Last week's snow only makes it harder to wait for the new garden catalogs to start arriving.
Years ago, we could expect to find the first of them delivered to our mailbox anytime between Christmas and New Year's Day. The first two weeks in January, we could expect to receive at least one a day, usually more. The stack on the coffee table grew higher and out came the notebook, the graph paper and of course, the checkbook, as we started preparing for the season's seed order.
It was the most fun.
I always started by browsing through each catalog and circling the things that caught my attention. There were the usual suspects: cherry bomb radishes, straight-eight cucumbers and California Wonder peppers for the vegetable garden. Both white and pink cleome; lots of different Amaranth, including globe gomphrena and Love Lies Bleeding; and of course, of zinnias, bachelor buttons and cosmos were the standard for flowers.
I circled everything I wanted, whether I intended to actually buy it or not. I made notes in the margins, including where I might place this particular plant and why. And if I was thinking of adding a new garden bed to the yard, I looked for plants for that area as well.
When I finally got down to shopping, many circled things were left off the order form due to budgetary constraints, but I always tried to include something fun to grow that we hadn't tried before. I still remember the years I was determined to grow jicama. All the books said it wouldn't grow here. It needed a long growing season and ours wasn't long enough. Starting it indoors ahead of time wasn't wise because this plant didn't take well to transplanting, the books said. That didn't deter me. For a few years I started seeds inside under fluorescent lights, in peat pots sitting on sand with a buried heat cable underneath. The vine grew long and winding and when it came time to place it in the garden proper, I was careful not to disturb the roots and to give it plenty of room to spread. It always died. I finally gave up, but even that was fun.
There was no Internet then. Everything I learned about gardening and plants came from my books, library books, my gardening friends, the descriptions in all those catalogs and my own growing experiences.
To save money, many seed companies now provide online catalogs and aren't as willing to send out printed versions. You can still get printed catalogs, especially if you ordered from a company the previous year, or you can request one by calling the company's toll-free number or from the company's website. Many of those small companies, with the quaint, creative catalogs, have either gone out of business, merged with others or were simply bought out by a larger company. Sadly, the number of catalogs I receive in my mail box is much smaller these days.
When I look back at those times with nostalgia, it is easy to fabricate a more peaceful way to garden where everything grew wonderfully large and there were no weeds or diseases, the rain always came down regularly and the sun shone brightly but without sweltering heat. I can imagine it, but it is unlikely my memory corresponds with reality.
Since the Internet came into most of our living rooms in the early 1990s and blogs covering just about every topic out there became popular around 2004, it can't be much easier to get information. I still like to sit down on a cold evening with a cup of tea, a good garden catalog and a pen. Those old habits are still ingrained, but most of the time I have my notebook beside my laptop, taking notes and devising new ways to organize the gardens.
I've made the adjustment from stacks of catalogs to lists of websites in my ''favorites folder.'' I still carry around my notebook and graph paper and spend winter evenings working on designs and writing down lists of potential vegetables and flowers for the upcoming season.
We may have to make changes, yet we manage to adjust.