I have come to realize that I do my best gardening in the winter.

With every catalog arriving in the mail, my ambition grows by leaps and bounds. I love filling sheets of graph paper with big and little shapes scaled to show the width and shape of the tree, shrub or plant and colored to hint at the beauty to come. I outline the shapes with varying shades of green to indicate the height of the plants. Our crabapple tree is shown with a dark green circle, filled in with spots of rosy pink. In a semi-circle in front of that are the yews that are about three feet high. They have a c-shaped medium green outline filled with green stripes.

Already coming up is the foliage of a big swoop of purple grape hyacinths. Only a few inches tall, this area is outlined in a pale green, filled in with purple dots. The shapes (circles, ovals, squares, etc.) overlap as if being viewed from above.

I do this for spring, summer and fall and add these to my garden journal. It helps me to have some restraint when our garden centers are filled with gorgeous plants because I am reminded that some areas are “done,” “full” and can’t accommodate another plant. Empty areas stand out as well and winter is a good time to make up a plant list to make shopping more efficient.

But sitting by the fire, longing for spring can be depressing and soon the box of chocolates comes out. My remedy is to take Kent (who is retired) on field trips. We love visiting the Morton Arboretum and I can’t wait for the open house at Orchids by Hauserman in Villa Park February 23-25. It is a tropical wonderland of orchids, but also cacti and houseplants. Walking through the enormous greenhouses (free) will brighten any gloomy winter day. Try it!