Now that the plants in the nursery have been put to bed for the winter, a new season begins. This time of year we look back on the past year and evaluate what we’ve done and might need to do differently. We also take time for repairs, projects, and reading those things we never had time for, and also, to review any customer input. It can be a long process, taking a good part of the winter, but I actually enjoy it. For one, we do not have regular hours, no strict time commitments for the day. No watering, weeding, or other daily tasks that the growing season demands. And although we truly enjoy seeing all of our customers, we do not have to be available to ‘ tend shop’. It is a different pace with different goals and intentions. My favorite part of planning for the upcoming year is reviewing the plant list and searching and researching new plants we might be able to offer. For a plant nut, this is like giving a chocoholic the job of conducting a taste test for his or her favorite confection. I can spend hour after hour looking for new and worthy species or cultivars that would be of interest to customers, as well as myself. In today’s worldwide marketplace and with the endless information available, this actually takes days, not hours to accomplish. Most gardeners get very excited when the first plant and seed catalogues start arriving. So do I. But I like to go a bit further. When I come across a genus that interests me, I will search out the species within that genus, looking for plants that may be hardy here and worth a try. Some, even though they may be considered as not hardy here, I’ll try it anyway, and sometimes can be rewarded with a treasure that is much hardier than previously predicted. This can be especially true of new plants from other parts of the world, Asia for example, that have not been tried in a climate like ours. The worst that can happen is the plant dies. I like to try at least three of a new plant in different locations in the gardens, often this will result in some surviving and some not. Most gardeners know that a particular plant may do very well in one location, and perish in another, on the same piece of property. This trial and error precedure helps to weed out any plants that we don’t want to pass on as hardy to our customers. The other thing that is fun to do is to take an indigenous genus, Hepatica or Arisaema for example, and look for its foreign counterparts. It can lead to some very interesting additions to your want list. Planning for the upcoming season keeps us busy in several ways. And while the nursery may be closed, we are not idle, waiting for spring to happen. Winter can be a very interesting and rewarding time of the year for gardeners. Planning and dreaming of next year’s gardens……a good way to spend the cold winter evenings around the woodstove.