“[Gardening] is a means by which you can attain many valuable hours of solitude without being thought unsociable.”

In anticipation of Spring, my hands have been deep in the dirt lately, pulling weeds and digging out grasses that are so prolific and thick on the ground. I’m also trying to resist the urge to prune the sad-neglected-looking roses, as the experts say in cold regions, to wait until after the last frost for pruning. As if it was known when that would be. The weather is unpredictable, with mostly light frost and warm days that feel far more like Spring than winter, but every now and then, the temperature plummets, the water freezes in the taps, and the landscape turns white with severe icy frost. As many plants have started to sprout new growth, and more days of frost are predicted, I am being cautious and biding my time with weeding for now.

“Last night, there came a frost, which has done great damage to my garden. . . . It is sad that Nature will play such tricks with us poor mortals, inviting us with sunny smiles to confide in her, and then, when we are entirely within her power, striking us to the heart.”

Nathaniel Hawthorne

As sections are cleared, I’m covering between the plants with thick newspaper and my favourite mulch. The process is well worth the time and energy needed and will help to suppress future weeds plus it gives the garden a boost of nutrients and a more aesthetically pleasing look. At the same time, once complete, it provides a great sense of accomplishment, and the garden will be all ready for warmer weather (except for the pruning).

There are few flowers except the early snowdrops, and the daffodils are not far from opening, sure signs of Spring. Apart from the stoic Golden Beauty, one of the remaining roses is the rose image above, but I don’t know the name.  I love the shape and colour of the buds, but I think it may be quite different from its usual full-season colouring, so not easy to work out which one it is. Nonetheless a pretty sight in a dormant rose garden.

American painter Colin Campbell Cooper, Samarkand, Santa Barbara, 1927, oil on canvas

From as early as the Ancient Egyptian wall paintings to Ancient Greek vase paintings of the Garden of Hesperides, to the Pompeii frescoes of Italy in the 1st century BC and onwards through Medieval and Renaissance Europe, until today, gardens have always been depicted in art. When we can’t be out enjoying nature, garden paintings provide upliftment, inspiration and solace. So, in the absence of rose blooms to photograph now in the dormancy of winter, I’m sharing a selection of garden paintings in today’s post.

French painter Octave Denis Victor Guillonnet- Jardin Fleuri, 1960, oil on canvas

After the recent days of rain, when the soil was soft and manageable, I took the opportunity to relocate some roses. A few roses were in the wrong place, either colourwise or because they were far too large for the space. Surprisingly, getting them out was not difficult; they are now planted according to my well-rehearsed plan of grouping three roses in a cluster throughout the garden beds and making room for new rose varieties.

British Painter Beatrice Parsons, watercolour, ‘Pergola with an Alfred Carrier Rose Climbing up it, the Pathway Bordered with Lavender and Lilies.’

“Working in the garden … gives me a profound feeling of inner peace. Nothing here is in a hurry. There is no rush toward accomplishment, no blowing of trumpets. Here is the great mystery of life and growth. Everything is changing, growing, aiming at something, but silently, unboastfully, taking its time.”

Ruth Stout
Danish Painter Michael Ancher, The Old Garden House, Summer, 1914

“Gardening is the art that uses flowers and plants as paint,
         and the soil and sky as canvas”. 

Elizabeth Murray

As you all know, my garden is on a rural property considerable distance from any other farmhouse, yet a few weeks ago, out of the blue, a young, agile, quite tame cat appeared one morning. The cat has taken a fancy to residing here and particularly likes sitting in the garden on a vacant stone pedestal (the pot removed for frost protection) or lying on the soil in the sun whilst I work. At times very close and curious about what I am doing, flinging weeds across to the wheelbarrow. Time will tell if the cat decides to stay or wanders off to a more enticing home.

Ryn Shell, ‘Bicolour Cat In Rose Garden’

Apart from the cat’s presence, gardening is usually a solitary pursuit that allows time for pondering and deep thought, which is a muse for forming creative ideas and expression. Therefore, my hours spent in the garden bring me twofold advantages; the weeds are removed, and I’ve enjoyed the time for absorption in thought. There are few activities in life where we can ruminate to our heart’s content without appearing indifferent to others than when we garden.

British Painter Beatrice Parsons, The Garden Path, Watercolour

My first order of roses arrived today; just three roses. Whenever bare-root roses are delivered in the post from the rose growers, I put them in a bucket of water with eco seaweed to soak for 24 hours. This is good for the roses but also provides a small window to double-check the intended placement. After the long wait to receive new roses, it is always exciting, and I love planting them out in the garden or pots, small additions to the overall garden plan. And now to wait for the rose blooms in Spring.

Spanish painter, Joaquín Mir, Jardin (Garden in Bloom), ca. 1894, oil on canvas

In winter there are for many of us three gardens – the garden outdoors, the garden of pots in the house, and the garden of the mind’s eye.” 

Katherine S. White
French Painter Blanche Hoschedé Monet Le Jardin et les Fleurs, s.d. oil on canvas

How Do Plants Know When to Bloom

According to the experts on Gardening Australia, the sap within plants miraculously begins to move after the shortest day of the year. And like clockwork, there are signs everywhere of buds emerging and leaves forming on the trees and now the roses. I also read some interesting research that scientists believe they have found the last piece of the puzzle of how plants “know” when to flower. It was in the University of Washington News and states that.

“At specific times of year, flowering plants produce a protein known as Flowering Locus T in their leaves that induces flowering. Once this protein is made, it travels from the leaves to the shoot apex, a part of the plant where cells are undifferentiated, meaning they can either become leaves or flowers. At the shoot apex, this protein starts the molecular changes that send cells on the path to becoming flowers. Changes in day length tell organisms that the seasons are changing. plants use an internal time-keeping mechanism we know as the circadian clock that measures changes in day length’.

Henri Fantin Latour, ‘Roses in a Bowl and Dish’, 1885, Oil on Canvas

Researchers Takato Imaizumi and Young Hun Song investigated a protein called FKF1, which they suspected was a key player in plants’ mechanism to recognize seasonal change and to know when to flower. FKF1 protein is a photoreceptor, i.e. it is activated by sunlight. Imaizumi said

. “When this protein is expressed during days that are short, this protein cannot be activated, as there is no daylight in the late afternoon. When this protein is expressed during a longer day, this photoreceptor makes use of the light and activates the flowering mechanisms involving Flowering Locus T. The circadian clock regulates the timing of the specific photoreceptor for flowering. That is how plants sense differences in day length.”

Benjamin To, a UW undergraduate student, and Robert Smith, a University of Edinburgh graduate student, co-authored the paper. The work was funded by the National Institutes of Health and the United Kingdom’s Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council.

American Painter, Abbott Fuller Graves, Morning in the Garden, s.d. oil on canvas

Although the weeding is not entirely finished today, I’m taking a week’s break in the city, the last quiet time for the garden. More roses will be arriving on my return, and a flurry of activity will begin; pruning, eco-management spraying, sowing seeds, planting perennials, digging holes for the new roses, and more.

Content Di Baker July 2023

Header Image by American Painter – Robert Vonnoh – Jardin en Fleurs, ca. 1890, oil on canvas.

Title quote by Jan Struther

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