On bleak winter days, when the only outdoor color comes from a cardinal at the bird feeder, I enjoy grabbing a cup of tea and curling up with a garden catalog. This is a never-fail recipe for curing my winter doldrums.
As I flip through the pages filled with photographs and vivid descriptions of flowers, herbs, vegetables, vines and trees, my creative juices begin to flow. I think about the warm-weather months ahead, and plan what I will grow in my garden this year.
Dad introduced me to "catalog gardening" many years ago. Although he was born and raised on a farm in rural Tennessee, he moved to the city as soon as he could afford it. He hated most aspects of farm life, but he never lost his interest in coaxing tiny seeds into sturdy, productive plants.
Each winter he perused catalogs from Stark Bro.'s Nurseries & Orchards, Burpee Seed Co., and Wayside Gardens, as well as The Old Farmer's Almanac, dog-earring pages and circling items. He'd place his orders, and then anxiously await the arrival of the seeds and plants. Dad was a tomato connoisseur, and loved ordering seeds to grow the latest tomato varieties. Soon his dirt-filled containers appeared around the house near windows with lots of sun exposure.
When my husband I moved to our home many years ago, the yard was nothing but dirt -- no trees, shrubs, plants, or flowers. And when it rained, it looked like a giant mud pool. At that time, I had no knowledge of or interest in plants or things that grew in a yard -- but that was about to change. Unless we wanted to continue to live with muddy feet and dog paws, we needed to learn about plants and landscaping.
Dad's Christmas gift to me that year was a variety of gardening tools. It seemed like an unusual gift at the time, but I soon learned to appreciate them. Today they are among my most prized possessions.
I quickly learned that there's something very satisfying and rewarding about planting and waiting for things to grow. I began studying Dad's catalogs, placing orders, and finally working those seeds and plants into the soil.
The catalog companies mentioned above have long histories. They've been in business since 1816, 1916 and 1881 respectively, meeting the gardening needs of generations of Americans. And while they still publish and mail catalogs each year, they also offer online catalogs. That way people can peruse their many plant and seed offerings, but bypass another catalog in the mail box.
We've still got a lot of winter ahead, but be optimistic. The next time the gray days of winter get you down, take a few moments to plan for those warm-weather days. To see the online catalogs, go to http://www.starkbros.com/tarkbros.com/, http://www.waysidegardens.com/, or http://www.burpee.com/.