In East Texas Gardens


As I grow older, I begin each year by reflecting on the one that has just ended – successes, failures, achievements and personal losses – loss of friendships and loss of friends. The losses over the years are many, and I turn to the winter garden to help me heal. 

Gardens have always called to my heart, but none more so than a winter garden. In the months when the garden is growing, I find it near impossible to sit and enjoy the view – there’s always another weed to pull or a perennial to dead-head or a plant to water. Don’t get me wrong; working in the garden has its own set of rewards, but having time in the garden to do nothing but sit and think can be a spiritual re-awakening.

I garden next to the woods, at home and at the Wood County Arboretum, so my quiet places are generally vistas of the woods. These give me a sense of scale, of my place in nature and remind me that I am a very small part of the world. As well as providing a different self-perspective, the views also provide a context for my problems. For how great are my problems, in the grand scheme of things? And ‘grand scheme’ is definitely a phrase that these views inspire.

The other style of gardens that heal is that of a small, intimate scale. They are calm, quiet, orderly places, perhaps encircled with walls, with controlled plantings and seating areas. The paths have twists and turns and textured surfaces intended to slow down your journey through the garden, to encourage you to pause and reflect. You might have a mirror or a fountain or a wind chime, pots of fragrant herbs like rosemary, to engage your senses while the garden envelopes you in a figurative hug. This type of garden focuses your attention within, both within its boundaries and within yourself.

There is no spot like this in my garden; my style is more abundance or chaos than controlled or balanced. But one of my goals for 2020 is to venture outside my comfort zone, so I’ll be working with the other volunteers at the Wood County Arboretum to construct a reflection garden behind the Stinson House. The concept of this garden embodies four natural elements – earth, wind, fire and water – and will contain seating areas to encourage the visitor to linger, and perhaps bring a bit of peace into a life that’s become all too hectic.

Gardens and gardening should be enjoyable and enjoyed. Take time in the winter to find your quiet spot in your East Texas garden.