a claustrophobic reaction that takes place when a person or group is isolated and/or shut in a small space, with nothing to do for an extended period. Cabin fever describes the extreme irritability and restlessness a person may feel in these situations.
The Urban Dictionary describes it as
being stuck indoors for a prolonged period of time during the winter months and suffering from depression caused from a vitamin deficiency caused by a lack of sunlight and sick of being inside with the same people for months on end.
I’d say both definitions are pretty much on target. And for gardeners, being deprived of one’s garden–both viewing and tending it–only aggravates the condition. Therefore, extending the garden blooming season for as long as possible is critical to the gardener’s–especially the short-season gardener’s–mental health. After suffering with cabin fever for many years, I finally realized I could design a garden specifically to combat it.
I first came across the idea of a garden especially created to be viewed from indoors during inclement weather in Prairie Winterscape: Creative Gardening for the Forgotten Season (Read my review). I started working on such a bed at the old house, where it was easily viewed out the bathroom window–from the toilet seat!
But before we even moved into our new house, I knew where I was going to put my Cabin Fever Bed.It’s not clear from the photo, but the bottom of this window is a mere eight inches from the floor. And while it doesn’t quite reach the ceiling, the top of the window is more than six feet up. From this window you can see everything from the ground at your feet all the way to the road. Why waste this with a ground cover juniper and lawn grass? Yes, that juniper was doomed from the beginning.
Cabin fever is usually regarded as something endured during winter, but I think it is worst at the transitions–when you first concede that the weather is too unpleasant to linger outdoors, and when it seems like spring ought to be here by now–but it’s not. Right outside that window, I want to see the latest fall bloomers I can find and grow, and the earliest spring bloomers. The challenging part is that I want this Cabin Fever Bed to be incorporated inside a larger bed (the South Front Walk Bed) that goes from the dining room door to the kitchen door. A bed within a bed, if you will.The South Front Walk Bed should look pleasing from the road, but the earliest and latest blooming plants are–let’s face it–low-growing. That big window needs something with more oomph in front of it. After much pondering, this is what I came up with. I brought over my beloved mosaic bird bath from the old house and centered it in front of the window. Then I planted two Oso Happy Candy Oh! roses as a screen in front of the bird bath. From the road, the area reads as a bird bath with shrubs in front of it. You don’t really think about what’s behind the bird bath. When you are inside looking out, the rose bushes help to enclose the space, giving the effect of a private viewing courtyard.
Plants For November
The next step was to find plants that would bloom until snow covered them up, and plants that would bloom as soon as the snow was gone. My experience with my ‘Thanksgiving Bloom’ and ‘Josef Lemper’ hellebores caused me to seek out others with Helleborus niger genes in them, to see if they, too might bloom at either end of winter.When Burpee gave me the opportunity to try anything from their website, I chose these hellebores:
When choosing them, I looked for the phrases “blooms in very early winter” or “blooms in late winter,” because I didn’t want hellebores that bloomed later in spring. I also looked for Helleborus niger parentage, because that is the hellebore species noted for blooming in early winter. I am still waiting for these hellebores to hit their stride and really start blooming, although ‘Winter Bells’ has been blooming since September. I also planted the ‘Joseph Lemper’ and ‘Thanksgiving Bloom’ here. Interspersed with the hellebores are several varieties of fall crocus. These true crocuses bloom after the colchicums in a brilliant blue. And this year I planted a single bulb of Leucojum autumnale ‘September Snow’ which has not shown up yet. Not sure if it is a dud or just recalcitrant. I will have to check with my supplier. Last year I also planted three ‘Winterglow’ bergenia up against the bird bath on the window side. They turn a brilliant red in the cold and are visible in shallow snow, so offer some color in addition to what the hellebores provide.
This post is part of a continuing series about my new house and gardens, especially about my thoughts when designing new garden areas and revamping existing ones in our new location. In Part 2, I’ll share what I planted to bloom in earliest spring and my middle-of-winter conundrum. In the meantime, you can be thinking about what you’d like to see out your window when it’s too cold to actually be out in your garden.