In 1956, Jay Livingston and Ray Evans penned the lyrics to a song Doris Day famously recorded: “Que sera, sera — whatever will be will be, the future’s not ours to see. . . . .” It reached No. 2 on the charts and is still heard now and then when somebody chooses to listen to real music instead of the hip-hop/hard rock of this day.
Then along comes another philosophical rendering from another wag that goes something like this: Most of what we enjoy comes in the anticipation, rather than the end. Put another way, the chase is fonder than the kill.
Well, mebbe, but the anticipation of beautiful flowers, on a bush or a herbaceous plant, sometimes seems way out of kilter as to the huge amount of exertion expended in that anticipation. Re: the directions: “plant a five dollar plant in a 30 dollar hole.” Huh? You know what a 30 dollar hole looks like, or feels like, after being chiseled out of Henry County red clay?
Dig one and then spend the rest of the day, if there is any left, recuperating over an extended happy hour.
Nevertheless, we stand today just on the cusp of another spring, wherein dogwood, azaleas and numerous delights will, well, delight us. The ancients knew what they were doing when they celebrated the winter solstice just before our Christmas.
Our first trip to the British Isles, some 28 years ago, had a side visit to Stonehenge, where boulders weighing many tons had been hauled, on water rafts and ground slides, to the site of the gigantic structure centuries before. No bulldozers, no tractors, no engines, just pure man- (no, men-)power, then chiseled with other rocks into mortises and tenons, then erected by some means or other to the vertical, where they were pieced together, and where they remain today.
Two of the big stones are aligned so that the sun shines between them and the beam strikes a smaller stone at some distance away, only on the winter solstice in late December. That was celebration day for the ancients, when the subject of their mirth was the coming lengthening of the days until the summer solstice.
I would propose that we modern day gardeners emulate their attitude. Let us regale now, today, in the fact that we will have some few minutes more of daylight than we had on Dec. 21, just about two weeks ago. The further we advance in the year 2021, the longer the days will be, until June 21, at which time we won’t care if they get shorter.
Digression, digression, one of my many faults. So, let us look at what the detested month of January might hold for us as gardeners. Well, we have already had the first hellebores back in December, so the rest of them will be anticlimax, but they will hold on until early April, a remarkable span of time for anything to bloom.
Then, there are the earliest crocuses and even daffodils. Friend Rick Conger already has had ‘Rijnfeld’s Early Sensation’ daffs for a few weeks. Alas, my stand of them has gone the mysterious way of the great graveyard somewhere or other. That’s rare for a daffodil.
Other bulbous flowers often come in January, Iris reticulata, the netted iris, being one. The mini-flowers have a netted appearance on the falls, thus the common name.
Sporadic flowers often appear on some spireas, particularly the white ones with small blooms. Count ourselves lucky if they come this month.
Remember, just because it is January, there’s no reason not to plant a tree or shrub, as long as it is perfectly winter hardy.
JIMMY WILLIAMS is the garden writer for The Post-Intelligencer, where he can be contacted on Monday mornings at 642-1162.