the odd clock IRREGULAR TIMES

Winter Condemns the Industrious Gardener

Wintertime is the season in which a gardener's ideals are reborn. Neglected things become apparent when they are no longer concealed by thick shields of leaves, and the progress of last year's weeds doesn't seem quite so bad when it's frozen back. -- Can we find a new word for what we call weeds? I don't want to seem unappreciative of them. I really admire weed plants. I just don't want them to interfere with my garden plans. My garden: a stage for my lazy grandiose schemes. --

Neglected things I notice this early afternoon include rose hips. Outside my office window, a long, pinky-width stalk droops under the weight of full round hips wearing snow caps more suitable for fairies. I should have collected those for tea, I think. Next year, I will, I think.

Outside the bedroom window is a collection of another kind of rose hip, tiny nips the size of ants' backsides. Their shape and arrangement remind me of the kind of gaudy primary-colored bulbs we used on our Yule Tree. With these, I am blameless. The birds have neglected these rose hips, and a fine easy meal they would make for a finch, too.

Don't let red-in-tooth-and-claw conservative moralists fool you with their tales of industrious animals. Nature thrives on neglect. A garden in which every seed was eaten would soon be a dead garden. Without absent-minded squirrels, the earth would have no oaks. Perhaps my winter plans for next year's garden should be scaled back. Perhaps I should rely more upon rugged perennials.

Butterfly bushes in back of the clothesline I deadheaded halfway through August, but left the rest of the dried out flowerheads to go their own way. They're half-buried in a snowdrift now, and I keep on thinking about how some people say they ought to be cut to the ground every spring. I haven't done that. Am I letting my garden all go to hell?

Let me say this to you, William Bennet, Joseph Lieberman, and you all over there reading your Books of Virtue on the right-hand side of the flower bed, sloth is a sign of self-respect. Better to neglect a garden than to neglect a nap. Let's allow the weeds to grow just a bit around the edges. Sometimes, letting things go can bring about beautiful results. As Wilford Brimley probably wouldn't say: it's the right thing to do.

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