs are coming in the mail. I can’t imagine a world without books either. I don’t want a Kindle. I want to hold an actual book. I can’t wait to see your new project. I’m like you. I have a plan, then just go out and throw caution to the almighty winds. (At least they aren’t the strong Oklahoma winds!) Love this post. The wording is beautiful.

  7. Pam/Digging says:

    Dee, I’m glad you’ve found some good books to curl up with this cold winter. A new potager garden sounds delightful, one you can really enjoy all growing season. Good luck with it!

  8. Meredith says:

    Dee, my compliments on a well-written post. You’ve inspired me to pick up that book on new American kitchen gardening. It sounds right up my alley! 🙂

    I’ve just finished reading Barbara Kingsolver’s Animal, Vegetable, Mineral, which was a wonderful read, and of course I’m spending hours perusing the garden catalogs at this time of year. (Or obsessing over them, as my hubby calls it.)

  9. Janell West says:


    What a lovely post.

    What inspires me?

    Beauty and truth, wherever I find it. Wherever it finds me. A blog. A garden. A bible reading. A poem. A pot of tulips in January.A fresh loaf of bread cooling on my counter making my entire house smell heavenly. A brisk cold walk. God in the thick of it all.


  10. Ahhhh. ShangriLa. I, for one, need the winter to recoup some of the energy expended from March-November. By February I’m gearing up and find that the design work I do during that time is the most thoughtful and creative. I’m sure that has to do with the lack of distractions outside.

  11. Ah, yes, the dream of spring and the perfect garden. I’m in that one now, especially after reading Keeyla Meadows’ Fearless Color Gardens. I’m so inspired to paint, paint, paint.

  12. Frances says:

    Hi Dee, we will indeed be seeing you in Buffalo, if all goes according to plan. Your new veggie bed sounds great, with water is even better. Reading is a winter balm, how true. The newest Plant Delights catalog arrived yesterday, that one is always worth a read. Dan Pearson’s Spirit is the real book we are in the midst of at the moment. I keep waiting for a break in the weather to go outside, anything above freezing will do, thank you. 🙂

  13. Lisa at Greenbow says:

    I have been reading about chickens this winter. I picked up the book ‘Keeping Chickens’ by Jeremy Hobson and Celia Lewis to peruse. As my husband reminded me when I bought it that I “can’t have chickens as we live in town”. I told him that I can certainly read about them, look at the pictures, dream about the lovely little house I could build for them. Just think of the rich compost and the slugs and snails eaten by the chickens. Read about the various breeds to see which ones would be good for our situation. It is sort of like a man looking at car magazines knowing they can’t have that Mazarati or some other really expensive car but one can dream. Especially this time of year with snow on the ground and the vision is blank. Just fill in the blanks with any dream.

  14. I’m taking inspiration from An American Potager Handbook too. Feels good to have a real book to reference for the garden. I’ve lovingly bookmarked quite a few pages as favorites and I’m ordering seeds and making plans.

  15. Kclily says:

    The Gentle Art of Domesticity is a great book, one I could read again and again. 2 books that have inspired me lately are The New Low-Maintenance Garden by Valerie Easton and The Self-Sufficient Life and How to Live it by John Seymour.

  16. Yes, books are a balm, often in more than winter. Those sound like great books for dreaming of spring and more.

  17. I am requesting The Gentle Art from the library. Never heard of it before.

  18. deb says:

    Great post. This is exactly what winter is like for me too, but you are nicer about the cold;)

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