Winter came early to the Gulf Coast this year. We had our earliest snowfall on record, on December 4, and our first hard freeze came that night, about a week to ten days earlier than our average first frost. This was a shock to area gardeners, most of whom were unprepared for this strangely cold weather. (Our temperature got down to 23 degrees F.) In recent years, winter has passed practically unremarked in our gardens. Last winter, the first week in January, I had seven fat Monarch butterfly caterpillars munching away on my still green milkweed. This winter, the first full week in December, my milkweed has turned to black mush.
Perversely, I actually enjoy this time of year in the garden. It may have something to do with the fact that weeding requirements are minimal, but I like to think that my pleasure is more spiritual, related to the revelation of the bones and structure of the garden. All the fluffery of leaves has been peeled away by Mother Nature and one can see through to the very skeleton which holds the garden together.
The garden is quiet and mostly monochrome these days. Gone is the colorful frenzy of butterflies and bees feeding that has been the hallmark of the garden since mid-summer. No green anoles sun themselves on brick or stone or wooden fence. Even the birds go about their activities quietly. And the gardener can sit and look and think without distractions, planning for more colorful days to come - in the new year just ahead.
(Read more about my garden at my other blog, Gardening with Nature.)