Snow brings out the birds. Cardinals and woodpeckers trace arcs from branch to ground. Sparrows dust up white powder in search of something beneath. A chickadee perches atop dogwood twigs in Meadow Nord. It’s cold and soon to be colder. This December has been a case study in the vagaries of Iowa weather. On December 3 it was 63 degrees Fahrenheit. Yesterday, it snowed with temperatures hovering in the teens. Tomorrow night temperatures are expected to drop below our winter minimum for Zone 5b to somewhere around -20 degrees Fahrenheit, just in time for New Year’s Day. What I would have given for this meteorological energy three weeks ago. The land could’ve used the rain more than this snow. But praise be the snow. My new plantings need the insulation.

Despite political proclamations, climate change isn’t just about temperature today. The conversation about climate change is a long-tail study in the disruption of norms and patterns, even as the human scale to this argument is inarguably brief. This wobbly reality is the new norm. It seems the winter of 2017-2018 will earn a place in recent history as having begun bitterly. Just please make it brief.

In the meantime, my thoughts drift to the biological minutia of the underground world. The sugars and native anti-freeze properties accumulated in plant cells to help them survive the winter. The overwintering insects burrowed into the remnant stems of grasses, making for proverbial cryogenic condos. The roots emanating from the bulb plates of the few alliums I tucked into the ground, the support system to the inherent flowering display tucked away beneath its scales. Winter is the ultimate conditioner, a vernalizing and stratifying force.

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I haven’t blogged in a really long time. My first blogging adventure began in 2004, the love child of wasting time during an unfulfilling high school business class and the desire to practice writing. I blogged intermittently for eight years, sometimes out of a desire to simply write and sometimes to promote something I was doing. The culture around blogs circa 2012 was a bit rabid for my taste; everyone had one, almost like a shingle demarcating our respective nano-corners of the Internet. I decided I had other avenues for writing and promotion. I left my shingle to grow moss instead.

Admittedly, I don’t think of threeoaksgarden.com as a blog. That terms sounds so five (or 10) years ago. Yes, I suppose it’s a journal of sorts. But I hope to see it grow into a platform that supports the public face of my experiments in planting design and plant exploration in a charismatic, personal way. (There might even be a retail component at some point, but we’ll talk about that later.) I want to share my passion for making this garden with others, even when that involves failure and disappointment. Failure is one of the greatest teachers, especially in the garden. I have a coffee mug that reads “He who kills the most plants wins.” I don’t have a competitive streak, but I like to think I’m somewhere in the running.

But that’s the gist—killing plants and talking about it. (Celebrating what lives and talking about it!) Drafting plans and sharing them. Planting lessons and harvesting insights. Pushing boundaries and challenging others to do the same. These are the themes of this new platform, complete with photos and anecdotes along the way. There may be no race to run, but this marks the starting line for making a garden in the era of New Naturalism.

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