The Gray and Gloomy Gardener

The Gray and Gloomy Gardener

By Sandy Wieber

Take heed, fellow gardeners—you’ve almost made it!

You have survived the most depressing day of the year.

It’s a real thing, you know, this “most depressing day of the year” stuff. And it’s not the day of the first hard frost, although that’s a tough one to get through too (don’t you hate seeing nice green plants one day, then withered brown stalks the next? If it’s not the most depressing day of the year, it clearly wins the Downer Award for the most depressing day of autumn.)

According to scientists, the most depressing day of the year for 2010 fell on January 18.

How do they determine the day that we’re most likely to sleep in and call in sick?

Believe it or not, the formula is precise and scientific, looking at: weather conditions (take that, gloomy cold January!); debt level and our ability to pay that debt (which just means that by January 18 you’ve gotten most of your holiday credit card bills); the time elapsed since Christmas (even though mid-January seems awfully early to me to take my trees down and put the ornaments away); the time elapsed since failing all of our New Year’s resolutions (how are you doing on your promise to “exercise every day” and “eat better”? Yeah. Me too.)

It also looks at our general seasonal motivational levels (I don’t know about you, but I’m not jumping out the door when it’s 20 degrees and blowing like a wind machine); and finally our need to have something to look forward to (May flowers seem a lifetime away during this time of year, don’t they?).

Heck, it makes me depressed just thinking about the formula!

I’m no scientist, but I would add some factors to that list: the lack of flowers and vibrant colors, the lack of physical gardening activity (sure, you can start an indoor herb garden, but you aren’t really going to sweat doing it), and the lack of feeling the sun on your face.

Of course, like most good gardeners, I try to fool myself through the long winter months. (While I’m thinking about it, why is it that such short days make for such a long month? It seems like there’s an opportunity for additional scientific research there.)

Here’s how I cope: I grow paperwhites and keep them long after I should have thrown them out (without my glasses on, the flowers look as good as the day that they opened). I buy amaryllis bulbs on sale after the holidays, just to see something growing in the house. I have trained the husband to buy me potted roses for Valentine’s Day, so I have something to tend for a few weeks in February and into March.

Has anyone else out there ever turned up the heat (or made a really really big fire), and sat in bed on a cold Saturday morning reading gardening catalogs until your spouse comes by and threatens to turn the mattress over with you on it?

(Not that I want to cause marital strife in your house, but have you seen the beautiful, tiny catalog from The Kinsman Company ( I am so buying one of their “side planting containers” this year.)

I’ve done all of those things and more. On really good years (the years that my holiday credit card bills don’t arrive until January 31), I’ve planned vacations to somewhere tropical. There’s nothing like a brightly blooming hibiscus hedge and a fruity, girly drink by the pool to forget about your “most depressing day” troubles.

So, whatever you did to get through January 18, I applaud you.

At least I would, if I could just get myself out of bed.