Finding bons mots everywhere

A garden blogging friend in England, after noting how much time I spend in the garden when weather permits, asked me yesterday what I did in the winter, when the ground here is frozen and covered in snow. I had to think about that for a while. The majority of my ‘free time’ on spring, summer and fall days, if it’s not raining, is spent outside. What DO I do in winter? And, what will I be doing THIS winter, this pandemic winter, when we’re discouraged from visiting friends and family, and when social gatherings are prohibited and all attractions (museums, theatres, galleries) are closed?

I’ll read a lot. I’ll take a lot of photographs – honing my black and white skills, perhaps, since in the winter, here, there IS a lot of back and white. And, I decided in the wee hours of this morning, I’ll write more. The platform I’m using is, after all, called WORDpress. Of course, there will be photos. Like this one – the deep red leaves of a red osier dogwood – Cornus sericea, also known as Cornus stolonifera. This is a native shrub here and pops up all over our property. Easy to propagate from cuttings or seed, nice green leaves in the summer, berries for the birds and sometimes, if conditions are favourable, beautiful fall foliage. Also called red twig dogwood because in winter young branches are a bright red which makes a great contrast against snow.

I love coming cross funny words or phrases, or descriptions that make me laugh, unusual word usage. For example, on The Garden Professor’s Facebook site yesterday someone asked if earth freezes faster when wet or when dry. One of the responses, from the American scientist Pam Knox, included the line “From my work in Wisconsin with gravediggers…” No offense to gravediggers, but that line made me giggle to myself for quite a while.

Another example comes from, again, Facebook, this time The Writer’s Circle page. They posted a list of words to use instead of adding the word ‘very’ as a modifying adverb or adjective. One of the suggested words was ‘sagacious’ instead of ‘very wise.’ “I love sagacious,” someone replied. “It is such a wise word.”

We had our first snowfall today. Flurries, really, sometimes large thick, beautiful flakes, most definitely it qualifies as the first snowfall of the year, even though it will be gone by this time tomorrow. More will fall later this week, possibly. To celebrate the coming of winter, here is a picture of berries on my Symphoricarpos, commonly called a Snowberry. The berries are fat and numerous this year – I hope that’s not a sign of a sagacious plant, predicting a long winter. Birds will eat them if they have to but I often find them, black, dried and shriveled, in early spring, still attached to the bush.

My favourite, found, funny writing this week comes from K.J. Ottinger, who lives and writes in Wisconsin. (I’m pretty sure she’s not the gravedigger Pam Knox was referring to.) She took her family on a camping trip in Minnesota. Now, if I’m reading the map in my atlas correctly, Minnesota is separated from Northwestern Ontario by The Pigeon River and there are parks on both sides of parts the river. The photos are spectacular, of course, since we all know the north shore of Lake Superior, Canadian Shield territory, is, by definition, spectacular. But K.J. describes seeing another family, near Pigeon Falls, but on the other side of the river, in this hilarious manner:

Anyway, across the river, there were real live Canadians. They were there with their children, who were waving wildly at us. I imagine the conversation over there sounding something like:

Little Canadian Girl: Mummy, what are those?
Mummy: Those, dear, are Americans. We never want to approach one of those in the wild. They’re only safe here, behind this river and 2 sets of bars and fences. We must always respect the stupidity and ferocity of the Americans and stay out of their territory.
Little Girl (shivering): Ew. Can I have my mask now?

Anyway, only speculation. I couldn’t hear them over the roar of the falls.”

You can read the full blog post here – it’s well worth the read. You may notice K. J. is trying to help her daughter with medical bills related to a severe concussion she continues to suffer from; they’ve discovered a new treatment program in another state a few thousand kilometres away which is, of course, quite expensive.

Can a plant, if it’s named after a wise man, be called sagacious? Let’s ponder that as we look at the fading fall foliage of this Solomon Seal – Polygonatum.


  1. Winter is a big adjustment for gardeners, that’s for sure. I get so antsy the first week or so, before settling down to a slower routine. Reading is definitely a big one. I also get after all those chores I neglected because no respectable northerner wastes time inside during the summer!

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  2. And it’s feels like we have to be so much more strategic this winter with planning our time. Agreed, have a pile of books – gardening and other – that are on the bench by the window along with space left for the too-many-to mention seed catalogues that will eventually arrive as the snow comes down. Happy wintering!

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